- Bettina Applewhite
Consistently Perfect Steak
Creating the perfect steak with a crusty sear and tender inside can be a challenge but also a great accomplishment when achieved. I have overcooked and under-cooked a lot of steaks in my day. But with lots of practice, I've been able to develop a system that guarantees a perfect steak every time.
I really enjoy going to a nice steakhouse. I usually make an event of it. I'll plan it out in advanced, get dressed up, and will be ready for some good food and fun. I save those special steakhouse dinners for special occasions and celebrations. I feel fancy! One of my favorite steakhouses is Keen's Steakhouse in NYC. I really enjoy going there because it reminds me of good times with friends. The steaks and cocktails are out of this world! It also helps that the restaurant has this old world feel with old tobacco pipes lining the ceiling and dark wood walls that feels like the times of Mad Men. It's great for my "get dressed up and go out for a steak dinner" night. They have a lamb dish with mint jelly and you can even buy the mint jelly to take with you! And, of course, I do because what you find in grocery stores is lime green. Mint is not that color. It's just not natural. But the mint jelly Keen's have is so natural you can see the specks of mint in the jelly. I digress... Back to steaks...
A nice fancy dinner always come to mind when I'm trying to celebrate something. And for me steak is a go-to. But usually when we think fancy, we think expensive. Well, expensive does not have to equal fancy. You can make "fancy" right in your own home and save on the cost.
How to Cook the Perfect Steak
The first step in creating the perfect #steakdinner is to pick the right meat. Different cuts of steak like porterhouse, sirloin, filet, New York strip, etc. have different levels of tenderness. Tenderloin is the most tender and is usually the most expensive. Skirt steak is tough and requires that it be sliced against the grain to ensure tenderness. The cut you prefer is up to you.
Choose Your Meat
Now, let's talk about types of meat. There's USDA Select, USDA Choice, and USDA Prime. The difference is the marbeling of the meat. Marbeling refers to how much fat is intertwined into the muscle. It's not about the fat that is surrounding the meat and can be cut away with a knife. It's the fat that you see dispersed in the meat. The more marbeling, the more tender. The more marbeling, the more expensive. USDA Select is hard to find in stores because the quality is so poor. It has the least amount of marbeling and is very tough. USDA Choice is what is commonly found in grocery stores and has a decent amount of marbeling. It will give you a nice steak. USDA Prime has the most amount of marbeling. It is the most expensive. I use this for holidays and really special occasions. It's more expensive but it's still cheaper than going out to a restaurant. In Prime you can notice the fat intertwined in the meat the most. (It's making my mouth water just thinking about it)
Once you decide the cut of steak you prefer and your level of marbeling, you have set the stage for magic in your kitchen. You don't need lots of spices and seasonings. Especially if I'm using Prime cuts of steak, I'm only seasoning my steak with salt and pepper. I want to get the flavor of the meat. And the fat in the meat will bring all the flavor I need.
Prep Your Steak
Bring your steak to room temperature before you cook it. Take it out of the fridge for 1 hour before you cook it so that your steak and your skillet can have the best introduction to each other. The skillet will be extremely hot and you don't want your steak to to be ice cold. The steak will have too many temperatures to travel through if you start with a refrigerated steak. But if you let that steak get to room temperature first, it's at the right temperature to create a perfect crust. You can leave the steak covered while it is warming up to room temperature. Just pat it dry. After an hour of rest, season with a generous amount of salt, pepper, and a dash of olive oil.
Time to Cook
Heat your skillet until it is smoking hot. Do not add oil. Just heat the dry skillet. I like to use a cast iron pan because it's a great conductor of heat. That means that it heats up quickly and it holds the heat well. I also like cast iron because it makes me really feel like I'm a steakhouse chef. You will know that your skillet is ready when you see your skillet beginning to smoke or when you cannot hover your hand over the pan for more than 2 seconds.
Place the seasoned steak onto the smoking hot skillet and enjoy the sound of the sizzle! Whatever you do, don't move the steak! Don't touch it! Many people want to play around with the steak and move it around the skillet. Don't do it! Resist the urge! You want that meat to create a crust on the outside. It will do that in the first couple of minutes. If you move the meat and expose it to air, you will disrupt the process and will never get that crusty exterior. Let your steak sear for 2 minutes before you even think about checking it. After 2 minutes, you can check to see if the bottom of the steak is starting to brown. The brown color will start to come up the sides of the steak. Once you have about a quarter inch of doneness (or brown color) on one side, you can flip the steak over and start the process again on the other side... Let the steak sear for 2 minutes. You'll know your steak is at the desired level of doneness (temperature) by checking the temperature with a thermometer.
Rare = 125 degrees
Medium Rare = 135 degrees
Medium = 145 degrees
Medium Well = 150 degrees
Well Done = 160 degrees
According to how thick your steak is, you may have to finish it off in the oven for a few minutes to get your desired temperature. I like to choose a steak that is at least an inch thick so that it's harder for me to overcook it. I like the steak medium rare to medium. Don't worry if your temperature is a few degrees under. The steak will continue to cook while it rests...
Let Your Steak Rest
Your steak has just had a traumatic experience going from cold to room temp to hot as Hates. It needs to rest before you cut into it and enjoy. Let your steak rest by placing it on either a cutting board or plate. Don't let it rest in the skillet because the heat from the skillet will continue to cook the steak more than you want it to. Let your steak sit for 10 minutes. This allows the molecules to relax. If you skip this step and cut right into it, you will end up with a tough steak, and the juices will escape as soon as you cut it. But resting allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat and every bite will save some juice for you. Your steak will continue to cook during this time as well. So it will go up a few degrees from the time you pulled it away from the fire.
Once you have successfully completed all these steps, you can bask at your accomplishment and at your wallet because you just made a perfect steak at home. And you can enjoy every bite!