There are many myths and pieces of “common sense” you will come across on how to cook a steak which will result in a mediocre mis-steak. Here are the things you should and shouldn’t do in making a great steak.
Take it out of the fridge when it’s ready to cook
Many people will tell you to take your steak out 40 minutes before cooking and this is a total waste of time. If you take a thermometer to a steak as soon as it’s out of the fridge and then 40 minutes after, you may notice a difference of 1-2C within that amount of time. Just take it out when it’s ready to cook. However…
Salt your steak an hour before cooking
Salting your steak is incredibly important, and the timing is important as well. If you salt your steak right before cooking, the salt will draw the juices from the inside out and you will end up with a steak that has a dry inside. What you want is for the salt to draw the juices from the inside out, then for the steak to bring those juices back in. This will result in the outside being dry — which is what you want for the Maillard reaction — and the inside being incredibly juicy.
Use a high smoke-point oil, and apply butter after cooking
I see so many people say to use butter to cook a steak, claiming that it’ll make your steak more flavorful. At the heat you’re cooking a steak, the only things you’ll get out of this are a sour burnt butter flavor and your smoke alarm going off. Instead, use a high smoke-point oil such as grapeseed oil or avocado oil, then put a touch of butter to melt on top of it while it’s resting.
Focus on the Maillard reaction
The Maillard reaction is the process of creating a crust on the outside of a piece of food. If you’re not familiar, do a search on this and learn the chemistry of why this happens as it will help you to ensure you are able to create it effectively. In short, you want your steak to have direct contact with the pan at the right heat point so the proteins on the meat turn into a crispy crust. This doesn’t mean to not use oil or to only flip it once. Again, you need to ensure that you are creating the Maillard reaction and developing the crust, not burning your steak.
Don’t burn the outside trying to cook the inside
When you’re cooking your steak, you want your inside to be cooked to whatever you prefer. If you like your steak to be cooked more thoroughly on the inside, let that be a separate process than cooking the outside. Once you have your crispy crust on the outside, don’t keep cooking it on the stovetop or grill to cook the inside. Instead put it in the oven and cook it the rest of the way. Then you’ll have a crispy (not burnt) steak which is done to your liking.
Allow your steak to rest for 15 minutes after cooking
You’ll want to cut open your steak and start eating it as soon as you finish cooking it, but to get the most juiciness and flavor you will need to let it rest for 15 minutes. What this does is to allow the steak to reabsorb its juices. When a steak is hot on the outside, the juices are being drawn out of the center the same way you sweat when you’re hot. While the steak cools, it begins to absorb those juices back into the center and regain that juiciness. This is why it’s also the perfect time to add butter as mentioned before.