How to Cook the Perfect Steak

October 22, 2019

What is the "Perfect Steak"? Some people like it extra well done, while others prefer a juicy rare or medium-rare. Some prefer a tender filet, while others enjoy a fatty, marbled ribeye.

Here at Seven Sons Farms, we recognize the importance of learning to cook the perfect steak. That’s why we’ve crafted this guide, from selecting a cut, to ingredients, seasoning, cooking methods, and tips to personalize your meal.

Different Cuts of Steak

The cut of the steak can greatly affect how it tastes and feels in your mouth. So that’s why we take great care to offer a variety of different cuts to suit everyone’s tastes. However, we’ll begin by going over the most basic and popular cuts of steak (information on other cuts can be found on our website).

(Note: Several of these steaks, including the Strip and Ribeye cuts, can be either bone-in or boneless. Generally, the bone keeps the meat insulated so it stays juicy and tender. However, bone-in vs boneless is up to personal preference.)

Sirloin

Sirloin is one of the most popular cuts of meat on the market. It’s got a good amount of fat and is just tender enough to be enjoyed almost any way it’s cooked.

Sirloin Steak

Where does it come from on the cow?

The sirloin is cut from the back of the cow, right above where the tenderloin is cut from. It’s further up the body from the round, right before the short loin and ribs. Think of the sirloin as being cut from the cow’s small of the back.

How much does it cost?

Sirloins are some of the least expensive but most popular cuts, and you can often get several pounds of it for a decent price.

What are some complimentary flavors for this cut?

Sirloin is unique in that it’s a simple cut, so it can easily be spiced up by being pre-marinated in a sauce (maybe with some garlic, oregano, honey, and rice vinegar), then smothered with onions to enhance the flavors.

Ribeye (Delmonico)

Ribeyes, also called Delmonico steaks, are known as the juiciest and flavorful cut. It gets its flavor from the fat marbling throughout. Those who don’t like fatty meat will want to stay away, but if you love a good juicy option, this one’s for you.

We also offer a limited selection of a marbled ribeye and the quintessential cowboy cut for anyone after a more complex or advanced cut.

delmonico ribeye steak

Where does it come from on the cow?

The ribeye, as the name suggests, is cut from the rib section of the beef. The rib section spans the cow’s sixth through twelfth ribs, right between where the chuck and short loin are located.

How much does it cost?

Ribeye steaks are a little more on the expensive side, sometimes up to twice as much as the cost of sirloin.

What are some complimentary flavors for this cut?

Ribeyes, as the most flavorful steaks, don’t necessarily need added complementary flavors. However, if you’re going to add something, it shouldn’t overshadow the flavor of the ribeye. Try seasoning with some basic salt and pepper, and then adding some mushrooms to the pan to soak up and enhance the flavor of the steak.

New York Strip

New York Strip steaks, often just called “strips" are a cut of beef that is particularly tender, with a bold, beefy flavor and a solid chew.

New York Strip Steak

Where does it come from on the cow?

The strip comes from the short loin of the cow, an area between the rib and the sirloin sections (right above the small of the cow’s back).

How much does it cost?

New York Strip steaks are also on the more expensive side. They're usually more expensive than a sirloin, but less expensive than a ribeye.

What are some complimentary flavors for this cut?

The New York Strip is one of the most flavorful cuts available. The flavors can be brought out by doing a dry rub of spices on the steak (such as salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander) and by cooking the steak with garlic butter.

Filet Mignon

Filets are a cut of steak taken from the end of the tenderloin, which is a muscle that is rarely used by the cow. For this reason, these cuts are known for being extremely tender and juicy with almost no fat. This cut requires a quick cook time to seal in the flavors.

We also offer a Premium Reserve King Filet Mignon and smaller kabob pieces for a more diverse selection.

filet mignon

Where does it come from on the cow? 

The filet is cut from the end of the tenderloin. The tenderloin is nestled within the short loin area of the cow, between the rib and sirloin sections. 

How much does it cost?

Filet mignon is some of the most expensive steaks you can get since it's so tender and the average steer can only provide up to 17 ounces of it. If you’re going to buy the most tender and succulent cut, though, you may as well shell out the money to get the good stuff.

What are some complimentary flavors for this cut?

A dish as elegant as filet mignon deserves rich complementary flavors. You may choose to season simply with salt and pepper, create a red wine sauce to pour on top and add crumbled blue cheese for a bite.

Porterhouse (T-Bone)

The porterhouse is known as the "King of Steaks" due to its large size. This steak is comprised of two other cuts of steak: one side of the "T" is the New York Strip, and the other side is comprised of a large filet mignon.

t-bone steak porterhouse

Where does it come from on the cow?

The porterhouse is cut from the short loin of the cow, which is located between the rib and the sirloin portions.

How much does it cost?

Porterhouses are some of the most expensive meat you'll buy, but it's still usually less expensive per pound than a filet or ribeye.

What are some complimentary flavors for this cut?

Porterhouses, while they're comprised of both a Strip and a Filet Mignon, are chock full of flavor by themselves. The bone through the center adds flavor as it cooks. You can enhance these natural flavors by serving it with a herb butter containing chives, thyme, or marjoram.

Cooking Methods

Now that we've gone over the basic and most popular types of steak, we can delve into different cooking methods. There are three broad categories of cooking methods, with some subcategories within.

On the Grill

Grilling is known as the classic way to cook a steak. It involves, well, putting the meat on a grill and allowing the flames to do the work. It's by far the most fun cooking experience and provides an irresistible smoky flavor (if using charcoal).

It's much easier than using the stove or oven for cooking, and the steak's natural juices and fats are the primary sources of flavor. However, it can be difficult to execute for beginners, sometimes resulting in uneven cooking throughout.

Q. What steaks cook best on the grill?
A. Any steak can be grilled and taste great! It's one of the many benefits of grilling. 

On the Stove

Pan-frying is exactly what the name implies: The meat is fried in a pan with a small amount of fat (butter or oil). The benefits of pan-frying are that it's a relatively easy cooking method, and it produces a beautiful, crispy crust on the outside. However, it may result in uneven cooking throughout the cut.

Q: What kind of pan is best for pan-frying?
A: Two kinds of pans are regarded as the best for pan-searing: Stainless steel pans are great heat conductors, and provide a great surface for an even cook. Cast iron pans retain heat beautifully and allow for a beautifully brown sear.

Q. What kinds of steaks pan fry the best?
A. Almost any steak can pan fry, but the most tender cuts (filet, strip, ribeye) will pan fry the best.

In the Oven

Sear-Roasting

Searing and roasting involves pre-heating a cast-iron skillet to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, setting the oiled or buttered steak on it to sear on both sides, then place it in the oven to finish cooking.

Most of the process is done in the oven, which is why it's categorized as an oven process. It produces a crispy outside crust, and it's pretty easy to pull off. However, it's not as precise as sous vide or grilling the steak.

Broil

To broil a piece of meat is to cook it by exposing it to dry, direct radiant heat. Broiling and grilling are similar in that they both involve exposing the meat to a direct heat source. With grilling, the heat is coming from below but with broiling, the heat is coming from above.

This allows the steak to have a pure "meaty" flavor, and is typically the favorite method of steakhouses. Unfortunately, due to the nature of only applying heat to one area at a time, it can result in uneven cooking.

Q. What temperature should I set the oven to when cooking a steak?
A. The temperature should be low enough that the meat will not burn on the outside, but high enough to ensure the heat can penetrate the steak to cook it. Generally, the oven should be set between 350-450 degrees Fahrenheit (176-232 Celcius).

Q. Which steaks cook the best in the oven?
A. Any cut can work well in the oven, but thick-cut steaks (at least 1-1.5 inches thick) work best in the oven, as they are forgiving and don't overcook easily.

Other

Sous Vide

Sous vide cooking doesn't necessarily fit into one of the three broad categories listed, but it's an extremely popular way of cooking steaks. Cooking sous vide is when you vacuum-seal the steak in a bag and cook it for an extended period of time in hot water, then finish it off by searing the outside.

It cooks the meat evenly (the most evenly, in fact) and it's an easy method for beginners. You can also just "set it and forget it" until it's time to sear; this can give you time to make sides for your dinner. It does require a lot of time, though, and a vacuum sealer.

How To Tell When a Steak is Finished Cooking

We've covered the basics of what steaks are on the market and the different methods of cooking them, but this information is useless if you don't know how to tell when your steak is cooked to your liking.

There are six "temperatures" that steaks can be cooked to - Blue Rare, Rare, Medium-Rare, Medium, Medium-Well, and Well Done.

(Note: It's best to cook a steak to just below its desired temperature, then let it rest for 5-10 minutes to let the juices redistribute themselves.)

Blue Rare

Blue rare, also known as "Pittsburgh style" is the rawest steak can be served. It has a very short cook time, only being momentarily seared on both sides at a high temperature before serving. All but the outside of the cut will look raw, and the internal temperature should be less than 84 degrees Fahrenheit while cooking.

Rare

The next most raw temperature is rare, which is more done than blue rare but still pretty "bloody". The typical description for this doneness is "cool red center", but if you don't want to cut the steak you can use a meat thermometer.

The internal temperature should be between 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit (49-55 Celsius) while still cooking.

Medium Rare

Medium rare is pretty much the most popular doneness of steak, since it produces a juicy, tender piece of meat. A medium-rare steak will have a warm red center.

The internal temperature while cooking should read between 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit (55-60 Celsius).

Medium

A medium steak is what the name implies - cooked somewhere between rare and well done. A medium steak will have a hot pink center, and will begin to have that "leathery" feel on the outside. You can tell when a steak is approaching medium when it purges naturally (releases juices without being touched).

The internal temperature while cooking will read between 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit (60-65 Celsius).

Medium Well

Almost fully cooked throughout, medium well is almost totally firm. The outside will be dark brown and leathery, and when cut open the steak will have a slightly pink center.

The internal temperature should be between 150-160 degrees Fahrenheit (65-71 Celsius).

Well Done

Well done is the most doneness meat can have. It's fully cooked and brown throughout and will have a tough, leathery texture. It can often be dry on the inside as well.

The internal temperature should be 165 or higher (73+ Celsius).

Bonus: Here’s a "Handy" Tip

Did you know you can tell the doneness of your steak without cutting into it or using a meat thermometer?

--> Take one of your hands and squeeze the meaty part right underneath the thumb; this is about the firmness a rare steak should have when you touch it.

--> Next, gently touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of your index finger (in an "OK" hand gesture) and feel the same part of your hand; this is what medium-rare should feel like.

--> Do the same for the rest of your fingers, squeezing the meaty part of your hand while touching the tip of your thumb to the tips of the other fingers one at a time. Medium, medium well, and well done all correspond to the firmness when your thumb touches your middle finger, ring finger, and pinky finger, respectively.

--> This method is primarily used by the pros, but it's a good indication of the general doneness without having to cut into the steak.

Best Ingredients to Cook a Perfect Steak

In terms of ingredients (namely seasoning), most meat lovers will tell you that less is more. In this section, we'll cover the ingredients you can use while cooking your steak.

(Note: All of these seasonings are applied before cooking the steak, not after.)

Salt and Pepper

When it comes to steak, "seasoning to taste" isn't really an option, so it can be difficult to know exactly how much to put. Kosher salt and ground black peppercorns (NOT table salt and pepper) should be used, and the surface of the steak should be almost fully coated.

If you feel you've over-seasoned remember that if you're coating only the surface, then the majority of the steak (the inside) will not have seasoning on it.

(Note: Salt tends to draw moisture out from the middle of the cut and bring it to the surface, so remember not to season too prematurely; this could result in a dry piece of meat.)

Garlic

When used correctly, garlic can enhance the flavor of a well-cooked piece of meat. Garlic has a pungent flavor that mellows with cooking and can add a layer of sweetness to the beef. Try creating a garlic sauce with some herbs and spices, or broiling your steak with some whole garlic cloves and herbs on top.

Butter

Butter is another one of those ingredients that just goes with steak. You can slather the entire piece of meat in it and broil it for a juicy, fatty flavor, or you can just pan fry the steak in butter. You can even create some decadent, herby butter sauce to pour on. Butter is the ultimate blank canvas—use your creativity!

Seven Sons Grassfed Butter

Herbs

Herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, and parsley can all flavor beef beautifully.

Rosemary has a wonderfully piney flavor and works both dry and fresh. It can cut right through the heavy flavors of beef. Use it to flavor meats that will be slow-roasted or cooked for long periods of time.

Thyme has a gentle, earthy flavor that rounds out beef and blends with almost anything. It's also easy to grow yourself. Use it in marinades and stews to bring out extra depth. 

Sage is often used in holiday recipes, but it's great for beef dishes because it adds a fragrant piney and warm aroma. Use it along with salt and pepper to add notes of citrus and eucalyptus.

Basil pairs nicely with beef because it's bright, powerful, and slightly peppery. It doesn't dry well, so make sure to use fresh basil in your steak dishes. Use it at the end of cooking time for the best result.

Parsley is slightly bitter, but it brightens flavors that it's paired with. It's often known as a garnish, but it can hold its flavor if used fresh and at the end of cooking time.

Non-Traditional Ingredients

Blue/Cheddar/Jack Cheese - Adding cheese to a steak seems blasphemous, but some people like to melt their cheese on top of their cooked steak. Blue cheese and cheddar cheese add a "bite" to the flavor, while cheddar and jack are smooth and creamy.


Sour Cream - Sour cream can go into a steak sauce, along with some herbs and spices, to add a level of creaminess.


Cream Cheese - The salty flavor of cream cheese can pair nicely with some lemon balm (or another sweet herb) and a well-seasoned steak.


The PERFECT Steak Recipe

So what's the secret behind how to cook the PERFECT steak? The answer may be slightly underwhelming, but here it is:

Be creative, and make it your own.

No one recipe can satisfy every person, just as there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all pair of pants. You may love the idea of garlic herb butter on your steak, but others will sniff at the idea of putting anything but salt and pepper on it.

Only you can create your perfect steak recipe. We can, however, provide a basic starter recipe so you may get creative and improve on it.

The Perfect (Basic) Steak

Ingredients:

- Preferred cut of meat (we’d recommend a sirloin or New York strip for beginners)

- Coarse salt

- Ground peppercorn

- Grassfed butter


 Directions: 

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and prepare a cast-iron skillet for searing by putting it over medium heat.

2. Season your steak generously on each side with salt and pepper.

3. Put 2 tablespoons of grassfed butter in the pan and let it heat.

4. Place the steak in the pan and let it sear for about 2 minutes on each side, to create a crust.

5. After searing both sides, remove the steak from the cast-iron pan and place it in another oven-safe pan. Cook in the oven until the steak has reached your desired temperature.

Feel free to take this recipe and make it your own, adding different ingredients, herbs, spices, or any other components that will make this YOUR perfect steak. Be creative!

Do's and Don'ts for Cooking the Perfect Steak

DO start small and work your way up. If you're a beginner at cooking steak, try and begin with a basic recipe using only salt and pepper. As you improve, gradually move toward using more ingredients like herbs and sauces. Perfect your seasoning and cooking skills as you go. The more you practice, the better you'll get.

DON'T forget the meat thermometer. If you're a seasoned pro, temping a steak by hand can be difficult. Always have a meat thermometer on hand to avoid undercooking (or overcooking) your steak.

DO let the steak rest before cutting into it. The steak doesn't stop cooking just because it's out of the pan. Cook the steak to a few degrees below your desired temperature, then let the steak rest for a few minutes so the juices can redistribute themselves.

DON'T be afraid to be bold. Think mixing gorgonzola and thyme with milk will create a luscious sauce? Try it. Want to see what a mixture of red wine and rosemary might taste good? Go for it. The worst that'll happen is that it tastes weird. The best that can happen is you create a bold new flavor to use in other recipes.

DO educate yourself. You've made a great step in the journey toward the perfect steak by reading this article. But take it a step further. Network with fellow meat lovers to find out more about ingredients, cooking methods, and safety tips. You can even go local and ask for tips from your favorite restaurant chefs or meat supplier (we’re always keen to give advice!).

DON'T forget to practice food safety. Wear protective gloves if cutting meat, change your cutting boards when switching proteins, wash your hands, sanitize contaminated surfaces... the list goes on. Remember that you can't enjoy your meal if you get sick!

Conclusion

Seven Sons Farms is passionate about offering the finest, safest, and most ethical meats on the market. This includes providing our patrons with the best cuts of beef, and the resources to take those products and create extraordinary meals. 

We sincerely hope you've enjoyed reading our guide on how to cook the perfect steak. If you have any further questions, or if there’s more you’d like us to add to this guide, please don't hesitate to contact us!

Blaine Hitzfield

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