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Need help with my steak!

I'm trying to perfect my steaks and I'm running into a few problems. I think the biggest problem could be my steaks to begin with.

I've been buying my meat at my local Kroger because there really aren't any good butchers close. I would really like to get some USDA Prime but I just really can't seem to find anywhere around that has it. (I live in Columbus OH if anybody knows of anywhere..) I've been working with boneless ribeye because its a moderately cheap cut and one that I like from a restaurant.

The method I have been using is to heat my cast iron skillet to a pretty high temperature. I then lightly salt and pepper the steak and brush some vegetable oil on both sides. I then cook it for about 2 min and 15 seconds on each side and then brush a little butter on each side then keep flipping until desired doneness- about medium.

Before tonight my steak just didn't have much flavor. It was okay, but it wasn't that steakhouse-oh-my-god quality steak flavor.. I would rate the flavor about a 4/10. The steak has usually been fairly tender.. maybe a 7.5/10. Then tonight I did the same method and got a better flavor (6.5/10) but my steak came out ridiculously tough.

I think it may be the beef I'm using. But I did it before once with beef that I got out of town that I know was dry-aged.. I think it may have been choice.. but I just didn't get satisfying flavor.

So is there anything I'm doing wrong??

PS- I live in an apartment that outlaws outdoor grills so that's out of the question.. from what I've read though steakhouses usually use the skillet method anyway.

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  1. Stop flipping.

    Getting your cast iron pan screaming hot, cook for about 2 minutes on each side (depending on how well done you like your steak and how thick it is), then stick the entire thing (pan and steak) into a preheated oven to finish off cooking.

    The more you flip the less likely you are to get a nice char on the steak, which is what you want.

    11 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      flip it back to the original side before sticking it in the oven?

      I forgot to mention.. that's what I was doing at first and still didn't get much good flavor.

      1. re: yossarian22

        Cook one side for 90 seconds, flip it and then slip the cast iron pan w/ steak into a preheated 350° oven for 2-3 minutes. Remove and rest the steak covered for 5 minutes.

        Consume, and repeat as necessary.

      2. re: ipsedixit

        food science maven harold mcgee would disagree. he recommends flipping often.

        also, you might try thoroughly salting the steak an hour before you cook it.

        1. re: linus

          I've heard salting it well before can draw the moisture out, therefore you end up with a dry steak.

          1. re: pj26

            Most steaks at the supermarket are full of water. Salting will remove some of this water and concentrate the flavors. There should still be plenty of flavor and moisture from the fat. If the steak is too lean there lies the problem

            1. re: scubadoo97

              Korsher salt and pepper fairl heavily, about 30-45 min. before cooking. What happens is that the salt first draws water out of the steak, but then when the salt dissolves in the water, IT GOES BACK INTO THE STEAK. Then you have seasoned meat throughout the steak, and you have a fairly dry surface again. Do it, set on the counter, and watch it happen -- from dry to wet to dry.

              I go with the sear, flip, sear and oven. No multi-flipping.

              1. re: woodburner

                Woodburner, in oven do you bake like acgold said or broil?

                1. re: ios94

                  bake to finish. I get really thick ribeyes (1.5 to 2") and so on the grill I go direct on each side, then indirect and covered to finish. In the house either stovetop pan or broiler on two sides, then bake in oven to finish.

            2. re: pj26

              There's a science to salting a steak, with 2 time periods that yield good results, and a middle ground that yields poor results. Serious Eats did a steak salting experiment.

              Salt tends to draw moisture out. But after a certain time period, that moisture will be drawn back into the muscle. So a steak salted for more than 30 minutes loses and then regains the moisture, while the salt has a tenderizing effect on the muscle fibers, and imparts good flavor on the steak. The end result is a more tender steak with little moisture loss. Salt immediately before cooking, and there's zero tenderizing or moisture effect, but you get flavor enhancement from the salt. Then there's the middle ground - more than 3-4 minutes, less than 30 minutes - where the salt draws moisture out, but that moisture doesn't have time to reabsorb. You end up with a steak that's actually less juicy than if you had done nothing. Also, if you don't dry the steak, the moisture on the steak interferes with searing. So there's an optimal time for salting (greater than 30 minutes), and less optimal, but still good time (immediately), and a not good time (more than 3-4 minutes, less than 30 minutes).

              1. re: foreverhungry

                Thanks. I'm an over 30 min. salter in most cases. Good to know

            3. re: linus

              I've heard this. Flip often to get the upper surface to dry so that when you flip it back, it will crust up more, and that builds flavor. Most TV chefs I've seen say DON'T TOUCH IT!!!

          2. More char really only means you will get the taste of char... which is great if that's what you want. But that doesn't necessarily mean better steak flavor.

            But the skillet in the oven method is indeed the way to go. One or two minutes in a hot pan, then flip and into a hot (500F) oven. You may need more salt and you probably need a fattier steak. If you're buying at Kroger, not only are you not getting Prime, you probably aren't even getting Choice. If you're stuck with Select (or even ungraded) then that explains both blandness and toughness (and I suspect that's what you are getting if you consider rib-eye a fairly cheap cut). Try to get to a Costco, if you can, where you can get both Choice and sometimes even Prime. Dry aging will make it even better but you can't really do this with individual steaks. If you get a whole rib-eye from Costco and you have space in your fridge then it's easy to dry-age the whole thing for a few weeks and carve off a slab whenever you feel like one.

            I actually wait to put the butter on until the resting period so it doesn't burn in the pan... you are letting it rest after cooking, yes?

            1. Your problem is that you are "LIGHTLY" seasoning your steak with s&p. go heavier than you may think with the salt.

              Plus, you are never goign to get steakhouse quality steak with kroger steak :)

              Here's my post that I did on steaks. It gives my step by step directions on a GRILL (not skillet).


              Like I said, my main suggestion is to just salt it more. (going by the fact that you said "lightly" salted)

              1. Hey Catch, l am a member of the only turn once, no salt, then hot oven, cadre. Get my prime meat at Costco, boneless ribeye. Cook about 2-2.5 inches thick, 4 minutes first side, two second side, then oven until meat thermometer says 117 degrees, let rest @ 6-8 minutes, good to go. Use finishing salt after carving

                1. Also, I season the steak about an hour before cooking - let it sit out at room temperature. I leave the plate in the micro to keep it away from prying kitty noses or dogs who can reach the counter but wouldn't dream of touching anything (unless I'm not looking).

                  1. I am happy to see this post, because I have the same problem, and I solved it by
                    saying to myself "I will NEVER buy rib-eye steak (or any other) from Kroger again (or HEB "on-sale" either
                    for that matter)
                    I have been VERY disappointed.
                    I have my steak cooking down pat, I think, so I am unwilling to believe it's me.
                    I am going to try a meat market one of my friends has recommended.
                    I had a suspicion that the supermarket meat was the problem.
                    I am happy to see that some of the "Hounds" agree :-)

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: oooYUM

                      I think you are on target with your assumption

                      1. re: oooYUM

                        oooYUM, I think you and the OP know exactly what you're doing. Salt, no salt. Turn once, turn many times.
                        Blah, blah, blah.
                        It's the steak. You can stick lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.
                        The OP might want to invest in delivered good steaks, aged steaks or perhaps find a local farmers market to get quality ingredients to start with.

                        1. re: monavano

                          Yes, please stay away from supermarket steak.

                          When you guys sear the steak and then throw into the oven do you put in on bake or broil?

                          1. re: ios94

                            Bake. 500-550F. Sear on the first side only, then let the heat of the pan do the second side in the oven.

                            1. re: acgold7

                              Thank you acgold7, in the past I've seared and then broiled quickly. I will try this method.

                          2. re: monavano

                            Love the pig analogy- Costco membership will pay for itself once you start buying meat there- I buy the t-bones. You'll love the prices.

                        2. OP, are there any cattle farms in Columbus, OH? If I were you, I'd invest in a cow portion for the freezer. In the long run, you'll be better off health-wise, taste-wise and probably price-wise.

                          1. I agree with the posts suggesting that the method used, while important, may not be the primary issue here. Grill, sear, flip once or a dozen times; there are a lot of ways to execute a very well cooked steak - we can debate which method is THE best, but in reality, there are several very good methods (and some things that can lead to a terrible steak).

                            But it has to start with a high quality piece of meat. And Kroger's is unlikely to cut it. To be honest, after reading "Steak" by Mark Schatzker, and my own experience, I'm not even convinced that "Prime" and "Choice" are even related to the quality and taste of the meat - I've had some very good tasting choice steaks, and some awful choice steaks, and some choice steaks that tasted better than prime ones. The heart of it is simply in the flavor profiles of the meat, which is a reflection of what the cow ate, how it was finished, how stressed it was at the time of killing, how it was butchered, and whether/how it was aged. All those have huge impacts on the flavor of the meat - more, in my opinion, than either the "grade" or how the steak was prepared (assuming it was prepared competently). I'm guessing there'll be lots of folks that disagree with this opinion, though.

                            On a side note, for steak house flavor, I agree that aggressive salting and finishing with butter are 2 ways to obtain that steak house flavor, and are good ways to bring out whatever flavor the meat has.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: foreverhungry

                              Totally agree here. All the debate in the world about how to cook a steak can not help crap beef. Poor cow, what a waste.

                              1. re: foreverhungry

                                It's got to be a good cut of steak. My merhod: Pepper each side (no salt). Rub pepper in. Put in super hot pan.
                                Cook until that side is done (couple of minutes?), flip and do the same with the other side.
                                Keep a cover on the pan so you don't set off the smoke alarm. Only one flip.
                                Really easy. Should taste terrific, if not, then cut of meat is the problem.


                                1. re: foreverhungry

                                  Well said. The key to an amazing steak is getting an amazing piece of meat and then not f*&^ing it up.

                                  On the other hand, seasoning it well and then grilling over a properly hot charcoal fire to a perfect medium rare can make even a lesser cut of meat pretty tasty.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    ive been seeing prime top sirloin lately. is it worth it or not since its such a lean cut anyway?

                                    1. re: divadmas

                                      Top sirloin can make a good steak, though like a lot of slightly tougher steak cuts, it can take well to a marinade beforehand.

                                      Though the point of my post was that I agree with Foreverhungry that it's not really about whether the meat is prime or not but about whether the steer and meat have been raised, finished, slaughtered, and stored well. Steakhouses often have the best steaks mainly because they source the best pieces of meat.

                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                        The cast iron pan is really good, that is the method I was taught and use all the time to this day.
                                        What I was told by the owner/chef at a family owned club, steak house many years ago, was to freeze the steak, good and solid.
                                        Get your cast iron pan hot and sprinkle with kosher salt (you can use sea salt too). No oil, or anything else.

                                        Then, put the steak in the pan, a timer on for eight minutes (could be more if you have really thick steaks). Let it sear completely.
                                        Then, turn the steak over and your heat down. This might take some practice until you get used to it, but could be medium low or even low. Set timer for twenty minutes. I use short cuts or NY strip steaks, not sure what cuts are called in other parts of the country.
                                        Keep watching it, as it takes some getting to know. I've done this for about 30+ years now and the steaks come out evenly cooked and tender. The juices are contained inside and just explode. This is for medium rare, so you can adjust accordingly, but steaks are even all the way through and from end to end. There's nothing better. Hope this helps.

                                2. I saw one of the Cook's Illustrated shows and what they did was to put a mix of baking soda (for drying) and salt (for seasoning) on the meat and put it in the freezer for 30 min. Then they cooked it on high heat.

                                  In their magazine they've reported that as you cook beef, certain enzymes act to tenderize it until the meat reaches a temp of something like 125. So, if you can keep the temp below that for a while, you'll have a more tender steak. That seems consistent with the advice royalpresence was given.

                                  Currently, my procedure is to bake the steak in a low oven until it reaches a temp of 95, then a quick sear on both sides in a cast iron pan till a temp of about 130, then rest it for 10 min. I've been happy with the results.

                                  CI also wrote that there is a range of quality within the "Choice" grade. Look for a steak with the most marbling.

                                  Good luck.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: OldSchool

                                    I've done this with thick cut steaks and double cut lamb chops with excellent results except I use my gas grill to do the searing. Nice even doneness with a crust that isn't too thick

                                  2. Is Kroger selling you Select grade rather than Choice? As others have noted, even Choice steaks can be disappointing at times, but you can count on disappointment with Select grade, unless (perhaps) you're chopping it to bits for a highly seasoned and cheesed-up steak sandwich or some such.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Bada Bing

                                      Our Krogers has "premium choce" Sterling silver, and prime. Not anything close to Lobel's. If you wrap Krogers in cheesecloth or pape towles for 5-7 days, it does draw out excess water. Also, forget stovetop pans. Open fire is tastier. I've been experimenting since 1965. I have a 23k btu burner, cast iron skillets and grill pans, Open fire is better.