If cooking the perfect steak is one of your goals, you’ll want to avoid these mistakes people make when cooking steak at home.
10. Getting the Wrong Cut of Meat
In order to cook the perfect steak, you need to determine how you’re going to prepare it, then purchase the cut of meat best suited to that particular type of cooking. For example, a skirt steak is more suitable for grilling whereas a New York strip steak or ribeye is best cooked in a cast-iron skillet over a burner. T-bone steaks also do well on the grill, as do flank steaks — but keep in mind that flank steak needs to marinated first and then sliced thinly against the grain.
When it comes to top round and bottom round steak, they’re best cooked by braising or slow-cooking in liquid.
-Don’t choose a lean cut. They’re usually tough and dry. Instead, pick a steak with a good amount of marbling. FYI, grain-fed or grain finished beef will have more marbling than grass-fed beef.
-Don’t buy your steak at the supermarket. Instead, head to your local butcher. They’re experts in their field, and they can help you figure out the best cut, plus they can answer any questions you may have about the cooking process.
9. Cooking Steak Cold
According to the culinary experts, you should never cook a steak that comes straight from the fridge. That’s because cold steaks cook unevenly. So, instead of ending up with a well-cooked steak, what you’d likely end up with is a steak that’s charred on the outside but still raw on the inside. To avoid this, leave your steak out for about a half hour or so — possibly longer depending on the cut — until it reaches room temperature. This will ensure that it cooks evenly.
8. Cooking Steak Damp
“Make sure you pat down your meat” so it will be super dry before it hits the heat, chef Joe Cervantez said in an article published by Food & Wine Magazine. “Dry meat forms the best crust.” If there’s too much moisture on the surface, the steak won’t have that crusty, caramelized exterior we all love so much. So, how do you make sure it’s completely dry before you start cooking? Blot both sides of the steak well with paper towels.
7. Not Getting the Pan or Grill Hot Enough
Did you know that the intensity of heat with which a steak is cooked affects how tasty the steak is? That being said, it’s best to crank the heat way up on your oven, grill or skillet prior to adding the steak.
Keep in mind that your steak still probably won’t turn out like the ones you’d get at a steakhouse. That’s because restaurant ovens, grills and stovetops are considerably hotter than the home variety. In fact, restaurants typically broil steaks at temperatures ranging from 750º to 1800º. Unfortunately, a typical home oven gets no hotter than 550º.
TIP: Don’t forget the thermometer. This will ensure that the inside is cooked to the appropriate temperature. Executive chef Ryan Prentiss recommends following these cooking temperatures:
Medium rare: 130-135°F
Medium Well: 150-155°F
Well Done: 160-165°F
6. Not Cleaning the Grill
If you’re going to be preparing your steak on a grill, you’ll need to make sure it’s clean first. Any debris on the grate will cause the meat to stick to it and tear.
TIP: Taste of Home magazine suggests cleaning the grill each time you use it. “When the coals are still hot, use a wire brush to clear gunk off the grates. Top it with a small amount of oil, and the grill will be good for the next use.”
5. Not Seasoning Steak Properly
You should “always overseason your steaks a bit,” executive chef Christian Ragano says, according to Food & Wine Magazine. “When you think it’s enough, always add a little more. A lot of salt and pepper always falls off during the cooking process and doesn’t always penetrate the meat.”
Another thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t add spices too soon. Ground pepper or steak seasoning that’s added prior to cooking can burn quickly before it even has the chance to flavor the meat. Wait until you remove the steak from the heat before adding pepper or other seasonings.
TIP: Use true sea salt to season your steak. “Avoid table salt, iodized salt or small fine-grain sea salts as they have more weight to volume than larger grain salts and you can easily over season with them. Just think medium grain, true sea salt,” Prentiss told Food & Wine Magazine.
4. Over- and/or Underturning Your Steak
Okay, here’s where it gets tricky. Some experts say that you should flip your steak only once while others say that once is not nearly enough. According to an article published by Food & Wine Magazine, executive sous chef Eric Schlict, of Urban Farmer in Philadelphia, says that you should only flip your steak once. “Keep away from overturning your steak. Let the Maillard reaction do its thing.” For those who don’t know, the Maillard reaction is a chemical process that helps the steak crust and caramelize.
On the flip side (no pun intended), some experts say that turning your steak only once will cause it to dry out. Therefore, you should turn it multiple times as it cooks. This is especially important if the heat is high. “Extra flips allow the steak to cook more quickly (up to 30% faster than the one-flip method.) This is what will give you a juicier steak. You’ll also find that this method helps the meat cook evenly, without much curling along the edges,” Taste of Home magazine wrote.
TIP: Don’t flip your steak with a fork. Use tongs instead. Using a fork can perforate the steak and cause some of the juices to be lost.
3. Overcooking Your Steak
Many people (including myself) like their steak well-done. But, according to an article published by MSN, well-done steaks tend to be dry and less flavorful. Steaks that are rare or medium-rare will provide more flavor and tenderness. “As a general rule, however, a steak that’s about one-and-a-half inches thick needs roughly 10 minutes of total grill or stovetop cooking time for rare, 12 or 13 minutes for medium-rare. If you prefer to use a meat thermometer, which isn’t a bad idea, cook your steak to an internal temperature of about 120º for rare, 130º for medium rare,” the article said.
2. Using Oil or Fat with a Low Smoke Point
If you’re cooking your steak in a pan straight through, you’ll want to avoid butter or extra-virgin olive oil. They both have a low smoke point (the temperature at which cooking oil starts to smoke). Instead, you’ll want to use peanut oil, corn oil, safflower oil, or clarified butter — all of which have a high smoke point. In fact, safflower oil has the highest smoke point of any oils/fats.
So, why should you avoid oils and fats with a low smoke point? The answer is two-fold: 1) oils with a low smoke point will set off the smoke alarm, and, more importantly, 2) these oils give burnt foods an unpleasant flavor and aroma.
1. Cutting Your Steak Too Soon
It’s best to let your steak sit for a while — five minutes for thinner cuts and up to 15 minutes for thicker cuts — before digging in. This is important if you want a juicy steak. Letting it sit will allow the juices to be reabsorbed into the cells of the steak. If you cut into it too soon, the juices will spill out onto the plate, and you’ll end up with a dry, somewhat bland piece of meat.
TIP: Don’t allow the steak to get cold. Instead, put it on a warmed plate or cover it in foil.
Have any additional tips on preparing steak at home? Leave a comment below.