You don’t have to be a great cook to cook a great steak. Here are instructions for how to get it right every time. Be sure to choose a steak that is one inch to one-and-a-half inches thick—and sprinkle both sides with salt before cooking.
ON THE GRILL
When grilling steak, heat the grill as hot as it will get. (If your grill has a lid, grill with the lid on.) Let the steak cook until it lifts up slightly from the grill and moves easily when prodded with a cooking tool. Then rotate the steak 45° (on the same side), and let it continue to cook until both directions of the crosshatch grill pattern are a dark mahogany brown but not black.
Flip the steak over and crosshatch the other side as well, assuming that the steak is thick enough that you can do this without overcooking.
Two ways to determine doneness…
1. Use a meat thermometer to determine when the steak is cooked to your taste. Insert the thermometer into the center of the steak, not touching any bone.
Rare: Remove the steak when the thermometer reaches 120°.
Medium rare: 125° to 128°.
Medium: 132° to 134°.
Well done: 150°.
2. Use your thumb as a rule of thumb. Your steak is rare when poking it feels like poking the thenar eminence—the muscle group just below your thumb on the palm side of your hand—as you make an “OK” sign with your thumb and index finger. For medium rare, poke and compare the feel of this muscle as you make an “O” with your thumb and middle finger…for medium, use your thumb and ring finger… and for well done, use your thumb and pinkie.
Helpful: If the steak requires additional cooking after both sides have been crosshatched, move it to a section of the grill that is not directly over the flames.
EXTRA: Check out the Bottom Line Guide to Great Grilling for dozens of ideas on the healthiest, safest, tastiest ways to grill lots of your favorite foods—meat, fish, poultry, veggies, even pizza!
ON THE STOVE
Choose a heavy, thick-bottomed pan. Lighter pans do not maintain their temperature as well and might not sear steaks properly. If you are cooking more than one steak at a time, use a pan large enough that the steaks do not touch.
Apply a light coating of oil to the pan. Set the burner on high, and place the steak in the pan as soon as you see the oil start to smoke. Sear the steak for four to five minutes, until the side against the pan is a deep, even mahogany brown, then flip the steak over. The deep brown color means that the steak’s proteins have caramelized, which provides much of the wonderful flavor.
Your next step depends on how well-cooked you want your steak. If you like rare steak, sear the flip side until it, too, is a deep, even brown, and you’re done. If you prefer steak that’s cooked a bit more inside, remove the pan from the burner after you’ve flipped and seared the steak and place it in an oven preheated to 450°. To determine doneness, see above.
Let the cooked steak sit undisturbed on a cutting board for about 10 minutes, until you can hold your finger to the steak’s surface without feeling like your finger is burning.
This resting period gives the steak’s juices time to permeate the meat. Cut into a steak any sooner, and you could be left with a puddle of juice and a tough, flavorless steak.
If there is a noticeable grain to the steak, cut against the grain for a more tender result.