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Sep 23, 2007 12:13 PM

Remedial steak assistance

Like most people, I like to cook and eat steaks.

Normally, I purchase the thinnest porterhouse steaks I can find. I like my meat rare, so I sear them for 30 to 60 seconds in a very hot cast iron skillet, sometimes with some butter. Yum.

Recently, at the greenmarket I bought some a very appealing grass-fed sirloin steak, but it's almost an inch and a half thick.

I do not know how to cook thicker steaks. I don't think my quick sear on each side would be effective; I don't own a grill or a grill pan and am too scared to use my broiler (for the reasons why, please see: ).

What should I do? Should I roast it in the oven somehow? Or alter my stovetop method?

As usual, please forgive my ignorance about basic culinary matters.

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  1. I love thick steaks [I prefer my meat on the rare side as well] but yes, they are a bit trickier. I'd suggest using the biggest pan you have...(I'm figuring you're cooking anywhere from 2 to 4 steaks)? I use a small bit of olive oil [not extra virgin...just the cooking grade]...then sear it up really nice with salt and pepper and then turn the heat to medium and let it continue cooking...I like a nice outer crust on my beef and tender, rare meat inside. Try using a spatula to press down on the meat to get the heat to penetrate throughout...if the steak starts to lose too much juice bring the heat back up to high so that you don't end up boiling it...boiled steak is NOT good. Good luck...I think you'll love a thick steak once you get accustomed to cooking them! :D

    11 Replies
    1. re: Cheffy

      professional chefs never press down on meat while it cooks. sorry.

      sear it your normal way and then pop it in a very hot oven for a few minutes. let it rest a few minutes before plating and eating.

      don't be scared!

      1. re: hotoynoodle

        I only press down on my meat when the heat is on high... I'm not a pro by any leap but I do make a pretty delish steak...! There is no set-in-stone bible on cooking's all about how it turns out in the ;)

        1. re: Cheffy

          please, please, please don't press down on that meat...

          1. re: byrd

            LOL! But if it tastes good in the end why not? Am I gonna get arrested by the foodie police? ;)

            1. re: Cheffy

              Yes, it is set in stone: do NOT press down on your meat -- steaks, burgers, whatever -- when it is cooking. it only pushes out the juices. there is no value to doing that. IMHO. and in the opinion of thousands... millions... billions others LOL.

              Sear on one side for a few minutes. sear on the other for half that time... then pop in the oven... you need to time it according to thickness, but that's the way to get what you're looking for.

              1. re: Cheffy

                While I have been known to leap out of my deck chair and snatch the spatula from a good friend who was squeezing all the juice out of my hamburger...I also press down on my steak. Why? Because on my crappy rental-apartment electric stove, the only way I'm gonna get a good sear on that steak is to press it firmly against the cast iron skillet. Otherwise it just isn't making good enough contact with my subpar heat source.
                (btw...the hamburger abusing friend took no offense. It was my grill anyway)

                But on the subject of steak...yeah, what they said. Hot Hot cast iron, good sear on both sides and into the oven if you want it more done than that. Oh...and I like the "meat poking" method of testing for doneness on thick steaks. This might be helpful for you...

                Before you start cooking, poke your steak several times to get a good feel for how squishy it is. Compare that to the fleshy pad at the base of your thumb (palm side). Unless you have freakishly hard hands, they should be pretty similar. As you cook the steak, keep poking occasionally (don't burn yourself) and comparing to the base of your thumb in the following configurations:
                Relaxed hand = black & blue/Pittsburgh rare/cold and possibly mooing
                Thumb and forefinger lightly touching = rare
                Thumb + middle finger = medium/medium rare
                Thumb + ring finger = well/medium well
                Thumb + pinkie = ruined hocky puck

                Here's an illustration in case my explantion isn't very clear:

            2. re: Cheffy

              i'm simply stating my professional experience. certain cooking techniques are rather carved in stone because over decades they have proven the most effective. cooking steak isn't exactly re-inventing the wheel.

              you're welcome to do whatever you like to your steaks. bon appetit!

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Perhaps it's a whole different deal with professional equipment but I'm stuck with a lousy gas cooktop stove and I can only do so much with what I have. *whimper-sniffle* :\ Everyone raves about my steak though...go figure?

                1. re: Cheffy

                  i use a gas range and a cast iron skillet at home.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    I use a cast iron grill pan over a generic gas burner.

                    Remember to always bring the steak to room temp before you cook it.
                    Heat the pan up for 4-5 minutes over high (it should be smoking hot), and sear for 2 minutes per side. If you prefer it more done, slide it into a pre-heated 350F oven for 3-4 minutes, and you should be rewarded with a medium well steak.

                    Rest it covered w/ foil another couple of minutes while you finish the sides and it should be perfect.

                    If you like a "black and blue" steak, cook for 1 minute per side and serve on a warmed platter. Bon Appetit!

                    1. re: Kelli2006

                      I'm going to second this post. I use the same equipment- standard issue electric stove and a cast iron skillet or heavy "stick" skillet. I'll only add that I think it helps the sear to very lightly oil the steak before cooking.

        2. Preheat your oven to the highest it will go, 500-550 is the highest move ovens go. Sear the steak in your cast iron skillet and then move the whole pan into the hot oven until cooked to your desired doneness. Off the top of my head, I'd say an inch and a half steak will take maybe 3-5 minutes in the oven to be rare but not black and blue. Depending on if your steak is room temp or slightly cold and the actual thickness your timing may very.

          1. Yes - alter your stovetop method. I'm no expert, but a cousin who is a caterer/chef told me how he does his steaks.

            Cast iron skillet is the best way for cooking thick steaks, in my opinion, unless you have a restaurant grade broiler, and your method of cooking thin steaks (I'm surprised it's effective since I wouldn't think you could get much of a crust before it's overdone) is basically the same for thick, only I might get the pan hotter, not use oil of any kind, and if you have to, toss the whole thing (pan and all) in the oven at the end to complete the cooking and get the core temp up.

            There are a couple of keys - the first is use really thick, good quality steaks. That way, you don't overcook the meat before you can get a good dark crust on it. The second key is to get your cast iron skillet very hot (I've been known to heat the pan on high for 20 minutes or more - be sure to have a fan or vent for all the smoke). But even at very high temperatures, the pan cools quickly, so what you can do is take the meat off for a minute, let the pan heat up again and the meat relax, and then add it to the pan again for more searing. In the end, you can put it in the oven to finish cooking, but it will still take some guessing/experience to get the doneness you want right. There are other variations, such as salting the meat for a day or two before, but this gives you the general idea.

            BTW, I found out the hard way to not add oil to a really hot pan (although I didn't do it with a cast iron pan). And don't stick the hot pan in cold water or it might break.

            1. As other posters have indicated, sear the steak just like you would a thin one, then finish it in the oven. I disagree, however, on the oven temp. A slow oven (as low as 200 degrees if you're patient, but in no event more than 300) will result in more even cooking.

              Imagine looking at the steak in cross-section. Slow finishing will give you a big fat rare area in the middle of the steak, surrounded by a very small amount of more well-done meat, surrounded by a thin layer of char. It maximizes the portion of the steak that's cooked to your preferred doneness. If you cook the middle to the same temperature in a hot oven, the portion of the steak that's overcooked goes way up.

              3 Replies
              1. re: alanbarnes

                These are great responses! Thanks everyone. In a slow oven, how long would you leave a 1.5 inch steak after searing it?

                1. re: Yaqo Homo

                  There are too many variables involved to give you an accurate answer. You really need a probe thermometer. Even if you can tell the doneness of a steak by poking it with your finger, your finger doesn't beep when the steak hits the target temp. Get a digital probe. When the meat hits 125, pull it off and let it rest. Perfect steaks every time.

                2. re: alanbarnes

                  When I have the time and $ for it and don't feel like dealing with charcoal, the following approach is as near to foolproof as I've come across, as long as you start with very nicely marbled, thick (about 2", works ok with 1 1/2" as well) fatty cuts - prime ribeye seems ideal.

                  I heat a cast iron skillet over high heat, then sear the steaks, forming a dark crust (a few minute each side). Then, I pop the pan into a 175 degree oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Resting for at least 5 minutes is important too.

                  A probe thermomenter is helpful to catch the right temp, but at this low temperature and with the right cut, the window for success is pretty wide.

                3. The Tallgrass grain-fed beef people espouse the same technique I've decided on by trial and error: low and slow. Heat a lightly oiled.pan for about 2 min. on low-to-medium heat, turn to low and drop in steak. Medium rare : 5 min. a side for 1.5 in. thick steak.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mpalmer6c

                    Does this method give the steak much of a crust?

                    1. re: mpalmer6c

                      5 minutes a side over low heat...? Doesn't that give you more like black and blue then medium rare. Heck, I need 5-6 minutes a side for medium rare over barely-ashed-over blazing hot charcoal, for 1 1/2" steaks.