I once believed that hearty steak dinners were a meal best enjoyed at restaurants. Oh, how wrong I was! I came to learn that cooking steak at home wasn't just surprisingly easy, but the results also exceeded my steak-filled dreams. Here are seven helpful tips that will guide you through making the best home-cooked steak of your life.
1. Buy the best cut of meat you can.
Cooking a great steak starts with buying a good cut of meat. And deciding what constitutes a good cut of meat depends on what you're looking for. Do you prefer boneless or bone-in? Are you looking for a steak that's super tender and fatty or one a bit leaner with big, beefy flavor? Read up before you head to the store and don't be afraid to ask your butcher for advice — even if you're at your regular grocery store.
2. For an even better crust, make steaks as dry as possible before cooking.
No matter how much time you want to give to prepping your steak, it's going to benefit from a very dry surface. Place the steak on a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle it with salt before letting it sit for 30 minutes. Right before cooking, pat the meat with more paper towels so it's totally dry. No matter what, a dry surface is the secret to an even better crust.
Learn more: How To Cook Steak on the Stovetop
3. Start with a fiery-hot skillet.
Whether you're using the stovetop or the oven, you'll want to get your cast iron pan super hot before you even think about adding the meat. While the meat is coming to room temperature, heat the skillet under the broiler (for oven-cooked steak) or over a high flame (for the stovetop method), for about 10 minutes. Starting with a fiery-hot pan gives the meat a better sear, producing those crisp edges that make a good steak so irresistible.
Learn How to Cook Steak Without a Grill
4. Don't be afraid to flip the meat.
When searing a steak on the stovetop, the best results come from flipping the meat multiple times. Frequent flipping can actually improve the texture and prevent the steak from drying out, since neither side has enough time to lose a lot of heat or absorb excess heat.
5. Use a thermometer to guarantee the perfect level of doneness.
Take the guesswork out of feeling the meat for doneness and reach for your instant thermometer. When inserted into the thickest part of the steak, this is the most accurate indicator for achieving a perfect steak cooked just the way you like it.
6. Serve it right away!
Gotcha! Did you think we were going to tell you to let your steak rest so the juices can redistribute? After reading this excellent article on resting meat from Meathead over at Amazing Ribs, we're fans of getting the meat from skillet to plate as soon as possible. Like Meathead, we agree that "resting" actually works against the meat, leaving it cold, softening the hard-earned crust, and overcooking it. So the good news is that you get to eat your steak right away! And if it ends up "resting" a bit, that's really no big deal because you were making an awesome pan sauce anyway, right?
Master the pan sauce: How To Make a Pan Sauce from Steak Drippings
7. Always slice steak against the grain.
This is the final step before sinking your teeth into that juicy steak you just cooked, and it's a crucial one. Slicing your meat against (or through) the grain, rather than with the grain, results in more tender, less chewy pieces of meat.