6 Easy Steps to a Perfect Steak

Steak Prep Most people think cooking a great steak is mostly a matter of luck -- sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  By planning ahead and following these six easy steps, you can be confident in your ability to prepare a great steak every time.
  1.  Take the steak out of the refrigerator at least 1 - 2 hours before you plan to cook.  One of the worst things you can do when cooking a steak is take it right out of the fridge and throw it on the grill.  When you do that, the heat doesn't penetrate the meat in a uniform manner.  What you invariably end up with is a steak that's well done on both sides and bloody red in the middle.  This is easily overcome by simply letting the meat come to room temperature before putting it on the grill.  I know, your mom told you if the meat sits out it will become contaminated by bacteria.  That's not true.  In two hours, in a reasonably clean kitchen, you're not going to see significant contamination.    Even if there were bacteria on the surface of the meat (no, they can't penetrate the meat) you're going to put it on a hot fire, and any bacteria will be killed by the heat.
  2. Season the meat while it is coming to room temperature.  One of the things many people do is put the seasonings on immediately before putting the steak on the grill.  What happens is, because the seasonings are sitting on the surface of the meat, they either fall off or are burned off the surface of the meat and have very little influence on the final flavor.  Put your seasonings on while the meat is coming up to room temperature.  And please try to get out of the salt and pepper box.  Herbs and garlic add great flavor to red meat.  Don't be afraid to experiment.  If you're going to try herbs, (particularly dried herbs) and garlic, you'll get a better result by rubbing the steak with a little butter or olive oil before adding the herbs.
  3. Use a Meat Thermometer.  This is the easiest of the steps and the one most people neglect.  A good meat thermometer that can be inserted in the center of the thickest part of the meat and left there for the entire cooking process is inexpensive and easy to use.  You don't want to use and instant read thermometer (the kind you stick into the steak while you're cooking to get a temp) because puncturing the surface of the meat after you've started cooking will allow the juices to run out.  Insert your thermometer before you go to the grill and don't pull it out until you are ready to serve your meat.  Along this same vein, you're not cutting into the steak to see how done it is, are you?  Puncturing or cutting the surface of meat that is cooking will guarantee dry, tough steak.
  4. Use a hot grill.  You want a good sear on your steak to seal in the juices, and to add flavor.  If your grill isn't already hot enough to cook on when you put the meat on, you will get a less than ideal result.  Let your grill come to temperature before you put the steaks on.  You will be glad you did.
  5. Don't overcook your meat.   Overcooking is the number one reason steaks don't reach their potential.  If you use a thermometer, shoot for 130 degree Fahrenheit to 135 degrees.  What you need to know is the more you cook the meat, the less agreeable it is to eat.  Well done meat (even expensive cuts, like strip loin and ribeye) is going to be tough and dry if you cook it much beyond medium. (135 degrees.)
  6. Let your steak rest at least 10 minutes after cooking and before serving.  This is where most people go, "Oh, but it will be cold by the time we eat it."  Not so.  Not only will the meat not go cold in ten minutes, it will actually continue to cook just slightly while it rests.  What happens if you take the steak from the fire to the plate, and cut into it immediately, is the juices will run out on the plate and the steak will be dry.  Letting the steak rest for 10 minutes will give the juices time to migrate back into the cells and the meat will be much more moist.
That's all there is to cooking a perfect steak every time.  Taking a little time in preparation can make cheaper cuts of meat taste like more expensive cuts.  More expensive cuts that are prepared properly are out of this world.  Good luck on your next cookout.  Let us know in the comments section how this worked for you!

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