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How to Cook Steak
Step1: Know your cuts.
In order to cook a steak properly, you must first understand what type of steak you have in front of you. This knowledge is vital because each cut requires a different method of cooking. You wouldn't cook a 1-1/2-inch thick filet mignon in the same manner that you'd cook a 1/2-inch thick top sirloin. Learning your cuts and understanding the desirable traits of each, is the first key to preparing a great steak.
Generally speaking, the one common denominator to look for within all cuts of beef is marbling distribution. Marbling is the white fat that you see in all cuts of beef. Some cuts, such as rib eye, will naturally have more marbling than others. Just keep in mind that a substantial amount of evenly distributed marbling is a good thing. If you don't want much animal fat in your diet, then eat something other than steak. To avoid fat in steak is to avoid steak altogether.
Step2: Know your method of cooking.
There are many methods of preparing steak. From broiling to grilling, there is no singularly ideal cooking method for all steaks. However, there are ideal methods for various cuts.
With the 1-1/2-inch filet mignon, it's probably a better idea to pan-sear and then finish in a hot oven, rather than grill over open flame. Why? By pan-searing, you'll produce a nice brown crust on the outside of your filet that is not quite as achievable through the use of an oven . But if you were to attempt to finish the 1-inch steak over the stove, that desirable crust will burn before the inside of the steak is cooked through. The evenly distributed heat of an oven will not burn your steak until well after it has cooked through.
If you must cook your 1-inch filet over open flame, do yourself a favor and transfer it to an oven once the outside of the steak has been seared. See, there is no perfect method. But you must understand each method in order to achieve desirable results.
Step3: Always allow your steak to approach room-temperature prior to cooking.
I cannot overstate how important this step is in achieving a perfectly cooked steak. Depending upon ambient temperature, always remove your steak from the refrigerator 30 to 60 minutes prior to the time you plan to actually cook it.
The reason for this is rather simple: The colder the steak, the longer it takes to reach the desired serving temperature. An ideal steak will arrive on your plate as evenly cooked as possible. Now if you had an immersion circulator, this would be easily achievable. Sadly, most of us do not have an immersion circulator sitting in our kitchen. The best way to cook a steak as evenly as possible is to slowly raise the internal temperature prior to exposing the outside of the steak to a hot pan, oven or grill.
Step4: Season your steak to enhance its natural flavor rather than to mask it.
A great cut of beef is naturally flavorful, and all it really needs to enhance that inherent flavor is a little salt and pepper. I find kosher salt to be the best choice for most meats in general, and fresh cracked pepper is always a better choice than the stale stuff that comes out of a shaker. There's nothing wrong with adding in a few other ingredients, but I'd advise that you choose those ingredients based on their ability to complement the flavor of beef, rather than mask it. Quality blue cheeses accomplish this very well.
Step5: During cooking, never touch your steak other than to turn it.
We've all seen it. The person in charge of the grill at a barbecue, standing there poking the steaks with a fork as if he's accomplishing anything other than ruining the texture of the meat.
Needlessly moving your steaks around on the grill or in the pan does nothing for you. All it does is guarantee that your steaks will turn out to be lacking in flavor and ideal texture.
In order to achieve maximum flavor accumulation, the steak must remain undisturbed for a long enough period of time to allow a maillard reaction to occur. Simply put, a maillard reaction is a process that allows meat to brown. It won't happen if you continually fiddle with your steak. So leave it alone until it's had a chance to brown, and then turn it over and leave it alone for another extended period of time. And never, ever, poke your steak with a fork while it's cooking. Always use tongs or a spatula when turning your steak.
Time and temperature vary greatly depending on thickness of cut and choice of heat source.
I've found that the best way to determine when your steak is cooked to your liking is to simply look at it and touch it. Gently press your finger into the middle of the steak. If it doesn't bounce back at all, it isn't cooked yet. When it just begins to lightly bounce back, it's medium-rare. The more bouncy and firm it becomes, the more well-done it is. With a bit of practice, it'll become very easy to know exactly when to pull your steaks off the grill.
Never bind yourself by time when cooking steaks. They're done when they're done.
Step6: Always allow your steak to rest for at least 10 minutes after cooking.
Much like step 3, I just can't overstate how important it is to allow your steak to rest prior to cutting into it. Why go through all that work to cook the perfect steak, only to ruin it by cutting into it while it's steaming hot? By cutting into a still-hot steak, you effectively allow a substantial amount of its internal moisture to escape in the form of steam and tangible juice. The sWhen allowed to rest, a hot steak will retain the majority of its moisture. It's that simple.
Step7: When cutting your steak, always cut across the grain.
If you cut your steak with the grain, it will be noticeably tougher to chew than it would be had you cut across the grain. The reason for this is that by cutting with the grain, you allow the natural fibers of the meat to remain intact. You'll wind up with a mouth full of still-intact meat fibers, which can be tough for the teeth to break down for further digestion. When you cut across the grain, you immediately break all those tough to chew fibers into small pieces, thereby making each bite as tender as possible.
ame moisture that you worked so hard to trap and protect. This will result in a steak that is undesirably dry.