Learning how to cook a steak to perfection

Ribeye Steak
Ribeye Steak

Learning how to cook a steak is a matter of pride and bragging rights for many a home chef. It literally takes moments to learn how to cook a steak, but it will definitely take you a lifetime to master the process.

The process itself is quite simple; choose a cut of beef, season the beef, cook the beef, eat the beef. The intricacies of the steps though is where the process begins to break down for many. Anybody can learn to cook steak, but very few will ever be truly good at it.

How to cook a steak

Cooking the perfect steak starts with choosing the best cut of beef that you can find, and that you can afford. USDA Prime or Choice is the way to go here, and you can definitely find a quality cut of beef at your local grocery store. If you are lucky enough to have a local butcher, by all means... take advantage of that opportunity.

Deciding which cut of beef you will use is largely a personal process, but I prefer Porterhouses, Ribeyes, NY Strips and Filet Mignon. Filet Mignon is ideal for those looking for the most tender steak available, while the Ribeye and the NY Strip are nice for those who prefer a hearty beef flavor. The Porterhouse combines the best of those two scenarios, as the T-bone in this cut divides the Filet from the NY Strip, giving you two steaks in one. The T-bone steak is a smaller version of the Porterhouse, where the Filet side has been cut away, and is ideal for those who want a NY Strip with the bone-in.

Be sure to choose a steak with good marbling, as it will insure tenderness and great flavorings. Marbling simply refers to the pockets of fat that are present in the meat itself. This does not refer to the gristly fat that can be found on the edges, but rather in the meat itself. Those fat pockets will melt away as the steak cooks, assuring the most tender, flavorful steak possible. You'll know marbling when you see it, as it's an obvious component of quality beef.

Once you've chosen your cut of beef, then you can start to figure out exactly how you want to go about preparing it. You'll want to salt and pepper to taste, but you don't have to go crazy to come up with the perfect steak recipe. If you find yourself wanting in the seasoning or rub department, I can assuredly recommend a product by Chef Prudhomme. I used this steak seasoning in the past, and was always happy with the results, as were the bar patrons I was cooking for at the time. The seasonings can be found at the official site, and a quick search engine query will yield the desired results.

OK, now we have our favorite cut of beef, seasoned to perfection... How are we gonna cook it? I prefer to grill my steaks on an outdoor grill, but a flat pan works just fine in the kitchen if you prefer to remain indoors. Set the grill or the pan to the desired temperature, then place the steak onto the cooking surface. Be sure to let the steak do its thing, without fussing with it and moving it around. A good, solid seal should form between the surface and the steak, and as the steak cooks it will no longer stick to the pan.

I like to cook my steak right around medium rare to medium, but there are those who will argue 'til they are blue in the fact which level of doneness is the best way to go. Personally, I can eat a steak that ranges from 'right out of the package' rare, to 'shoe leather' well done. Each level of doneness has its very own set of characteristics and flavor profiles, so find a temperature that suits you best and roll with it... all others be damned!

One little trick I use to insure my steak isn't burnt to a crisp is to finish it in the oven, at about 350° until the steak is done to my desired temp. Finishing the steak in the oven is a great way to go, so if you haven't tried it then perhaps give it a shot. You can also set the temperature much lower in order to keep cooked steaks warming, while you finish preparing all the side dishes and whatnot to complete your meal.

That's really all there is to it, basically. Cooking a steak is a process that you can tweak and perfect for many years to come, so have a bit if fun with it, and you will thoroughly enjoy the culinary experience.

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