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April 29, 2009

The Perfect Beef Steak

Last night I went over to my friend Michelle’s house to cook dinner. When I asked her what she wanted to make she said steak. This seems to be a pattern, as everyone always wants to know how to prepare the perfect, restaurant-quality steak. It is actually much easier than it seems.

(We also made mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy and biscuits. Mm…Pillsbury, don’t tell!)

Just as important as the quality of the meat is the preparation, so here are my rules for cooking a perfect beef steak in a pan:

1. The best cuts are: Filet Mignon, sirloin, Strip/New York Strip and T-Bone. Flank and skirt steaks are tougher and would need to be marinaded.

2. The white traces in the meat are fat – this is called ‘marbling’. The more, the better, the juicier.

3. The meat must be at least ¾ of an inch thick to optimize juiciness.

4. The meat must be defrosted. I’m sure many are thinking “duh” but one just never knows these days…

5. The meat must be at room temperature. Take it out of the refrigerator 15-30 minutes before you start actually cooking it. This is important because if the meat is still cold it means that there are some ice crystals inside. If you don’t wait until the meat reaches room temperature, these ice crystals will melt in the pan and the steak will not have a nice crust and might become tough. This would be bad.

6. Once the steak is at room temp, rinse it and dry well with paper towels. Season it really well. Salt and pepper are a must and then thyme, garlic powder and/or paprika are optional.

7. Preheat the pan to high and add a few tablespoons of oil.

8. Place the meat on the pan and DON’T TOUCH IT! Be patient and don’t fuss with it or else it won’t sear.

9. Cook 5-6 minutes on the first side and flip with tongs. Cook for another 5 minutes – this is for a medium steak – and remove from pan. (If you prefer rare or well done, give or take 1 minute on both sides.)

10. LET THE MEAT REST! Once it’s done cooking and out of the pan, just let it sit for 5-10 minutes to let the juices redistribute, otherwise they will run out with the first cut and the steak will be dry.

11. Before plating, place about ½ tsp of butter on each steak for added sheen, flavor and juiciness.

12. To make things more exciting, you can make an easy pan gravy.

Using the pan you just cooked the steak in – turn the heat on low and add a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of flour. Whisk everything together, picking up the steak drippings at the bottom of the pan, ‘deglazing’. After about a minute, add about ½ cup of beef stock and whisk together. Simmer for 5 minutes and pour over steak. Mmm.

I hope you all feel a little less intimidated now and will use my tips when cooking beef steak. As always, if anything is confusing or unclear please let me know and I’ll be glad to respond. Thanks.

Lots of love!