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I cannot cook steak. Can you?

I think of myself as a rather accomplished cook. I know what I'm doing and can invent on the fly with great success. But, to say my steaks are average might be generous. :( I've just never learned how to do it right. I have available to me a grill outside, a shallow cast iron pan, a deeper cast iron pan, a couple of All-Clad pans, as well as my KitchenAid non-stick set. I suspect the grill or cast iron are the best bet, but what's the method?

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  1. Don't overcook 'em, whatever method you use. For seasoning, I like a little soy sauce--but you don't want to apply it until just a few minutes before you are going to cook them or it will dry them out.

    I cook either on the grill or under the broiler, with soy sauce (stick the steak several times on both sides with a fork to get some sauce into them). After the soy sauce I sprinkle them with chopped garlic or garlic powder if I'm lazy. Here lately I've been having mine with a sauce I make of garlic sauteed in butter, blue cheese, sour cream, and a short ton of horseradish.

    1. Well the grill is going to impart a more Q'd flavor, but it also keeps the smoke outside. What I find helpful is to know how my guests like them. Right now the consensus is medium. I either broil or grill them on each side till get some color, then finish them off to the side of the fire on the grill, or in the oven at 400. If they are ready to the "touch test", I turn the oven off, or if outside keep them near the heat but not cooking anymore to rest for at least 5 minutes before carving/serving. The cast iron skillet is revered by some, but my open kitchen means the smell lingers in the deep recesses of my house for a long time...

      2 Replies
      1. re: torty

        Can you please explain why "resting (the steak) for at least 5 minutes before
        carving/serving" is necessary?

        1. re: fruglescot

          It continues to cook as do most meats so if you have gotten it to "just done" it will get itself to medium. Also the juices supposedly get pulled into the meat so when you slice into it you don't lose a burst of meat juice.

      2. -Choose 2 really nice boneless strip or rib steaks, 1 to 1.25 inches thick, 8 oz apiece.
        -Preheat your wide cast-iron pan (11-12 in.) for at least 10 (yes, ten) minutes over medium.
        -Season steaks liberally with salt and pepper.
        -Swirl 1tbs vegetable oil to coat bottom of pan.
        -Add steaks; cover with a splatter screen.
        -Cook 5 minutes.
        -Turn, cook 3 more minutes for rare, 4 for medium-rare, 5 for medium.
        -Remove, rest steaks 5 minutes.
        -Share and enjoy.

        1. Why do you think your steaks are average?

          If you are comparing your steaks to the ones from a steakhouse then you are most likely at a huge disadvantage. They use dry aged cuts which are not easy to find...and if you are able to find it, they are jaw-droppingly expensive. It's not easy to replicate dry aging at home (despite what Alton Brown claims).

          My steaks prepared from supermarket cuts are hit and miss too. I have always been in the "sear on high for 3 minutes a side" school of steak cooking, but I have been playing with the "low and slow then sear on high method" the last few times I made steak. The results have been mixed so far.

          1 Reply
          1. re: fmed

            I am comparing to eating out, but not just fancy steakhouses. I've had better petite sirloin steaks at a buffet place for $7. :( Mine just taste like cooked meat, even if I've bought the best filet mignon or ribeye steaks I can find. Of course, the better the cut, the better even mine taste.

          2. Overkill here, but what is it about your steaks that you don't like? If you enjoy steak at restaurants, you should be able to do just as well--no, better--at home. Or, given your nom de guerre, on your boat.

            First, the meat. You have to choose a cut, and have a ton of options: filets, strips, porterhouses and t-bones (which are just filet/strip combos connected to the bone), hanger steaks, flatirons, top sirloins, bottom sirloins, and on and on. But if you want the epitome of steakdom, the ribeye is as good a place as any to start. If it has a rib bone attached, all the better.

            Choosing the cut is not the end of the meat-buying process. Not all ribeyes are created equal. Buy prime beef if you can. Well-prepared cheap steaks can taste very good, and bad cooking can ruin even the best meat, but there is a direct correlation between the quality of the raw material and the quality of the end product. Find a butcher and strike up a conversation. Failing that, go mail order. Yes, the best beef costs way too much compared to supermarket stuff. Ignore the cost per pound and rationalize the expense by thinking about how much the same steak would cost you if you ordred it in a restaurant.

            Once the steak is in the house, start thinking about introducing it to the heat. You need it to be bone dry, or you'll have problems with searing. And searing is what makes the wonderful tasty crust on the outside of the steak. Let it sit out until all exterior moisture is gone. An hour on the rack on the counter works. Or, if you want it to do it right (there are those here who disagree), sprinkle it liberally with kosher salt, set it on a rack over a plate, and put it in the meat drawer of the fridge for a week. Or two.

            Now, the cooking. You need to sear the meat by introducing it to a lot of heat, very quickly. The grill and the cast iron pan are your best options on that front. Let the grill heat up fully, or leave the pan on the stove until it gets smokin' hot. Like, "is it going to melt?" hot. Then add the meat and let it sit for at least a minute, flip it, and let the other side sear for another minute or so.

            Finally, lower the heat and cook the steak through. No, don't just turn down the grill (or the burner). Either move the meat to a cool spot on the grill or stick it in a moderate oven. Insert a meat thermometer and watch the temp. When it's nearly done, pull it off and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

            If you want to gild the lily, there's nothing like a maitre'd butter (or, even better, a bordelaise or a bearnaise sauce) to finish the steak. But the sauce is just an extra. With a small investment in meat (compared to oh, say, a niced used sedan), a little know-how, and careful attention, you'll be able to cook a steak that's as good as or better than anything you can get at all but a handful of restaurants.

            4 Replies
            1. re: alanbarnes

              Good points alanbarnes,

              I think the OP may benefit from experimenting with dry aging at home. I wouldn't recommend dry aging steaks for a long time (a week is pushing it IMO), but to start with roasts which can then be sliced into steaks. Fine Cooking Magazine's website has a nice pictorial on this topic.

              On your tip on salted dry-aging - I have tried this, it does "improve" the meat, but it does not taste as good as a properly (unsalted) dry-aged cut. Salted aging takes on a totally different flavour - it doesn't have the tang and depth that I expect from a dry-aged cut. The texture is different too - difficult to describe, but dry-age beef doesn't shred compared to salted.

              Merely drying out the steaks in the fridge for a while (few hrs to a couple of days) will also improve the steaks.

              1. re: fmed

                I've had inconsistent results with salting the meat before aging. Sometimes it just accelearates the process--making a steak aged for a week taste as good as 30-day dry-aged beef. Other times it hasn't worked so well. But the results have never been noticibly worse than with unsalted meat.

                I propose a thorough study involving severeral rib primals, a few Chowhounds, my new gas grill (neutral flavors and all), and copious quantities of wine. Who's in?

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  I'm in...perhaps next week (plus aging).

              2. re: alanbarnes

                I will try this exactly on our next steaks. Thanks so much for the detail!

              3. I think the first step is finding a good butcher. They live and die by the quality of thier meats.

                I agree with fmed that supermarket cuts are hit and miss. This might sound a bit slummy to some, but when my local supermarket has a decently marbled rib-eye, ny strip or t-bone a bit more brown than red with a 50% off sticker on it, I'll snap it up. It ain't dry aged, but it works for me.

                2 Replies
                1. re: garfish

                  I cruise the sale isle too garfish! Good deals to be had on pseudo aged beef.

                  1. re: fmed

                    Most definitely fmed. Nothing like an unexpected steak night.

                2. while i love using the broiler ( which is just an upside down grill) for steak i rarely do, I tend to use a cast iron pan and either cook both sides on the stove top, or cook one side on the stove, flip and finish in a HOT oven (500f is good)... i think i tend towards the latter the thicker the steak is. For a one inch steak i find 4 minutes a side in the cast iron makes for a perfectly medium rare piece of steak. season before you cook it, try to start with room temperature meat, and always let it rest after it is cooked. If you want it to taste like a restaurant steak use the restaurant's dirty little secret: melt butter on top.

                  1. I can't cook a steak either. I get a house full of smoke, steak that is blackened on the outside. I've tried in All Clad and cast iron. Heat the skillet hot, add the room temp seasoned steak, cook 1-2 minutes and flip and sear other side a couple of minutes. House fills up with smoke. Pop it in the oven to finish for a couple of minutes. Open windows while steak is in oven for a few minutes. It's not the cut of steak because my husband uses the same and it always tastes great.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: chowser

                      are you putting oil in the pan? what kind? thats probably what's smoking... you dont need the flame like a jet engine.. I find that if i have a lot of smoke it's the oil and not the steak... rub the oil on the steak, rather than pouring into the pan

                      1. re: thew

                        Yes, I do use oil so that could be it. I'll try it next time w/ a little on the steak only. Thanks.

                    2. Cast iron is the best I've found for indoor steak cooking. As others have mentioned, you need to get it really, really hot before putting the steak on it. No need for oil; a steak should not stick if the pan is hot enough and the outside cooks quickly. Depending on the thickness of the steak and how rare I want it, I do about 3-5 minutes per side, then take it off and rest it on the plate for a few minutes. Very simple.

                      I just read an interesting tidbit in a book called "What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained." The author suggested sprinkling a thin layer of salt on the pan before cooking burgers. According to him, the salt "draws out juices and quickly congeals them, forming a crust on the meat that keeps it from sticking to the pan and leaving its brown goodies behind. The resulting burger is crunchy on the outside, and deliciously salty." I'm thinking there's no reason the same might not apply to steaks, so next time I cook one, I'm going to try it with the salt in the pan.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Kagey

                        Cooking steak at home is great example of how difficult the seemingly simple things can be. This is because when it comes to good steak there is pretty much nowhere to hide, especially if you prefer a simple presentation.

                        I start with good beef and if I think ahead, will salt it a day in advance. Although salt initially draws moisture out, the meat will eventually pull the moisture back in, and due to the salt the meat will then be seasoned throughout. (Read more in the Zuni cookbook.)

                        Pat it dry and let it rest uncovered to come to room temperature. As other have said, a dry steak is the key to a good crust. If it's wet it will steam.

                        I prefer cast iron preheated very hot, with no oil. Once they're in the pan, don't touch the steaks - move the pan if you want to adjust heat exposure. If they begin the burn, lower the heat slightly - you want dark brown, not black charcoal.

                        IFor me, the key with cast iron is to remove the pan from the stove and put it in a 400 degree oven AS SOON AS YOU FLIP. Cast iron retains heat very well and the second side will sear just fine in the oven. If you sear the second side on the stove, the pan will carry too much heat in the oven.

                        So, about 3-4 minutes on the first,side for good crust, then into the oven for about 5 minutes. Then onto a plate with a pat of herb/garlic butter to rest for five minutes or so. If your kitchen is cool, loosely tent, but don't cover tightly or your crust will soften from steaming. If the pan is not too black, deglaze with a little red wine and/or meat broth and finish with a swirl of butter if desired. Really though, all you should need is a bit of herb butter and the juices from the resting plate. OK, now I want a steak!!

                      2. I too had a hard time mastering this. Lobel's, which is New York City's premiere butcher, has steak cooking tips on their website. their two step method, which starts with searing each side, and then finishes in a 375 degree oven, is foolproof. seriously. it gives you exact cooking times, depending on the thickness and cut of the steak, as well as the desired doneness. be sure to realize that their cooking times include both the searing and the oven stage. using their methods, steaks are perfect, every time.

                        1. I had an amazing ribeye last night thanks to all the posts here. It was even previously frozen (snatched up a good deal last month on a package that was getting old) and was still lovely. Here's what I did.
                          1. Thawed the steak in running, room temperature water. I was about to cook it anyhow, so it wasn't any worse hygienically to do this verses letting it sit out for a half hour!
                          2. Patted the room temperature steak dry and sprinkled Kosher salt on it (thanks, Alton Brown).
                          3. Set my cast iron skillet on a 8-9 burner for about seven minutes.
                          4. Sprayed one side of steak with canned canola oil.
                          5. Cooked that side - kept to one half of my skillet - for three minutes.
                          6. Sprayed other side of meat with canola oil.
                          7. Flipped steak onto other side of the skillet which hadn't been "cooled" by the steak.
                          8. The steak was thin enough that I did not follow it up with a bake in the oven.
                          9. Sprinkled with Spicy Montreal Steak Seasoning.
                          10. Let rest for five minutes (barely!) before digging in.
                          11. Enjoyed one of the loveliest steaks I've ever had.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: SailingChef

                            "Sprayed one side of steak with canned canola oil"

                            you lost me there -- no reason to ruin a steak with something as toxic as canola (rapeseed) oil.

                            If you insist on using oil on your steak (a nicely marbled one shouldn't require it), I'd use peanut oil, avocado oil, lard, or even bacon grease.

                          2. I too use to think I couldn't cook a steak, until I got a few good pointers from the experts.
                            1. Always buy the best cut of steak you can afford, my favorites are rib-eye and top sirloin.

                            2. Make sure it's at least one half inch thick, preferably thicker.

                            3. Always heat the grill at least 10 minutes.

                            4. Before grilling I use just a little Worcestershire sauce and garlic.

                            5. I grill until they're rare and rest until medium rare. I usually clock them, 3min then flip for 7.