How to Cook a Steak Perfectly

How to Cook a Steak Perfectly Every Time

How to Cook a Steak PerfectlyI don’t consider myself much of a “steak and potato” guy. If I were in a situation where I was forced at gunpoint to self-identify using only pairings of disparate foods, I would describe myself as more of a “chorizo and cheese” kind of fella. I would also have to reconsider the life choices that led to me having to negotiate my way out of a gunfight using descriptive language about meat. But that’s neither here, nor there.

You see, it’s not often that I get the urge to throw a charred piece of meat on a plate, growling and grunting, eating the meat with my bare paws. That craving may not strike often, but when it does, sweet mercy, I want it to be perfect. I want my meat simply prepared, cooked perfectly, with a seasoned brown crust on the outside, and a warm pink middle. I don’t want to muck around too much with technique, I don’t want to poke at my steak with a meat thermometer to check for doneness, and I don’t want to mask the flavor of my steak with fancy pan sauces. Keep it simple. A few potatoes. Perhaps a little spinach or asparagus. A decent cut of meat doesn’t need much else to make it sing. Here’s how I do it.

How to Cook a Steak Perfectly

First, select a good cut of meat. It seems obvious, but you’re not going to coax good flavor or texture out of a $4 shrinkwrapped piece of meat with a “Manager’s Special” sticker on it. Start at your neighborhood grocery store, specialty store, or butcher. A rib eye is a perfect steak for this preparation; it’s got tons of flavor, with thick ribbons of succulent fat. Look for a steak that’s about an inch and a half thick, with plenty of fat marbled throughout. A good boneless ribeye should run you $15-$18 bucks, which seems steep, though it is plenty of food for two people to share. And besides, if a piece of meat this good isn’t in the budget for this week, this isn’t the recipe for you. Put it away to come back to later, and have some fajitas, instead. No good-looking ribeyes? This method works equally well with a New York Strip.

How to Cook a Steak Perfectly

Unwrap your steak, and allow it to come to room temperature. It’s not going to spoil; allowing the chill to come off the meat helps a seared crust to form. Searing doesn’t, contrary to what you may have heard, “seal in flavor.” That’s kind of ridiculous, when you think about it. A seared crust does, however, taste incredible, and provides another layer of satisfying texture for your finished steak. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees, and season the top of the steak with kosher salt and freshly-cracked pepper. Don’t season your meat until right before you are ready to put it in the pan; salting too far ahead of time can change the texture. Be generous with your salt; a good steak can take a lot more than you’d think. Resist the urge to apply other seasonings. When you are working with this good a cut of meat, you don’t want it to taste like garlic or Lawry’s. You want it to taste like meat, and salt and pepper is all it needs.

How to Cook a Steak Perfectly

On the stovetop, heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Add a small amount of cooking oil; it helps transfer heat between the pan and the steak, helping your perfect seasoned crust to form. Heat the pan until the oil just starts to smoke. Turn on your hood vent, open a window, and bury your smoke detector under a few pillows. Place your steak, seasoned side-down, on the hot pan, and leave it alone. Don’t flip it, wiggle it, or adjust it. Let it be.

How to Cook a Steak Perfectly

Allow to cook over high heat for exactly two minutes. While it cooks, you can season the other side generously with more kosher salt and pepper.

How to Cook a Steak Perfectly

After it cooks on the first side for two minutes, flip the steak over with a pair of tongs, and immediately transfer the whole pan right into your preheated 500 degree oven. Allow to cook in the oven for exactly two more minutes.

How to Cook a Steak Perfectly

Using tongs, transfer your steak from the oven to a cutting board. Now, this is a very important step: Leave your steak alone. Leave it alone! Don’t cut into it, wiggle it, move it, or press it. Don’t even look at it too long. There are a few reasons for this. First, we need to allow the steak to finish cooking to perfection, somewhere between the top end of medium-rare, but not quite to medium, depending on the thickness of the cut. (Want your steak cooked to a doneness greater than medium? Frankly, we’d rather you read another website. Beef this good shouldn’t be pummeled into overcooked grey toughness by an onslaught of heat and squeamishness.) Allowing the steak to sit lets it finish cooking using its own carryover heat. More importantly, allowing your steak to rest for ten minutes will allow all of the juices to redistribute themselves and settle down. If you take a steak out of a pan and cut into it immediately, all of the juices will run out onto the floor, delighting the dog but leaving you with a dry, tough slab of chewy beef. Be patient, let the steak rest, and those juices will spread back throughout the fibers of the meat, and you’ll be rewarded with juicy, flavorful perfection. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Leave your steak alone for ten minutes after you take it out of the pan.

How to Cook a Steak Perfectly

Okay, if you simply must do something while you wait, you can allow a tablespoon of butter to melt onto the surface of the steak.

How to Cook a Steak Perfectly

After your steak has been allowed to properly rest, slice your perfectly cooked steak and serve with your choice of sides. Or, optionally, eat it with your fingers like a growling monster, standing over the cutting board.

Got it? Start with a great cut. Season it minimally. Two minutes in a cast iron pan with oil over high heat, flip, two more minutes in a 500 degree oven. Rest ten minutes, and serve. Let beef and fire do the work. Any more fussing than that, and you’re just getting in the way.




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  1. Saul

    “Frankly, we’d rather you read another website.”

    I like my steaks medium-rare, but what I don’t like are bloggers who feel the need to insult someone who thinks their way is the only way. Adios,mf’er.

    • lol saul you wimp

      Saul,
      I think there’s a litte bit of insecurity behind that comment. Even they they were maybe “joshin,” a real man doesnt eat his steak greater than medium. Not because it’s “manly” to eat pink steak, but because it tastes better. Proven time and time again. The only reason people like their steak medium or well done is because they’re are scared that the pinkness will get them sink. Hence, the manly part.

      • Memoria

        I don’t like my steak less than well-done because of a fear of pinkness. I prefer well-done because it tastes better to me, and I don’t like to eat/drink blood, but I’m not afraid of it. I just think it is disgusting to see blood floating around my plate,and I don’t like the texture of the steak that way. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading this post and will adjust the oven time to my preferred doneness and be happy. Ah, the advantage of cooking your own food without anyone judging as you make it haha. The outside of your steak looks amazing!

        • Jason

          Memoria, the reddish liquid on your plate isn’t blood. All the blood is drained from a cow during the butchering process. That’s simply juices from the meat. Zero blood.

          • Peter Watts

            The liquid seeping out of your meat is clear/reddish/pink. It is coming from the muscle and is called myoglobin. In very rare steaks it is very red, but there is nearly no blood in it. the trick is to rest the steak covered in foil for at least 10 minutes or better yet 20 minutes for larger steaks so that the protein in the meat relaxes and reabsorbs the flavorful juice. And there is nothing wrong with well done. A good chef knows to cook slowly over low heat and turn regulary for about 40 minutes. No pink and after resting plenty of juice. Oh make sure you get bone on ribeye. Bone gives better flavor and it cooks more evenly and don’t use a BBQ fork to flip the steaks. Use tongs.

      • jack

        This is why I don’t order steak at restaurants, it seems like the world believes there are only two options for cooking a steak, rare or burnt leather…..I really really hate the taste and texture of a steak cooked anything less than medium. There is something really off about it, and it makes me sick to the point of gagging. I don’t know what it is, the only way I can describe it is for me it is like really wet, lukewarm in the middle, sort of dissolves but sort of not, like a really firm meat jello. Hard to explain, but it is gross, which totally ruins any delicious exterior crunchy crusty goodness that may have been achieved. I also hate noticeable fat on my steak, again the texture is absolutely sickening to me. Granted I don’t like overly well done steak either. It has nothing to do with fear or being grossed out trust me, not with what I do for a living. I just can’t eat a steak that isn’t medium, something about biting into it, and that texture just absolutely makes my stomach turn. Bread pudding and soggy cereal has the same effect on me, I certainly can’t help that a steak cooked rare makes me nauseous. I don’t see how my opinion means I can’t enjoy your website… or even utilize aspects of your technique… I agree with Memoria “Ah, the advantage of cooking your own food without anyone judging as you make it”

  2. s.

    One suggestion for a ‘poor man’s ribeye’ would be the Chuck Delmonico cut. It’s as nicely marbled, though never really as thick, and has great flavor. It’s also around $11/#, which makes it a bit more affordable and would work great in this preparation.

  3. Sophie

    excellent advice. i wish more people knew how to cook steak properly. i actually grew up hating steak… i wonder why! i think our parents’ generation was taught to cook grey: grey meat, grey, over-cooked veg. Gross.

  4. Chef Shane

    Saul could always take his own advice and comment on another website :-).
    For those who have no idea how to cook a steak, you’re giving excellent advice, especially the resting.

    Great post Malcolm. Ignore the uptight, thin-lipped easily-outraged, offended-at-anything demographic.

    • Malcolm

      From Alton Brown. And from Serious Eats. And from America’s Test Kitchen. And from Epicurious. And from Pioneer Woman. And from Ina Garten. And from Emeril. No one really “invented” cooking a steak both in a pan and in the oven. At some point, a technique isn’t “ripped” from anywhere. It’s just, um, how it’s done.

      I hadn’t seen your particular link before, but I am kind of surprised that Alton is only resting his ribeyes for two minutes. Check out Kenji’s thoughts on the importance of resting meat here.

      • Molly

        Restaurant chefs almost always start cooking a piece of protein in a pan and finish it by putting that pan in the oven. There’s no other way. We also run our ovens at 500F almost all the time.

        Frankly, what you’ve described is the most basic, simple technique for cooking steak. There’s no “copying” a technique as straightforward as this.

  5. Louise

    Unlike some, I love your sense of humour! I had a real good laugh reading that comment. come on, we need more blogs like this. thanks for the instructions, I can now cook my man a fabulous steak that wont take an hour to gnaw through :)

  6. G.S.H.

    You should listen to yourself: “When you are working with this good a cut of meat, you don’t want it to taste like garlic or Lawry’s. You want it to taste like meat.”

    Stick to the salt and pepper–slathering butter on a good cut of meat ruins it (it’s why Ruth’s Chris steaks don’t taste like steak).

  7. Brooke

    Love the post and was inspired to try your method out. Even though I was scared it might be raw, the steak came out perfect. My only concern: letting rest also let it cool down. My steak is perfectly cooked but luke warm. Any recommendations there?

  8. Dan

    Awesome post thanks, just a quick question… when you leave the steak for 10mins, does it get cold? And if so, how do you suggest to re-heat it? Cheers, D

    • Malcolm Bedell

      I haven’t noticed a problem with this. I think resting is more important than serving temperature, but I’ve never used this technique and then thought, “hey, my steak is cold.” Has anyone else noticed a problem with this?

      • Salixisme

        I leave my steak (And also roasted meats) to rest on the burner where the oven vent is located. When the oven is on (as it often is when cooking steak as I usually make oven-roasted fries to go along side them) it is nice and warm. I also cover them with a clean teacloth. That seems to keep them warm, but still allows them to rest

  9. Jeff

    Making (keeping) a steak tasting great is something that everyone should know how to do. And that includes the selection and purchase of one too! This is a great primmer on getting people to that point but I do take exception to one of the steps:

    Heat the pan until the oil just starts to smoke. Turn on your hood vent, open a window, and bury your smoke detector under a few pillows. Place your steak, seasoned side-down, on the hot pan, and leave it alone

    Heating an oil past its smoke point causes it to breakdown, oxidize, release free radicals and cause other less-than-healthy results. Since we are using an application that it going to use a very high heat (500degF), we are going to be very limited to what oils we can (should) use; for most of us, we are essentially left with two (2) choices:

    1.) Safflower Oil (Smoke Point: 510degF) or
    2.) Refined Avocado Oil (Smoke Point: 520degF)

    Safflower oil contains an inordinate amount of omega 6 linoleic acid (which causes inflammation in the body) so personally, i would opt for the refined avocado oil which is a much better choice in my opinion. Otherwise, I agree with everything else… this is the best way to cook a [good] steak.

  10. yuurrrr

    I agree with all of this except one addition. It sounds weird, but in addition to salt and pepper I sprinkle coffee on it too. It helps the crust and is INCREDIBLE. I think I randomly just tried it once after too much whiskey and have been doing it forever. It may be a “thing” but not sure. Try it out.

  11. eggnostriva

    Hi, I think the point about the oil is a good one. I find it preferable to brush the steak with oil, season and add to a hot dry pan. Wrap the meat in tinfoil for 10 minutes and omit the two minutes in the oven. Perfectly cooked hot steak.

    • Malcolm Bedell

      Of course you do. Hot cast iron pan = more cooking surface in contact with meat = better crust formation = win. Grills are fine, but pan frying is awesome too.

    • Peter Watts

      No problem using a well seasoned cast iron skillet. Get it smoking hot to seal the surface, and then finish it off in the oven. Pull it out wrap meat in foil, rest, and feast.

  12. Joe Ricchio

    Just got around to reading this post – I have been actually cooking a fair amount of steak as of late, and it was helpful to hear the step about flipping for the first time as the cast iron makes its way into the oven.

    And Christ where do you find these commenters? Leave it the fuck ALONE people!

  13. Woot

    Great article! I’m officially craving steak. I’m a rare to medium rare guy myself but my wife puts me to shame with her love for extremely rare steaks. She practically wants the outside warm but is completely fine with a cold center and is very particular about it being that way. I’ve over cooked (medium rare) her steaks many times due to the fact that I just can’t bring myself to pulling a steak off as early as she wants me to. I’m not against that myself, I just want my steak completely warm. What changes to the cook times would you suggest that would make her happy? Maybe a minute in the pan and a minute in the oven?

  14. skwerrel

    This is definitely the perfect way to pan sear a steak, though I personally prefer to grill (actually I really love the amazing crust you get from pan frying, but hate how much smoke it generates – maybe next time I’ll use the cast iron, ON my grill outside!) Personally I would not change a thing about your actual cooking technique (especially resting, super important) but I disagree with your seasoning advice.

    I like to salt my steaks a good 30 minutes or more before I even pull them out of the fridge, and then let them sit at room temp for at least 20-30 minutes – meaning they sit with salt on them for a minimum of an hour, sometimes more. This allows the salt to dissolve, then osmosis pulls out some of the steak’s liquid, which is then drawn back in (but carrying the salt). It doesn’t penetrate as much as you might think, only the first 1/8th inch at most, but the salt denatures the proteins in that layer (and denatured proteins are more susceptible to the maillard reaction, which leads to an even better crust!). As for pepper, since a good steak should cook at a minimum of 500 degrees F, I wait until they come off the heat – pepper burns at temps that high, and burned pepper has a lot of bitter flavors (plus you lose most of the essential oils that make fresh pepper so good).

    If you’ve never experimented with putting the salt on a bit sooner (though I agree, not too soon or it can turn the steak a little mushy) and holding off on the pepper until you’re ready to eat, I would recommend it. Let me know how it turns out!

    • Salixisme

      Definitely try the pan on the grill outside – I do that all the time in the summer (and not just for steaks!). I made pancakes on a griddle on the grill last summer… I am not crazy about the amount of smoke searing steak causes – over the winter we had the fire alarm go of 3 times due to me cooking steak…

  15. Crlee

    I just “Stumbled” here, great app!

    If you have a grill us it. The best is a non gas and use charcoled wood (NOT briquettes !). Throw in a little water soaked hichory or mesquite chips to taste but don’t over do it. Make it HOT and sear it just as in this article. You want to cook it as quickly as possible. You want to achieve a random flame up on each side but be prepared to move it to the side if the grease over fuels the fire.

    As you can see the grill is an art form, so it’s great to discover an indoor alternative with the skillet / oven method. Now if I can figure out a way to disable the smoke alarm ;). Maybe a good reason to defer the pepper application after the cooking process as mentioned above.

  16. yeah right

    too lazy to reason, so in a few words:
    you suck, food-adolf!
    and dont put salt on a steak before putting it in the pan

  17. Chris

    This is pretty much how I cook my steaks, when I feel like it, with a few changes. First, I let the steak sit in the fridge outside of the package for a day or two, to age it a bit.

    Also, when its in the pan, I use the same heat and everything, but instead of letting it sit, I flip it every 20 seconds. It sounds sacrilegious, I know, but I’ve found that it allows the inside to cook to a good amount without letting the crust on either side blacken too much. Also, I don’t pepper it until it’s off the pan.

    I got this method from Henston Blumenthal, he has a great video about it on YouTube. It has definitely worked for me, I haven’t had anything less than a perfect steak yet.

  18. Kristen

    I just made a ribeye like this and it turned out beautifully. It’s the perfect medium rare. An fyi for those who don’t own an iron skillet, I used a teflon pan (I don’t have an iron skillet), and it turned out about the same; except the second side wasn’t as crusted.

  19. Kendra

    I’m a Texas native and while I’m not a Cowboys/country music fan, I fit the stereotype when it comes to steak. I’m a self (but mostly others) proclaimed fantastic cook but only sometimes do I get lucky when I attempt to cook a steak. It always comes out overcooked (I like mine medium rare) or not cooked enough and it’s back to the pan. I have a cast iron skillet and that’s what I always use but I am definitely beyond guilty of the “pressing, cutting, wriggling” practice that you mentioned. Now that I know the “cook on one side two minutes, flip, transfer to oven, cook two more minutes, let stand for ten minutes” I feel ready but I’m wondering if this method works with sirloin? I

  20. Justin

    Pretty late for comments, but I agree with Jeff re: letting the oil reach smoking point. I’m surprised so many people do this. That steak would taste better if you used oil with a higher smoke point, though really, with the fat content in that steak, you could sear it without the oil. Just sear it like anything else, cast iron + high heat + let it sit until it releases. Flip and repeat. Finish off the way you’ve described.

    Letting oil smoke creates lots of unhealthy compounds, in addition to adding an acrid flavor, that some people think is just part of the flavor profile of seared meat. It isn’t.

  21. Si

    How about sourcing a steak that isnt rammed with growth hormones like most meat in the US ? , Oh and NOT corn fed , it should be grass..

  22. Lauren

    Just followed your instructions to the T, and it was the first successful steak I’ve ever made. The texture was a little off for me, as I usually have mine just more than medium, but the TASTE. Paired it on a platter with a heap of steamed broccoli (salt and feta) and shared it with my other half. Thank you, sir.

  23. Allen

    Your gunna cook an 1,1/2” steak for 4 minutes? I rotate med well and med rare based on my mood, and just to rotate. But 4 freaking minutes? Cook it low cook it slow have some patience people. I will have to try that though!

  24. Susan Reynolds

    Actually, this is not the best way to cook steak, sorry. Its now old fashioned. Brit chef Heston Blumenthal has the best method, and he backs it up with science. I used to use the method above, but after using Heston’s method I will never cook steak again using a pan AND an oven. Apart from anything else, it’s a ridiculous waste of power. Heston’s method is to force the juices from top to bottom continuously. You must turn the steak every 15 seconds until done to your liking. This is amazingly effective, producing a succelent, juicy, flavoursome steak every time. It’s also surprisingly fast. Make sure to rest it as usual before eating. Enjoy. Heston websites might elaborate. I got this from one of his brilliant, informative books.

  25. k9nighter

    Cooking temps and time are foodies preference!! Any cut of meat over medium rare, ruins the integrity and true flavor of the steak. But if you like it that way, go for it!!

    For those of you, like myself, who look at this and think WAY OVER COOKED (again, preference) sear both sides for 45sec-1min, then throw in oven at 475 for 2 mins. My mouth is watering just looking and talking about this.

  26. carol

    I always sprinkle a smidgen of sugar over the steak before cooking. Helps get a crust that is fantastic. You can’t taste the sugar.

  27. Bill

    Why ruin a steak? If you need to spice or marinate a steak then it should just be a hamburger. Come to the Midwest and get real steaks or just eat hamburgers

  28. Salixisme

    I like my steak so rare that it can almost moo… I sear for 2-3 minutes each side but don’t put it in the oven as that results in it being too cooked for my liking. I agree about the importance of leaving it to rest though.


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