As I mentioned in my last post, there are a great deal of people out there who cook their steaks half to death with the slightest bit of remorse. At first I was just going to let it go, hoping to play the ignorance-is-bliss card but I just can’t let it stand, people!
For this post, I’m going to show you the bare bones method to cooking a modest cut of meat the proper way. There are those who love to throw a hunk of beef on a spit fire until it reaches a toughness comparable to that of anodized rubber, but there’s an even better method that goes widely unused in most amateur and some professional kitchens: pan searing.
Now, you might be saying, “Brian! That’s not grilling!”, and you’d be right but that’s not necessarily the point. Instead of trying so hard to make a steak look good i.e. grill marks, etc., your primary goal should be to make sure the steak tastes good! Here are some tips to help you along:
- Know your meat. Love your meat (and the person cutting it for you).
More often than not, a cook will blindly choose a piece of pre-cut meat from behind a glass case without the slightest attempt at exhibiting any real competence–or confidence, for that matter. Whenever you’re in doubt, and I know I’ve said this many times over, ask the butcher! That’s why they are there. Even the generic “butcher-type” individual behind the counter at your local chain store knows a thing or two about the product you intend on purchasing. For your own sake, don’t go into the cooking process with rib eye on your mind when you have a Porterhouse in your hand.
- Prepare Yourself!
Over seasoning an already perfect cut of steak seems to be the common M.O. for some people, but I’m here to tell you that the most you’ll ever need for a perfectly seasoned steak is salt and pepper (gasp!). Put away the garlic, Worcestershire sauce and all the other hangups that you might have about cooking a great steak and go for what you know; coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper, got it?
- Bring the heat.
High heat for short periods of time is your friend. Period. Once your meat is good to go, break out a stainless steel skillet and get it as hot as you can. The point is to get the pan hot enough so that it can sear the outside of your steak to seal in as much of the moisture (read: flavor) as quickly as possible. You will need no more than 2 minutes on each side to get a good sear. Before you start this lightning fast process, you should be preheating your oven to 500 degrees. This is going to serve as your springboard into the second portion of the cooking process.
- Out of the frying pan…
Once you’ve got the sear that you’re looking for, and your oven is heated, quickly move the pan into your oven and cook for about 2-3 minutes per pound. Disclaimer: There will be smoke, especially with fattier cuts of meat. But do not panic! This is part of the process. Just be sure you ventilate your kitchen accordingly or cook on an outside grill/oven combination if smoke isn’t your thing.
- Let it rest.
Once you’ve reached the perfect point–any good steak should be cooked to a medium rare state–you’ll reach the most crucial part of the cooking process: letting it rest. Place your steak(s) on a microwave safe dish or cutting board and let it sit. That’s it! Don’t immediately cut into it, touch it, flip it around or anything. The meat has been through a lot at this point and it needs a chance to get its bearings straight. You will not believe how many people neglect this step and go straight for it. In the end, it’s better to have a warm steak that was cooked to a tee than a scalding hot one that has yet to finish cooking at all.