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How to Cook Steak

Updated on May 30, 2012
This petite sirloin steak was more than enough to satisfy a grown man's appetite. Smaller than a traditional sirloin, it was also less costly. Five of these steaks were sold for the low price of $11.
This petite sirloin steak was more than enough to satisfy a grown man's appetite. Smaller than a traditional sirloin, it was also less costly. Five of these steaks were sold for the low price of $11. | Source
Thinly sliced flank steak is tender and inexpensive. I purchased this one for $6.00 and it, along with two side dishes, fed my family of four quite nicely.
Thinly sliced flank steak is tender and inexpensive. I purchased this one for $6.00 and it, along with two side dishes, fed my family of four quite nicely. | Source

Everybody knows that a tender, juicy steak dinner is delicious. What many do not realize is that preparing it at home is very easy and can actually be inexpensive. Certainly, the Filet Mignon, New York Strip or Rib Eye is a nice cut of meat but, if you know how to prepare it properly, the less expensive cuts (when they are at least ½" thick) can be just as tasty. Very hot, dry heat works best to cook steaks. Your goal is to create a nicely browned crust on both sides in order to trap the juices inside. If you choose to marinate, be sure to dry off the moisture from the steak before cooking, otherwise you will find it difficult to form a crust. When using lesser cuts of meat, I recommend cooking them to no more than medium in order to keep them tender. My favorite methods for cooking steak are on the grill, in the pan, or in the oven under the broiler.

Source

How to Cook Steak in a Pan.

Pan frying is actually my preferred way to cook a steak. You can use any frying pan you have on hand but I prefer one that is cast-iron or non-stick because the clean-up is easier. It's important to remove the meat from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature before you cook it. If you don't do this, you will end up with a well-done exterior with a cold interior.

  • About 30 minutes before frying the steaks, lay them out on a cookie sheet and season them on both sides with a little salt and pepper. You can also use grill seasoning if you like, it's completely up to you.
  • Once the meat is at the correct temperature, prepare your pan by brushing it with a thin layer of vegetable oil. Turn your burner to a medium-high heat and let the pan heat up until it is smoking.
  • Lay the steaks in the pan, making sure to give each plenty of room. Press them down into the pan to ensure they have thorough contact.
  • After around 3 minutes, check to see that they are properly browned. Flip the steaks over using tongs. It's very important that you not use a fork to turn it over. You want to avoid piercing your steaks. Press the steaks into the pan as you did previously.
  • At this point, you can touch the steak to get a feel for it. It will most likely feel soft and squishy because it is very rare. Periodically, touch the meat to determine doneness. (See the chart and photos below for determining doneness.)
  • After your steak has reached the desired level of doneness, place on a plate and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes.

Rare
Rare | Source
Medium-rare
Medium-rare | Source
Medium
Medium | Source
Well-done
Well-done | Source

Cooking Steak on the Grill

Preparing steak on the grill is very similar in technique to pan-frying. Two important things to remember, regardless of the method you use, is to avoid the temptation to constantly flip your meat and to use tongs, rather than a fork or knife, to turn the steaks in order to avoid puncturing it.

  • Lightly oil and preheat the grill.
  • As with all methods, bring the steaks to room temperature and season to taste.
  • Place steaks on grill. You should hear a sizzling sound.
  • Allow to grill, uncovered, until nice grill-marks have formed. Here's a tip: I prefer my steaks to be medium. The way I know it is time to flip is that the top of the steak begins to sweat a bit. I can also look at the profile of the steak and see that a nice bit of crust has formed by identifying a thin, grey line on the bottom. Flip the steaks.
  • Continue grilling until desired temperature is reached. Immediately remove from grill and allow to rest 5-10 minutes.

The Best Way to Cook Steak in the Oven

It's true, you can bake steaks in the oven. I remember my mother covering steaks with some sort of condensed soup and baking it until it was tender. It's a method that reminds me a little of preparting meat in a crock-pot. If you're looking for a steak with a golden crust and tender, juicy interior, however, it's best to utilize the broiling method when using the oven.

  • Preheat broiler. The broiler is the heating element in the oven that is at the top.
  • Season room temperature steaks to taste.
  • Place meat on the unheated rack of a broiler pan and place in oven, 3" from heat.
  • Broil until a good crust forms then flip.
  • Continue broiling until you reach the temperature you prefer.
  • Remove steaks to a plate and allow to rest.

Broiling is my least favorite way to cook steaks. It's a little more difficult to keep an eye on the cooking process when it is in the oven. Pan frying and grilling are easier for me. If you feel more comfortable using an oven than a grill or stove-top, then broiling is definitely preferable.

How to tell if your steak is done.

You can use a meat thermometer to determine if your steak is done, however, that involves piercing the meat. Why would you work so hard developing a nice, golden crust on your steak only to poke a hole in it and release the juices? I'm sure professional restaurant chefs have their ways, but, for a home cook, a good way to tell if a steak is done by touching it with a finger and comparing it to the fleshy pad below the thumb on the hand. (See above photos.) A steak is soft and squishy and becomes firmer as it cooks.

  • Rare: Index finger to thumb. Soft.
  • Medium-rare: Middle finger to thumb. Yields gently to the touch.
  • Medium: Ring finger to thumb. Slightly yields to the touch.
  • Well-done: Pinky to thumb. Hard.

You could also cut the steak open to see if it is the proper color but, once again, that involves puncturing the meat and losing it's juices.

Testing a steak's doneness

Doneness
Temperature
Visual
Touch
Rare
125 degrees
red in center
soft
Medium-rare
130 degrees
pinkish red in the center
yields gently to the touch
Medium
140 degrees
pink in center, grayish brown surrounding
slightly yields to the touch
Medium-well
155 degrees
a thin pink line, mostly grayish brown
firm to the touch
Well-done
160
gray
hard

©Denise Mai, May 30, 2012. All rights reserved.

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    • denisemai profile image
      Author

      Denise Mai 5 years ago from Idaho

      Tammy--you can master this for sure! I'm with you on the steak doneness. Well done is dry and tough, but, that's how some people like it, so, to each his own.

      Nylarej--cooking is all about following directions so I'm sure you'll do great. Give me an update!

      Judi and TRE--Thanks for reading. Glad you like the method.

      Wilderness--So glad you're using the method! It works and no holes. Thanks for trying out and letting me know!

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Just have to say that I'm using your method for checking how done it is and it works. I always poked several times with a fork or made a cut to look at the center, but this finger and thumb thing works well and makes a much better steak without the juices running out.

      Thanks - my cookouts have improved!

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      I'm a well-done sorta gal. Used to cook a lot of steak but it's so expensive in the UK now. Too expensive to buy for four of us - I do use cheaper cuts of beef in pot roasts and stewing steak in casseroles and stews. Pan-fried steak is a treat when we go out to eat though.

      Love your timing methods!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 5 years ago from UK

      Never seen the technique of squishing your palm before to test the steak before!

    • nylarej profile image

      nylarej 5 years ago from Ph

      Great hub!

      I will follow your steps and will definitely give you an update... I have never tried cooking steak, oh well I am not really good in cooking, I am just a great copycat with recipes online. I am really wishing to master steak. I might be doing this on Saturday for our dinner ;-)

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      This is something I wish I could master. It takes a good cook to get it off the heat at just the right moment. There is nothing sadder than an overcooked steak. I don't know how people can stand eating it well done. Blah!!! Great advice and explanation.

    • denisemai profile image
      Author

      Denise Mai 5 years ago from Idaho

      Well, thank you very much, Angela! I'm happy you found it useful. :)

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      You have a great ability to have the audience understand your message. I need this and plan to print it off and keep it in my favorite cookbook! Thank YOU!

    • denisemai profile image
      Author

      Denise Mai 5 years ago from Idaho

      Hi, Angela! When you cook steak, you create a crust that seals the juices inside. It kind of locks them in. If you use a fork to flip it, by piercing it, the juices escape and your steak will be dry. Thank you for reading!

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 5 years ago from United States

      Why don't you want to pierce the steak? What does it do to it? I have to admit,I've always used a fork. Of course, I am not a good cook... nor will I pretend to be.

      I never knew the trick with touching the steak and comparing it to the touch you have with your hand. I personally love the medium rare.

    • denisemai profile image
      Author

      Denise Mai 5 years ago from Idaho

      Thanks, practicalmommy! It seems like every house has only one person who cooks steak. As long as there's one, it's all good.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image

      Marissa 5 years ago from United States

      Great tips for cooking steak! I like the finger test to see if it is done.

      I've only cooked steak once, but my husband is a steak master. He can make any cut of steak taste great, on both the grill and on a pan.

      Voted up and useful!

    • denisemai profile image
      Author

      Denise Mai 5 years ago from Idaho

      Interesting, Chris!

    • profile image

      Chris Hugh 5 years ago

      I use a sous vide, then use a pan to create a crust. Foolproof.