A big, juicy steak with rich, beefy flavor begins with a superior, well-marbled cut. And naturally, it must be seasoned, cooked, and sliced just right. Here, I’ve gathered all of our best tips to help you serve up a steak that’s just as good as (if not better than!) what you’d pay top dollar for at a high-end steakhouse.
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1. Buy Rib Eyes
Of all the top-tier steaks you can buy (others are strip, T-bone, porterhouse, and filet mignon) our favorite is the rib eye. It’s easy to cook and has unparalleled flavor. A rib-eye steak is essentially a boneless piece of prime rib. It is tender and juicy, with a pronounced beefiness.
2. Spring for Dry-Aged
Dry aging causes muscle enzymes in the beef to slowly soften muscle protein and connective tissue. It also intensifies its meaty taste. For our money, the sweet spot for dry aging is four to six weeks. That’s when the meat will have become significantly more tender, with richer, beefier flavors. But if you’re up for the heightened gamy, cheesy flavors of more advanced dry aging, look for meat that’s been aged for more than six weeks.
To learn more, see Understanding Dry-Aged Steak.
3. Salt Twice
Once you’ve selected the perfect steak, it’s imperative to season it properly. To enjoy your steak to its fullest, salt should be the first—and last—thing you add to the meat. Applied to the surface before cooking, the grains will travel into the meat, seasoning it deeply and altering its protein structure to make it more tender and juicy. Then, once the steak is cooked and sliced for serving, a sprinkle of salt enhances the seasoning and adds a delicate saline crunch.
Here’s how we execute our two-phase salting regimen.
At least 45 minutes or up to 24 hours before cooking, sprinkle steaks with 1½ teaspoons of kosher salt (which is easier to distribute than table salt) per pound of meat, and let them rest uncovered in the fridge.
Evenly scatter flake sea salt (such as Maldon) over the sliced meat.
For more information, see The Easiest Way to Make Steak Taste Even Better: Salt Twice.
4. Flip During Cooking
Cooking a thick steak presents a unique challenge: how to keep the perimeter from overcooking while the very center of the steak reaches the desired temperature. An ideal steak has a good crust and a medium-rare center, without a wide band of dark, gray meat on the exterior.
The best way to achieve these goals is to flip the steak every 2 minutes while you sear it. That way, the meat’s temperature increases gradually from the outside in, allowing a crust to build up on the exterior without overcooking the interior.
The New Essentials CookbookCooking well is about more than just knife skills and finding a favorite lasagna recipe. It’s about knowing when to reach for a nonstick skillet and when not to, why you “reverse sear” thick chops, and what umami really is.
5. Sear the Edges of Thick Steaks
When it comes to steaks, more Maillardization means more complex, savory flavor. If you’re cooking a steak thicker than 1½ inches, you have even more surface area to take on browning: the edges of the meat. By searing all sides of your steak—not just the two largest—not only will you coax more flavor out of the meat but you’ll also have a finished product that looks more polished and uniformly browned.
Method: Cook the steak until the internal temperature is 10 to 15 degrees below your target. Then, using tongs, grasp the steak and sear it along the edges, holding each spot for about a minute and then rotating, until the steak hits your desired internal temperature.
6. Cut All Steaks Against the Grain
If you look closely at a steak, you’ll notice little bundles of closely packed muscle fibers that run parallel to one another. This pattern of fibers is known as the grain. Always slice steak across the grain—perpendicular to the fibers—to shorten them and thereby make the meat tender and easier to chew.
How to Slice a Rib Eye
When slicing a rib eye, we recommend separating the eye from the cap and slicing each part separately. Why? The cap is more marbled and rich-tasting than nearly any cut on the cow. When you eat a slice that contains both muscles, you can’t appreciate its delectable qualities quite as much.
Method: After your steak has rested, separate the two muscles. Cut the eye into strips across the grain as you normally would. Then, slice the cap on the bias into slightly wider strips (the better to savor the juicy, unctuous texture).