Ask any meat lover what they want to eat for any special occasion and there's a good chance that their reply will be steak every time. Steak is really what all other meat wants to be. It's tender, it's juicy, and it's packed with beefy flavor that even the best roast beef can't quite seem to achieve.
Many people choose to dine out when they're craving this perfect piece of meat because let's be honest, it can be quite intimidating to cook at home. If you don't get the temperature just right, it's quickly ruined, and if you cook it like any other meat, there's a good chance it's going to dry out. But fear no more! With these simple tips, you can soon be cooking juicy, flavorful steak at home any time you want. No more waiting for that special occasion, or forking out those big bucks just to get that perfect steak.
1. Start with the right temperature
Some people mistakenly believe that cooking a steak from frozen will trap all those juices inside, preventing it from drying out. That's just not true however. Truthfully when you cook a frozen steak, or even one that's just come out of the refrigerator, the cold temperature is going to work against you. While the outside of the steak will cook very quickly, it will take a lot longer to thaw out the center and get it cooked to the temperature you like it. As you wait for that to happen, the exterior will become tough and dry, effectively ruining your steak. Instead, start with a completely thawed steak and then let it sit out on the counter for at least 45 minutes. This will bring the steak up to room temperature and ensure that it all cooks evenly and stays tender.
2. Sear the sides first
Unless you buy a super lean cut like filet mignon, the steak you cook is probably going to have a thick slab of fat along one side; strip loins in particular are known for this. Many choose to cut this piece off before cooking, but that's a big mistake. Fat doesn't just mean more flavor, it also gives you a built-in moisturizer that will keep your steak tender and juicy. But don't just throw it in the pan and think that piece of fat will do all the work for you.
Instead, get your pan piping hot first, until it just begins to smoke. Then season the steak and press the fat on the side onto the pan first. This works to get you juicy steak in two different ways. The first is that the fat will render so no one is left with that thick chewy piece once it hits the dinner table. As it renders, all of that fat will also melt right into the pan - giving you the perfect fat to cook the rest of your steak in. As soon as you lay the rest of the steak in that fat, it will be redistributed throughout and make it tender and juicy. Do this first, and it's almost impossible to get tough, dry steak.
3. Brush or baste with butter
Just like the fat from the steak can help keep it from drying out, adding other fats can do the same thing; and if you use butter, you'll also get a boost of flavor along with it. If you cook your steak really rare or have started with a fairly fatty piece to begin with, you can probably get away with just brushing some butter over the steak as soon as it comes off the heat. In order to really amp up that tenderness, place a knob of butter into the pan as soon as you have rendered the fat and laid the steak flat in the pan. Once the butter melts, tilt the pan so that the butter pools on one side and then use a spoon to scoop it up and drizzle it over the steak. Continue doing this throughout cooking time and you'll really highlight the buttery goodness that's inherent with steak. This tip is especially important if one of those lean cuts like filet mignon is your favorite. With so little fat content of its own, it really needs this to keep it from drying out.
4. Use a meat thermometer
This is an especially good tip for those who aren't used to cooking steak regularly. While there are a number of tips out there to help get the perfect cook on your steak (including pressing different areas of your palm or cheek), there is nothing more accurate than a meat thermometer. There's also the added bonus of not having to continue touching your face while cooking.
Just insert the meat thermometer either when you flip the steak or further towards the end of cooking time. The thermometer will keep you from overcooking your steak and let you know when you've reached the perfect medium-rare or that extra juicy well-done steak you're after. Many people turn their noses up at well-done steak because they think that automatically means it's going to be tough and dry. But this is also not true. The reason well-done steak is often tough is because people think they should just cook it to oblivion - which is not really what well-done means. A thermometer will let you know when you've reached that temperature so you can take it off the heat, knowing it's still got all its juices.
Don't know what temperature you're looking for? Rare steak starts around 120 degrees Fahrenheit, while a good medium-rare steak sits between 130 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. To get a medium cook, continue cooking the steak until it's between 140 to 150 degrees. If you're going for well-done, the temperature should sit around 165 degrees, and not one more degree over that.
5. Let it rest
All of the hard work you've put in so far will do you no good if you take the steak off the heat and cut into it right away. Do this and all the juices you've tried to keep inside will just ooze out onto your cutting board or plate. Instead, remove the steak from the heat and place it on a plate or other surface and don't touch it. Leave it open as well, without a lid or covering, as this will just steam the steak and continue to cook it, which will make it tough. Let the steak sit out for about 10 minutes and then you can finally dig in and enjoy the juiciest steak that will rival any steakhouse.
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