Few things please the palette more than a good steak cooked just right. A perfect steak should be brimming with flavor and filled with savory juices. However, most home cooks don’t understand the art of properly preparing a steak. Most make the mistake of overthinking the process by using fancy marinades and overrated culinary techniques.
Start With the Best
The main reason for using marinades and heavy spices with steak is to cover up the flavor and texture failings of substandard cuts of meat. Choosing the freshest possible raw material ensures that the authentic flavor won’t have to be masked using strong additives. According to Shula’s Steak House, a fresh piece of meat should be firm in texture, reddish-pink in color with white marbling, and should emit the type of musty odor that signifies that the meat is past its prime.
You don’t need many ingredients to perfectly pan-fry a steak, but the ones you use should be of the best possible quality. You’ll need top-grade olive oil, kosher salt, cracked black pepper, butter, and freshly minced garlic. Never allow yourself to give in to the temptation to use a bargain-brand olive oil or margarine in place of real butter. The difference will be obvious in the finished product.
Rub the steak with olive oil before liberally sprinkling on a mixture of kosher salt, cracked black pepper, and garlic. The mixture should be about two-to-one in favor of the salt. Steaks should always be allowed to reach room temperature before you place them in the pan — cooking them while they are still cold prevents the heat from properly penetrating the middle of the meat. It takes about one hour in an average kitchen for a steak to reach room temperature.
Get the Pan Nice and Hot
When pan-frying a steak, it’s essential to get the oil nice and hot before placing the steak in the pan. Using a sturdy pair of tongs to carefully place the steak in the oil prevents unnecessary burns caused by superfluous splatter. Keep the tongs close at hand so that you can easily maneuver the steak in the pan. The hot oil is necessary so that the exterior of the steak will develop a caramelized crust, which locks the juices inside . Sear the steak for one minute on each side, repeating the process if you’ve chosen a thick cut of meat.
Turn the Heat Down to Medium
After you’ve properly seared the steak, turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking until it’s reached the desired doneness. Turn the steak over once per minute, keeping a close eye on it to prevent it from becoming burned. When the steak is within two or three minutes of being done, cut off about one-fourth of a stick of butter and add it to the pan. Some cooks also prefer to add more freshly minced garlic at this stage in the game, but that’s completely a matter of personal preference.
Most people prefer their steaks in the range of medium-rare-to-rare. All stoves and cuts of meat are different, but as a general rule of thumb, a steak should be cooked for six minutes after the initial searing to reach medium-rare and eight minutes for medium. Those few who prefer well-done steaks should cook them for about 10 minutes.
Although it can be tempting to immediately dig in once the steak has been removed from the pan, letting it rest for around two minutes finishes off the process and leaves you with perfection on your plate. Resting gives the time for the juices to settle. Some cooks like to add one last bit of flavor to the meat by rubbing it gently with extra olive oil and butter at the beginning of the resting process.
A glass of good cabernet provides the perfect complement for any well-prepared steak. Side dishes should be kept simple to allow the steak to be the star of the show. Consider serving a fresh green salad and either baked or fried potatoes with your steak.