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May 22, 2008 09:57 AM

Nuking steak?

Since microwaving cooks from the inside out...would it be possible to nuke a steak for a short period of time (couple of minutes) so it gets a headstart before being finished off in the pan or grill?

I can never seem to cook steak long enough for those that enjoy a medium or medium-well without totally charring the outside.

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  1. It doesn't cook evenly from the inside out or outside in. It will just turn it a blah colour and you have no control for even cooking. Then I don't think you will get a nice carmelizing on the outside when you grill. Maybe you are using too high a temp when you grill. I would use a lower grilling temp

    1 Reply
    1. re: sarah galvin

      What the microwave is good for is that after you've grilled your steak, and want to reheat the next day, (and we are more rare than well done) simply sprinkle water on the steak, put in microwave with plastic covering loosely draped, and cook (depending upon your microwave) for two minutes on power level 5. It does not continue to cook the meat, it just renders it juicier and warm.

    2. Sometimes I will nuke a steak after serving if it is too pink for my taste. It is quicker than putting it back in the cooling skillet. It probably also produces better results, since it cooks the interior without doing much to the outside.

      I've never tried nuking first. It might be trickier to get the right timing.

      An alternative that is often used in restaurants, is to finish the meat in the oven.


      1 Reply
      1. re: paulj

        Doing it in reverse works for me too, my refrigerated leftovers from restaurants start out usually really rare (that almost blue-ish color) and end up rare to medium. The timing is definitely tricky.

      2. First of all, it's a myth, though an oft repeated one, that microwaves cook food from the inside out. They don't. They cook from the outside in. And a microwave just won't do justice to a steak.

        To achieve the outside char you want and the internal temperature you're looking for you'd be better (much better!) off using the sear and roast method. Using, preferably, a cast iron pan, sear the room temperature, lightly oiled and seasoned steak in a very hot pan for a minute or two on each side then place the pan in a preheated 375F. oven. The timing will, of course, depend on the thickness of your steak and just how well you want it done.

        The Lobels Website has good info regarding both technique and timing.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JoanN

          I don't follow this 'from the outside in'. The waves penetrate the meat, and produce heat when they interact with the water and fat molecules. While they do generate heat in the outer layers, they also generate it further in. In fact the interior may get hotter than the surface, since the surface looses heat to the air (and by the release of steam).


          1. re: paulj

            According to Harold McGee, microwaves penetrate food to the depth of only about an inch. The interior is thereafter heated by conduction. You are correct that once heated, the surface of the food will cool somewhat for exactly the reason you state: because the air inside the oven itself is not warmed, any surface heat will quickly dissipate.

        2. Oh, please don't ruin a steak that way. A steak should never see the inside of a microwave. (Even in re-warming a steak, it's better simply to have it in a plastic bag over which hot tap water is run - that way, you can get it to 125F without re-cooking it.)

          The way to finish a steak is in a preheated oven (I prefer slowish - like 275-300F) after the searing in the pan.

          12 Replies
          1. re: Karl S

            I've never heard of reheating a steak that way. I've always ruined it in a microwave. How long does it take under hot water? Thanks.

            1. re: chowser

              I actually reheat my steak the way that Karl S suggests. In fact, if I recall correctly, I learned how to do this on Chowound (and it might have been from Karl S who answered a post of mine asking how to reheat steak at the office).

              Works beautifully without actually "cooking" the meat. I generally run it for about a 1 minute or so, depending on the thickness of the beef.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                So what's the trick, I have hot water in the office and I suppose i could use empty trash bags. i just wrap the steak up in the bag and pour hot water over it for a few minutes? How do I determine when it's "done"?

                1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                  Yup, that's how I do it. Usually it's a ziploc bag and just warm/hot water.

                  I test "doneness" by putting my tongue on the steak and testing its temp in that fashion. Not really elegant, but it works like a charm.

                  1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                    I would use food storage bags that you can get the air out of and get a good seal.

                    The idea here is that hot tap water is usually about the temperature just around the point that proteins start to cook (mid 120sF), and under the temperature at which they coagulate significantly (140F). So you can warm without re-cooking, as it were.

                    1. re: Karl S

                      I love this idea. Maybe I could do it like a sous-vide w/ not quite simmering water. I'll have to buy a mass quantity of steak so we can have leftovers to try this out.

                      1. re: chowser

                        Well, that's different.

                        This is about re-warming a steak, not cooking it. Not quite simmering water is about 40F above the point where proteins coagulate and cook hard, and about 60F above the point where they start to cook. So not quite simmering is way to high for merely rewarming. Hot tap water is actually much more appropriate - nay, perfect - in temperature (I would use it running because that way you can avoid it cooling off when still), unless you tend to have tepid hot tap water.

                        1. re: Karl S

                          Yeah, our heater is set low-ish so it doesn't get that hot (little ones in the house). That's why I thought I could use water on the stove, but I'll take the temperature to make sure it's not too hot.

                          1. re: chowser

                            Ok, I know we are NOT supposed to reheat steak by nuking it in the microwave, but chowser if you're "hot" water from the tap is not hot enough, nuke a bowl of water in the microwave and use that to reheat the steak.

                            I do this sometimes when the hot water in the office was not very hot, and I didn't want to waste water by running it for a several minutes.

                            So, yeah, I guess you can nuke steak ... just not directly.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Good idea--thanks. I just bought four huge rib eyes so I'll try it out tomorrow w/ leftovers. I love this idea for proteins since I hate the jerky quality of nuking. What about fish? Is there a good way to reheat fish?

                              1. re: chowser

                                Good question re fish.

                                Surprisingly, I've never had this issue come up with fish, but my guess is that it should work the same, although I'd imagine steaming might be another (or better?) way to go.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  THis works for re-warming cooked fish and is much better than steaming. Steaming is for cooking, not re-warming. 212F vs mid 125-135F....