The Perfect Steak

Ah, steak.  For a carnivore, steak is the epitome of good eats. But all steaks are not equal.  The following serves as a guide for how to customize and prepare your perfect steak.

First, choose your cut. Your options include:

  • T-Bone– a popular choice since it’s essentially two cuts in one. The tenderloin on one side and the strip steak on the other.
  • Porterhouse– a large cut of steak, the porterhouse gives a bigger portion (up to three inches thick!), but they tend to be less tender than other cuts.
  • Rib Eye– A favorite for many, this cut, as the name implies, comes from the rib area of the cow, and the marbling of fat gives it a great flavor and texture combination.
  • Filet Mignon– Though pricy, it’s one of the best cuts of beef, and filet mignon is a thicker cut, tender, and full of flavor.
  • Top Sirloin – While this cut isn’t quite as tender, it’s a rich and flavorful cut of beef.
  • Strip Steak– Strip steaks come from a large area of the cow, and are generally longer, thinner cuts of beef. The cuts that are closer to the ribs are more tender than the cuts that are closer to the loin area.

Second, choose your seasoning.  The possibilities are endless, but some ideas include:

  • A coffee rub– Coffee rubs act as a tenderizer and also enhance the flavor of the beef.
  • Herbs and spices– Different spice combinations can enhance a steak’s flavor in different ways. An Herbs de Provence made from thyme, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, sage, or allspice is a good option. Other options include a cumin steak rub or a Montreal rub, which is made from pepper, paprika, salt, garlic, onion, cayenne pepper, coriander, and dill seeds.
  • Salt and pepper – There’s nothing like a classic – plain ‘ole salt and pepper is arguably one of the best ways to season a steak.

Third, choose your cooking method.  Some of your options include:

  • Grilling– Use charcoal for that great smoky flavor. Grilling isn’t just about cooking a great piece of meat (though the results are there), it’s an experience.
  • Pan Seared– A great way to get a perfectly seared steak, the cast iron skillet is heated in the oven at 500 degrees, then as soon as it’s hot, move the pan to a stove top to sear the steak with butter. The secret is not to move the steak as it sears.
  • Broiling– This method can be hit or miss, depending on your oven broiler. While some swear by it, it can be expensive to learn how to broil a steak at home properly.

Finally, choose your perfectly cooked steak.  Gauge your steak’s doneness without a thermometer with “The Finger Test.” Based on which finger is touching your thumb, the fleshy part of your hand (compared to the firmness of the steak) will help identify the level of doneness.  Your options are:

  • Well done– If this is your preference, the big question to ask yourself is, “Why?” If this is the doneness you insist on going for, the steak’s final temperature should be at 160 degrees.  The Finger Test would be if your pinky and thumb come together – the firmness of your skin under your thumb will feel hard as a rock, just like your steak.
  • Medium well– This level of doneness results in a slightly softer rock, at 150 degrees. It still has a small bit of pink, but still, the steak has been massacred. For this Finger Test, pair your thumb and ring finger.  It’s a little softer, but not by much.
  • Medium– This steak is red throughout and would come in at 140 degrees. This is the thumb / middle finger combination on the Finger Test.  It’s tender, but not quite there.
  • Medium rare– Now we’re talking. This steak is 130 degrees, red in the center, and pink on the edges.  Super tender as demonstrated by the thumb and first finger in the Finger Test
  • Rare– At 120 degrees, the rare steak is still a delicious way to eat a steak. A very red center is warm, but it’s not a great option for heavily marbled steaks as the fat does not have time to melt and help flavor the beef.  For this Finger Test, it’s really just about holding out your hand and poking the fleshy part under your thumb.
  • Blue Rare– The rarest steak is served at 115 degrees and is only seared on the outside; the inside is almost completely uncooked and raw. It would be cool on the inside.

A delicious cut of steak is a wonderful meal to enjoy, and various factors go into making the perfect steak!  What’s your perfect steak?


Author’s Note:  The perfect steak for me would be a filet mignon, seasoned with salt and pepper, pan seared with butter until it’s medium rare.  Delicious!


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