Expert Tip: How to Cook the Perfect Steak
Even without the high-tech infrared broilers that world-class steakhouse restaurants use, cooking a steak at home seems like it should be an easy task, right? Take one quality piece of meat, add heat and serve with a brawny California Cabernet Sauvignon for one full-flavored pairing enjoyment. But for most of us, despite our noblest efforts, the fundamentals go all wrong. The steak is overly bloody (or worse, dry), tough or under-seasoned.
Instead, the next time you get the hankering for a juicy steak, follow our foolproof six-point guide for tips on the right way to cook the perfect steak at home, every time.
1. Quality: One of the most important parts of your meal is decided before you even turn on your stove: the quality of the meat you bring home. Buy the best grade of meat you can afford, preferably prime dry-aged steak (with a thickness of at least 1 1/2 to 2 inches) for a finely marbled texture and true steakhouse flavor.
2. Temperature and Seasoning: Remove your steaks from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you plan to cook them; a steak that hits a pan cold will turn into a tough steak. Additionally, salt your meat well in advance of cooking to ensure that the salt has time to start to tenderize the meat and any juices can be re-absorbed. This also helps promote a good sear.
3. Equipment: A good pan, such as a heavy, cast-iron skillet, will go a long way to ensure the crunch of a well-charred exterior and the tenderness of a juicy interior.
4. Cooking: Slick your skillet with a small amount of refined peanut or safflower oil, both of which have naturally high smoking points. (Even at high temperatures, these oils won't set off your smoke alarm.) Heat the skillet until very hot - usually for 5 to 10 minutes depending on the strength of your burner - then place your steak on it. And back away. Don't be tempted to move your steak around while cooking; it will release from the skillet naturally after a minute or two, allowing for easy flipping.
5. Timing: Allow 2-3 minutes per side for a rare steak; 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Thicker cuts may require additional time.
6. Rest, Rest, Rest: Always let your steak rest after cooking to allow its juices to settle back into the center of the meat, cutting down on the loss of flavorful juices.