How to cook the perfect steak

Lynn Wright / 03 February 2015

An expensive treat, steak has the reputation for being tricky to get right. But the secret to cooking the perfect steak at home is to use great quality meat, a fiercely hot pan and then leave it to rest before you tuck in.



Cooking the perfect steak starts with a great cut of meat. Steaks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the part of the cow they come from – and this will affect cooking times and techniques.

Popular cuts such as sirloin, rib-eye, t-bone and rump offer a good combination of flavour and tenderness when cooked properly.

A thin steak will cook more quickly than a thick one; so if you want a steak with delicious outer crust and a soft, succulent pink centre, opt for a thickness of 2.5cm (1 inch) or more.

Cooking the perfect steak

1. Take your steak out of the fridge an hour before you plan to cook so that it can come to room temperature. Cooking from chilled runs the risk of an undercooked steak with a seared exterior and cold inside.

2. Pat the steak dry with kitchen towel. Rub a little oil over both sides of a steak, and then season well on both sides with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. This will help to give it a tasty crust.

3. Place a heavy, thick-based frying pan or cast-iron skillet over a high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan. Pick a mild-flavoured oil that can reach high temperatures without burning, such as sunflower, groundnut or vegetable oil.

4. Wait until the oil just starts to smoke or separates before laying the steak carefully on the frying pan using kitchen tongs.

5. Leave the steak to sear in the hot oil for a minute before flipping it onto the other side for another minute. Then continue to flip the steak over every 30 seconds until it is cooked to your preference. Turn down the heat a little if your steak is very thick.

6. Remove the steak from the pan and place on a plate or board. Cover with foil and let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving. This allows the tasty meat juices, which are forced towards the centre during cooking, to ooze back evenly throughout the steak.

7. If you plan to slice the steak before serving, be sure to cut perpendicular to the steak’s natural grain: it looks attractive and will taste much better.

How long to cook the perfect steak

For a sirloin steak that’s 2.5cm (1 inch) thick, allow around 1½-2 minutes on each side for rare; 2-2½ minutes for medium rare; 2½-3 minutes on each side for medium; and 4 or 5 minutes on each side for well done.

How to test if steak is cooked

Many chefs use their finger to test if a steak is done and you can try this trick at home. Press the steak lightly with your fingertip to feel the meat. A rare steak is soft and squishy with only a slight resistance; a medium rare steak firmer with some yielding; medium is quite firm with a slight give in the centre; and well-done will feel hard and springy.

Once you master cooking steak to perfection, try these delicious steak recipes, steaks with blue cheese and roasted vegetables and fillet steak with Stilton and cranberries.

TIP

Never fry more than two steaks at a time, otherwise the pan’s temperature will drop and the steak will stew, rather than fry.

TIP

Add a knob of butter – with herbs and flavourings such as garlic too – to the pan towards the end of the cooking time. Then baste the meat with the hot butter for an even more delicious tasting steak.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.