Whenever I cook a nice steak, a little voice pops into my head, warning me to only flip it once. Do you have a little voice telling you this too? It's a common belief — one that's been passed down from family and friends, old magazines, morning television cooking segments, and the celebrity cook du jour. With all those people saying the same thing, it must be true, right?
Well, not exactly.
How Many Times Can You Really Flip a Steak?
The quick answer is as many times as you'd like! The old adage that you must only flip it once is actually false. I found this answer in a place where many good answers are found: Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, a tome of all things food science and a great reference for anyone who spends a little time in the kitchen and ends up with a long list of questions starting with why.
Flipping a steak frequently can actually improve its texture and prevent it from drying out. According to McGee, flipping it multiple times means that neither side has enough time to lose a lot of heat or absorb excessive heat, so the meat cooks faster and has less of a chance of being overdone.
The one case he does call out for only flipping it once is when you want those steakhouse-worthy grill marks, as many flips means potential for many marks instead of that perfect cross-hatch (although the meat's taste and texture more than make up for that).