Confidently Cook Your Own Steak


We’ve all experienced a great cut of meat that’s been grilled improperly: steak that ought to be juicy and tender but is the consistency of shoe leather, with about as much flavour and savour as an Oxford brogue. But whether we you’re cooking your own steak or simply  a guest at one of the various steak houses, there is hope. Here are the techniques required to produce delectable steak every time, with a nod to the pan searing method just in case the grill is unavailable.

The Three Basic Steps

Whether you’re cooking your own steak on the grill or keeping it low-key in the kitchen, there are a couple of basic methods and observations you’ll want to include in your steak cooking. First, you must moisten the steak. Brushing it with oil helps to prevent sticking and aids in creating that delicious, perfectly browned exterior we all crave. Second, after a few moments of consistent cooking, flip the steak. Whether on a grill or in a pan, once the outer sear has been achieved, frequent flipping will help to ensure even cooking. Lastly, do the Rest & Dress step. This means giving the meat time to re-absorb lost moisture before cutting and applying any additional desired seasonings.

Pre-Cooking Seasonings

While you may elect to enjoy the unaltered flavour of your steak, many people like to add herbs and spices to enhance the experience of a perfectly cooked cut of beef. One excellent method is a dry rub treatment. Assemble your desired spices and dried herbs, leaving salt out of the picture at this stage, since it tends to dry out the meat. After the steaks have come to room temperature, sprinkle the mix over both sides on a piece of waxed paper or parchment. Then, press the sides of the steak into the scattered herbs left on the paper to ensure proper coating.

If you’re cooking your steak in a pan, your heated oil or butter will add sufficient fat and moisture to keep from charring the herbs and spices. If you’re grilling, dampen your hand and pat the raw steaks to create an herb paste. You can also brush on oil gently before applying the steak to the hot grate.

Cooking Your Steaks: From Blue to Well-Done

Since many of us are never quite certain when our steaks have reached the desired level of doneness, this brief guide is intended to help determine that. The general temperature guide is as follows:

• 52 degrees for Rare
• 54 to 57 degrees for Medium
• 60 to 63 degrees for Medium Well to Well Done

However, unless you are comfortable using a meat thermometer and have one handy, there are other ways that may be easier to implement. One of these is called the touch test. Below, we’ll outline each level of doneness and how to tell you’ve attained it using this simple method.

Blue and Rare

These are the least cooked stages of meat. Blue steaks are seared on the outside but still cool in the middle. Basically, what you’re doing is killing the bacteria that live on the surface of the beef muscle, while leaving the bulk of the meat essentially raw. The interior colour will be a rich deep red verging on purple. It will feel spongy with no resistance to the touch. This is a perfectly safe way to enjoy steak, but be sure you source your beef from a reliable producer.

Rare steak is slightly more cooked. Allow the steak to cook for at least three minutes on a side to achieve this stage, although a bit of additional cooking may be required, depending on the thickness of the steak. Rare steak is dark red in colour and juicy. It offers a little resistance, but still feels quite spongy to the touch.

Medium Rare and Medium

Medium rare meat is a deep, almost hot, pink with some pink juices exuding from the cut meat. To the touch, it’s still spongy and soft, but does have a bit more springiness. The muscle resistance increases with doneness.

Medium is a mellow, evenly dispersed pink colour with only a little juice flowing. To the touch, the spongy texture will be far less than the springy feel, although it still gives quite a bit under your fingertip.

Medium Well and Well Done

These two stages are characterised by the predominance of pinkish brown interior colour. Medium well steaks will have a slightly pinker centre, surrounded by light brown flesh. Well done steak is entirely brown with a faint tinge of pink throughout. These stages of doneness present a great deal of springy texture with very little spongy feeling, if any. While they are more challenging ways to cook your steak, if the goal is juicy, edible steak, it can be accomplished.

Having confidence when cooking steak is a large part of enjoying the final product with friends and family. Knowing that your grill or pan will turn out the perfectly cooked portions everyone is hungry for will increase that confidence, and all it requires is a little preparation. Knowing when a cut of meat is cooked to the desired temperature will help you prepare delicious steaks for everyone.

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