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Thread: How to properly cook steak

  1. #1
    195 lb. endurance geek Willie's Avatar
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    How to properly cook steak

    A friend of mine sent me this:

    Hey, man: $45 will NOT buy you a decent steak dinner. Here's my recipe for the best steak you've ever had.

    Go to a decent grocery store that sells USDA Prime beef. Find yourself some fillet steaks, also known as fillet mignon. You want two steaks as close to the same weight and thickness as possible. They should be between 6 and 8 ounces.

    Heat your oven to 500. If your oven won't go to 500, set it for as high as it will go. Then sit down to watch The Simpsons or something, because getting a home oven to that temperature takes a while. Be patient here.

    Dry your steaks thoroughly with paper towels. You want the surface to be completely dry, both on the top and bottom and on the sides. Why? Because liquid turns to steam, and we don't want steamed steaks. Your goal is perfect dryness here, so do a good job.

    Once your oven is hot, put a heavy, all-metal, oven-safe skillet on top of the stove. Cast iron works, but I have a stainless-steel-clad, aluminum-core skillet with a riveted metal handle that I use for this. Turn the burner or element to high, and leave it there for at least five minutes. You're looking for something really incredibly hot here. Don't be afraid to let your pan get hot. It'll be fine.

    Season your steaks liberally with salt. You want something with a coarse grain, because it makes a great texture when it cooks in. I like kosher salt for this (Morton's) but sea salt is good too. Fleur de sel is the best, but at $10 for a couple of ounces, it's a little pricey for most folks. But if you're blowing $25-$30 on raw meat, you might as well go all the way.

    DO NOT PUT PEPPER ON YOUR STEAK. I don't care if you like it that way. Pepper burns at the temperatures we're planning on using. If you want pepper, crack a little over your steak once it's on the table.

    Once your pan is hot enough to brand a steer--which is basically what we're planning to do here--plop in the steaks. No oil, no nothing. Just drop 'em into the dry, rocket-hot pan: szzzzzzz. There will be some smoke, so crack a couple of windows for ventilation.

    Do not touch the steaks for two solid minutes. Seriously. Don't touch them. Don't move them, don't poke them, don't prod them. Don't talk to them. Don't ask them questions. Just let them sit there.

    "But the meat will stick to that hot pan!" you cry. And you're absolutely right: it will. That's exactly what we want. What we're doing is called "searing." Searing is cooking in a dry pan over incredibly high heat. Searing isn't frying; frying involves lubricating the pan with fat or oil, and we don't want that. Instead, we just want dry, raw meat to hit blisteringly hot metal and to sit there for two minutes.

    What's happening is called the Malliard reaction. (That's pronounced "my-yard.") It's complicated, but the short version is that proteins in the surface of the meat are denaturing and chemically changing into a brown, crusty substance that tastes really, really good. You don't get that with any cooking method other than searing.

    After two minutes, turn the steaks over with tongs. Not with a fork, not with a spatula. Tongs. Grab the steaks gently around the middle and lift straight up. They'll lift right off of the pan, no sticking. If they do stick, just wait a few seconds. They'll let go by themselves because of the heat of the pan and that Malliard thing I talked about. Turn the steaks over and leave them for one minute.

    During that minute, look at the seared surface of the meat. It should be brown and crusty, almost like it was battered and deep-fried, but darker than that. If there are tiny black specks here and there, that's okay. If there are big black specks, you left it on too long, but it's still edible. If the whole thing is solid black... well, the dog's in for a treat tonight.

    After one minute, move the entire pan--use an oven mitt for god's sake, that pan is a branding iron by now--to the oven. We've seared the surfaces of the steak, and now we're going to cook the interior.

    There is only one acceptable way to cook a piece of meat as fine as this: rare. Not medium-rare, not medium, and if you even say "well done" you've wasted your money. A rare steak has a red center that's warmer than room temperature, but not much warmer. The inside will have a soft, fine texture, not the stringy texture of fully cooked beef. Yes, it will seem like you're eating raw meat. Relax. You're not. It's cooked, but just to the point where it's safe and healthy to eat and no more.

    Relax your hand, palm up. See the fleshy muscle at the base of your thumb, between your palm and your wrist? Poke that with the index finger of your other hand. With your hand relaxed, that muscle should be fairly mushy. Now make a loose fist, and poke it again. It will feel firmer. Now make a tight fist. The muscle should feel pretty hard.

    That's rare, medium, and well done. See, the three degrees of cooked beef are defined by temperature ranges, but it's a lot easier to judge them by feel than with a thermometer. When you cook a steak to rare, you're looking for a piece of meat that has about the same texture as a the base of your thumb when you're making a very loose fist. It shouldn't be totally mushy, but it shouldn't feel resilient either.

    Check your steaks after four minutes. Feel them. Yes, you're going to burn the tip of your index finger a little bit here. Deal with it. You're not going to draw a blister or anything; don't be afraid. Does the meat feel slightly resilient, like your thumb when you're making a loose fist? Then it's ready to eat. If not, put it back in for another minute or two. It's impossible to predict exactly when they'll be ready, because home ovens are terrible at maintaining high temperatures like this. You set your oven for 500, but it might only be maintaining 475, so you just have to go by feel.

    Steaks need to rest when they come out of the oven, but they shouldn't freeze to death. Move them to a warmed plate, if you've got one, or to a wooden cutting board and cover them loosely with foil. Don't seal them in foil, because that would trap steam, and we don't want steamed meat. (Steam gives the meat an unpalatable texture on the surface.) A five minute rest would be good, and ten would be okay. Use that time to prepare a salad or something to offset your carnivore
    tendencies.

    When you cut into your steak, you'll find a myriad of textures and colors (and, as you'll see when you eat it, flavors). The very surface of the meat will be golden brown and have a thin crust on it. This will be delicious beyond your wildest dreams. The inner layer just under the surface will be greyish-brown, and have the chewy texture of well-done beef. Inside will be a pink layer that's got a softer texture, but that's still resilient. In the center the meat will be red and slightly warm to the touch, and will be quite soft. The center is rare, the middle layer is medium, and the outside is well done. Each layer has its own flavor and texture.

    I guarantee you, if you follow these directions to the letter and use halfway decent ingredients and equipment, these will be the BEST steaks you've ever eaten. Period.
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  2. #2
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    Want a good steak? Knock the horns off, wipe his ass. Done!

    Seriously, a decent cut of meat is 80% of the quest for a good steak. 3-4 minutes on a side over really hot coals. Let it rest (don't cut it) for at least 3-4 minutes after it's off the heat (important if you want it juicy). You can make a crappy cut of meat better by marinating it. You can make a great cut of meat worse by marinating it.
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    The above description is the way I cook steak (when not on the grill), and on cast iron is the best. I put pepper on and haven't had a problem with it. Putting a little oil on the steak first helps the salt adhere and helps with the transfer of heat into the steak, but you need to use an oil with a high smoke point such as peanut. As long as you let the steak rest when you're done, this way of cooking will give you the juciest steak around.
    One thing I would definitley add is do not remove the steak from the fridge and start cooking, the steak should come to room temperature prior to cooking. Just let it sit on the counter for like 15 minutes.

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    I couldn't of said it better myself. Great post OP. I have found that I have never met anyone else who actually knows how to properly cook a steak. Most people flip, and flip, and flip, and flip, and flip until it is nothing more than an over-done dry piece of rubber encased in "Montreal Steak Seasoning" and drowned in A-1 steak sauce. The only thing I would add to the above post is that when you think you have put too much salt on the meat, add a little more. Despite what you may think, the final product will not come out tasting like a salt briquette, the salt will help lock in the juices of the meat.

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    So what about grilling techniques - I'm all for trying this oven route, but in the summer I like to be outside grilling.

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    Senior Member j8715's Avatar
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    also, take the batteries out of your smoke detector when you do this. it makes a good steak ,but man if you live in a small apartment you're boned

  7. #7
    Loves to squat hellagrant's Avatar
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    This is a really good write up. Thanks for the post.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Moore View Post
    So what about grilling techniques - I'm all for trying this oven route, but in the summer I like to be outside grilling.
    Grilling is like politics. Everyone has a different opinion. If you have the time/space, cooking over Oak gives a great flavor and high heat to poultry and steak. Charcoal is second. Gas is last, but convenient and controllable. Everything else is best done (by someone else) in a fine restaurant with a hot woman on your arm.

    Quote Originally Posted by j8715 View Post
    also, take the batteries out of your smoke detector when you do this. it makes a good steak ,but man if you live in a small apartment you're boned
    Absolutely true! Anything over 400 degrees sets off my smoke alarms.
    Last edited by manowar669; 08-11-2008 at 08:31 PM.
    The Gods taught us to forge Iron so that we would not be slaves-----old Germanic saying

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  9. #9
    SFW! drew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Moore View Post
    So what about grilling techniques - I'm all for trying this oven route, but in the summer I like to be outside grilling.
    If I'm cooking anything on a grill, it's gotta be the lowest heat possible for the most time possible. But if I'm really hungry, I'll crank it up and throw my steak on for 4 minutes, turn it once and then 3-4 more minutes.

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    Oh yeah, you need to open the windows and crank up the exhaust fan when doing this. And this technique sucks in the summer time because it'll heat up the kitchen pretty quick. On a grill, I use as high of heat as possible and do the same thing - let the meat sit on the grill untill it will pull up without the meat sticking and flip.
    I held out buying a gas grill until a year ago because of the taste being much better with charcoal or wood chunks. The gas grill is so easy to use during the week as by the time I get off work, hit the gym and then get home it's already 7 so gas is pretty quick. I made a compromise and use a small cast iron box in my grill in which I put wet wood chips, wait for them to start smoking and then put the meat on the grill.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Moore View Post
    So what about grilling techniques - I'm all for trying this oven route, but in the summer I like to be outside grilling.
    For you, the first step will always be, ask the wife how to turn on propane.

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    This method actually works pretty well. I didn't follow it to a T but it was much better than everything I've ever made before.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brad08 View Post
    For you, the first step will always be, ask the wife how to turn on propane.
    Go buy a pillow or something.

  14. #14
    My own personal trainer dumbbell's Avatar
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    Mmmmmmm, meat.
    Jason

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    Quote Originally Posted by dumbbell View Post
    Mmmmmmm, meat.
    Thats what she said.

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    My own personal trainer dumbbell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reko View Post
    Thats what she said.
    Opened that door, didn't I?

    Jason

    It is currently a fad, at this writing, for boys to think they need a "six pack", although most of them don't have an ice chest to put it in.
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    Back in Business T FLEX's Avatar
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    Just went out to get some milk and remembered this thread so I figured I'd get a steak too. Going to try it out tomorrow and see how it goes. Can't wait... to eat steak... hungry now...
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  18. #18
    195 lb. endurance geek Willie's Avatar
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    Well, how was it?
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    Quote Originally Posted by dumbbell View Post
    Opened that door, didn't I?

    I don't really knock anymore lol.

  20. #20
    Back in Business T FLEX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Willie View Post
    Well, how was it?
    Well... It's hard to say. I didn't use fillet, I used ribeye. I knew because it was a thinner cut I would have to adjust the cooking times a wee bit. Regardless of that I burnt one side somewhat badly and that gave it a bad taste. However once I cut the bad parts off what was left was pretty good. I think the problem was either the skillet was way too hot or I left it on for too long. I think it was just too hot cause I actually cut the first side from 2 minutes down to 1 minute. The second side was worse cause it stayed that side down for a total of 5 minutes between stove top and oven. I definitely am going to give it another go and make some adjustments. I can tell that when I get it right it will be better than what I can do on the grill.
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    Quote Originally Posted by T FLEX View Post
    Well... It's hard to say. I didn't use fillet, I used ribeye. I knew because it was a thinner cut I would have to adjust the cooking times a wee bit. Regardless of that I burnt one side somewhat badly and that gave it a bad taste. However once I cut the bad parts off what was left was pretty good. I think the problem was either the skillet was way too hot or I left it on for too long. I think it was just too hot cause I actually cut the first side from 2 minutes down to 1 minute. The second side was worse cause it stayed that side down for a total of 5 minutes between stove top and oven. I definitely am going to give it another go and make some adjustments. I can tell that when I get it right it will be better than what I can do on the grill.
    Your problem isn't the heat, it's the time spent on the heat.
    You're going to need to adjust depending on the size of the steak. It is ready to flip when you can lift the meat off without it sticking, whether that's 1 minute or 2. Knowing comes with practice.

  22. #22
    Muscle memory FTW Rodzilla's Avatar
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    No thanks ill use my indoor grill, garlic, lemon and keg spice

    Perfect steak IMO
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    Back in Business T FLEX's Avatar
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    Got me another steak and I'm going for round 2. Will let you know how it turns out.
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  25. #25
    Back in Business T FLEX's Avatar
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    Round 2 went much better. Of course I had to modify the cooking procedure just a tad but it worked great. I used a New York Strip this time. Instead of heating the skillet to high I went with more of a medium heat. Cut my searing time down for each side so as not to burn and in the oven she went. No burning what so ever. Probably the best cooked steak I have personally ever made. Was cooked evenly all the way through. Nice and tender. It was still probably more on the medium rare side so I can improve it some but other than that it was very good. Will be doing this again.
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