Australians love their steak no matter where or how you cook it. One thing that remains elusive for some, though, is the skill to cook it to perfection. It does take a few tries to master, but once you learn the basics, wowing your family every steak night will be effortless. These simple steps on how to cook steaks should help you avoid letting a good piece of meat go to waste.
1. Pan-Only Method
Your secret ingredients for this technique are heat and your pan for cooking steak. In this case, a cast-iron skillet reigns supreme. It can get searing hot and can retain heat very well, making it the best pan for the job. Since we won’t be using the oven to finish cooking our steaks, go for cuts of meat that are no more than 2.5cm thick. Rib-eye or T-bone steaks are great options. Here’s how to do it:
- Bring your meat to room temperature. This step ensures even cooking.
- Set your cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Make sure it’s searing hot before cooking.
- Pat your steak dry with a paper towel. Brush it with oil then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- When the pan is ready, put your steak in and start cooking.
- Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side for rare, 4 minutes for medium and up to 6 minutes for well done. Use tongs to turn the steak once.
- For more flavour, throw in a knob of butter, garlic and thyme while the steak is searing. Baste the meat continuously as the meat cooks.
- Transfer your cooked meat to a plate, cover it loosely with aluminium foil and let the steak rest for 5 minutes. Resting allows juices to settle and relaxes muscle fibres.
Here’s a tip. Pressing the centre of your steak with tongs should help assess doneness. The centre will be soft when rare, springy when medium and very firm when well done.
2. Oven-Only Method
For foolproof juicy steak, you need to learn how to cook steaks in the oven. The oven method is more efficient in ensuring even doneness and softer texture. However, your cooking time will be longer, and your steak is likely to curl as it cooks. Also, you won’t get the flavourful seared crust that pan cooking provides. Still, it’s the most stress-free cooking process of all:
- Preheat your oven to 232C.
- Prepare a sheet pan or baking tray with a rack.
- Place your oiled and seasoned steak on the tray.
- Allow the meat to bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Take your delicious steak out and let it rest for 5 minutes.
3. Pan then Oven Method
The traditional method gives you the best of both worlds. Here, you get a nice crust from pan searing and the perfect even doneness from the oven. Perfect timing is crucial for this, though, which increases the risk for error. Just remember to stay focused the entire time to avoid overcooking your premium cuts. These steps should help you master this technique:
- Preheat your oven to 350C then set your cast-iron skillet over high heat.
- Oil and season your room-temperature steak.
- When your pan is ready, sear the steak for 2 minutes on each side, flipping it once.
- After which, transfer the skillet to the oven. Allow your steak to cook for 2 to 5 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from the oven and transfer your steak to a plate. Cover it with aluminium foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
4. Oven then Pan Method
For a more forgiving technique with higher chances of success, try doing the traditional method in reverse. Using the oven first gives you more leeway to ensure your steak cooks all the way through. This way, you’re calmer during the pan-searing process. However, like the oven-only method, this one also takes a longer cooking time. But, if you don’t mind the wait, here’s how to cook steaks low and slow:
- Preheat your oven to 93C, and prepare a baking tray with a rack.
- Place your oiled and seasoned steak on the tray and bake it for 20 to 35 minutes. Your target internal temperature here is between 48C and 53C for rare doneness.
- When your steak is almost ready, start preheating your cast iron skillet on high heat.
- Baste your partially cooked steak with oil then quickly sear it on the hot pan, about 2 minutes per side. Pan-searing should raise the internal temperature to 57C for medium-rare steaks.
- Transfer your cooked steak to a plate, cover it loosely with aluminium foil and let it rest for 5 minutes.
5. Grill Method
If you prefer cooking steaks on the barbie, then this method is for you. It is by far the fastest technique that gives the most delectable results. However, the temperature of a barbecue grill is less consistent. That means grilling steaks require timing and some practice. Having a meat thermometer should come in handy. Boneless cuts of beef like eye fillet are also best to ensure constant heat contact.
- Prep your BBQ grill by brushing the grates with oil then preheat it.
- For a gas grill, turn the heat up as high as it can go. If you are using coal, make sure it is white-hot. You might want to turn the heat down if you prefer your steaks past medium doneness.
- Lay your seasoned steak at the 12-o’clock position then cover the BBQ grill. For medium-rare 2.5cm thick steaks, let it cook for 1 minute.
- When the time is up, you need to rotate (not flip) your steak to 1:30 position (45-degree angle) to get those beautiful grill marks. Cover the BBQ grill again and cook for another 1 minute.
- After that, flip the steak to grill the uncooked side then repeat steps 4 to 5. Before you flip, make sure the uncooked surface is grey. If it still looks raw, cover the grill and cook for another minute.
- Once you have rotated the steak to its last 1:30 position, use the tong method to test its doneness. You can also use a meat thermometer. If it needs to cook further, reduce the heat to medium and leave it on the hot grill until you get your desired doneness.
- Finally, transfer your cooked steak to a plate, cover it loosely with aluminium foil and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Which Method is Best?
Learning how to cook steaks may seem tedious and complicated at first. But cooking them becomes second nature once you get the hang of it. While you’re still learning the ropes, I recommend recording your cooking results. Find out which method works out best for you. Now all you have to do is repeat it every time a special occasion calls for perfect steaks!