Mousumi Karim

a medium rare steak

A good piece of delish steak is no less than an art inside the mouth. Grilled or pan-seared, however, you like your steak to be cooked, if used the correct method, a steak has the overwhelming power to dominate all the foods on the table.

Either it’s a birthday or a weekend, a perfect steak having a crust on the outside, tenderness on the inside can be the perfect classic decision a diner or a home cook can make. Well, perfect but a bit pricey I have to say. If you are cooking a ‘Filet Mignon’ or a ‘New York Strip’ or an ‘American Wagyu Beef’, you don’t want to make an err to ruin your investment, or do you? Sure you don’t. Not to worry anymore. Start prepping to cook the perfect steak every time because we are here with the mistakes people make when cooking steak and the trick to save your steak from becoming a dry bland piece of meat.

Stages of mistakes everyone makes when cooking steak    

Cooking steaks is a comparatively delicate process. All the steps must be done properly to have a ‘Second To None‘ title worthy steak. A mistake can be made anywhere in between buying the meat and serving the steak on a plate. One or two mistakes are enough to ruin the heavenly taste of the steak, like buying uneven thin meat cut, under seasoning, over cooking, using wrong oil and the list goes on.

We can list these mistakes made by everyone into 3 categories here to make things easy for you to be more organised while preparing for cooking a steak.

  1. Mistakes done while the preparation 
  2. Mistakes done on heat
  3. Mistakes done off heat

1 of 3 categories: Mistakes done while the preparation 

Not prioritizing enough to buy right kind of meat  

The foundation of cooking a perfect steak is buying a nice piece of meat first. The end result depends on the starting ingredient. Most people start making mistakes from here in the beginning.

  • Picking up the most tender meat pieces from the animal is the key to having the nicest juicy steak after it is cooked. Some of the finest cuts of steak come from the most tender ribeye, tenderloin, flank, skirt. Though these classics will cost more, you can also try cooking a hanger steak or tri-tip, in case you are running short on your budget.
  • Choosing meat cut with enough thicknessis a must while buying meat. Let me tell you why. Steak is cooked in a super hot pan or grill. If the meat is thin, the steak will be overcooked or probably burned. But we don’t want that, we want a perfectly blended brown colour from the surface to a pretty pink colour inside.
  • Focusing to buy meat with even thicknessis another important factor to have an even cooking throughout the steak. Buying an uneven meat piece will lead to a burnt steak in some places and undercooking in other places which is a big no no!
  • Buying a lean cut of meat ends up as a bland steakwhich you don’t want if you are a carnivore having good taste. Unless you have health issues and you cut down the fats from your diet, you should buy meat with a little fat marbling all over. While cooking, this fat will give the steak extra flavor.
  • Finding out an at least 20days aged steakcan be a reminder that you are in luck. Steak tastes better when it ages than a steak from fresh cut meat.

Cooking steak cold straight from the refrigerator

Cooking steak cold, unlikely fish or chicken is a collective famous idea and this makes it a collective mistake as well. The logic many people use for this is throwing frozen meat in a super hot pan results in making a nice crust outside while preventing overcooking on the inside. But in reality it results in nothing but a burnt outside and an undercooked inside. All the good chefs recommend people to leave the cold steak at least for 30 minutes to an hour while it comes back to room temperature. Thus, the steak will be cooked evenly.

Not drying the outside of the meat before cooking

Make sure the meat cut is completely dry before throwing it into the hot pan. In that way, the heat will straight hit the meat surface and you’ll get the best result in the taste of your steak. Most of the time there’s liquid flowing from the meat cut looking like a mixture of water and blood which is in actual a mixture of myoglobin and water called ‘Weep‘ or ‘Purge‘ secreted from the meat cut.

No need to rinse it off with water. Instead, just use a paper towel to soak up all the wetness from the meat cut and leave it dry. A meat must be dry to be started with the Maillard reaction which gets going around 300 degree fahrenheit  to have a tempting even brown colour on the outside of the steak, the aesthetic everyone needs.

Not seasoning with proper ingredients and technique

A good seasoning is what makes a piece of meat into a flavourful, satisfactory food. Though it takes the least number of Ingredients, only seasoning with the salt and pepper fill the bill. Sea salt is best to season steaks. Kosher salt can be used to make the meat mostly absorb it on the outer layer of the steak for its diamond crystal size partnered with some ground black pepper. But if you are a person who likes more spices and flavours, you can add chilli powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika to make it give a burst of flavours inside the mouth. You can also rub a little oil on the surface if you want. Leave the meat for 30-40 minutes for the absorption of the seasoning.

Using any random pan to cook the steak

People give hardly any thought about choosing a suitable pan to cook a steak. Whereas, it’s an important prep step to cook an exquisite steak. Steak is a food that requires high heat to be cooked perfectly. Therefore, you want to choose the pan in your kitchen that can handle the high heat you need to build up there before throwing the seasoned meat into the insanely hot pan. The worst pans for cooking steak are non-stick pans because of their Teflon coating on the outer layer which is the reason for not sticking food to the pan. Teflon is an artificial compound which releases toxic carcinogenic gasses when put in overheat breaking or melting down the non-stick. You see it or not – it’s there! And you don’t want to consume any toxic chemicals even alongside a rich flavoured steak. You can always use a cast iron or a stainless steel pan for cooking a steak as they are good at searing evenly and importantly they can handle heat more than 1500 degree Fahrenheit without melting or breaking down the chemical bond. Also, these pans can be used in the oven enduring a very high heat for finishing the cooking of thick steaks.

Many people like to grill their steak more than searing them on the pan. So when they bring their meat to cook indoors, they all chose grill pans and no wonder why!

Grill pans are specifically made for imprinting the grill marks on the steak. Precisely, it beautifies the outlook of the steak, giving it a picture perfect vibe, but considering the taste, it’s a mistake to use such a pan which unevenly cooks the steak and ruins Its taste. So you should pass on these pans. Either grill your steak outside in real or cook your steak in a plain cast iron or stainless steel pan.

Ignoring the cleanliness of the pan

Must have your pan clean without having any debris before cooking. This needs your attention if you want a flawless steak to be served. Debris or left overs of the previous cooking make the pan sticky and tear your steak while searing side to side ending it as an imperfect steak with torn bumps on both sides. You want your steak to look mouth provoking also right? Then don’t let a little mistake ruin the whole look of your art piece.

2 of 3 categories: Mistakes done on heat

Using an oil with a low smoke point

Think you did all the things correctly until now. From here you are going to start the real cooking process. Now for throwing your rich piece of meat into, you are prepping to heat up your extra virgin olive oil which gives your every other food the richness of flavours. Stay put! This is the point where you lose control over everything in your cooking. You want to do it right or nah? So swap your oil into something which has a high smoke point. The biggest mistake you can see out there is using an oil with low smoke point like extra virgin olive oil while cooking steak. It has a smoke point of 325-375 degrees Fahrenheit which means it’ll start burning the seasoning on the steak leaving the steak undercooked inside.

You don’t want a burnt steak, do you? So use oil with a higher smoke point which is considered to be minimum 400 degree Fahrenheit such as soybean oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, mustard oil, safflower oil, canola oil, sesame oil as per your preference. Some people use butter which has a smoke point of 300 degree Fahrenheit to pan-sear their steaks, mark my words, they unfortunately had the most burnt steaks in their lives. So totally avoid extra virgin olive oil, butter or any other oil having low smoke point as your predominant searing oil, your best shot to sear a delish steak is Avocado oil and soybean oil.

Throwing meat too soon in the pan not using a thermometer

Steak is something where you want a beautiful crust outside and an ambrosial juiciness inside. A simple trick is all for getting this perfection. Throw it in the correct heat of the pan. Voilà! You get the beautiful perfect textured steak on your plate. Make a thermometer your best friend while cooking steaks. Even if you are a pro, you can’t trust yourself with the guessing of temperature. A perfect steak needs a perfect heat and timing before throwing the meat into the pan and also when It’s time to finish cooking into the pan. You need to do your homework about temperatures needed in specific meat cuts because different meat cuts with different tenderness needs different temperatures to cook obviously.

Having your pan super hot reaching the meat’s internal temperature is the way to go of having that beautiful crust outside and according to the thickness of the steak, if timed properly into the heat of the pan, a perfect doneness you’ll see inside the steak. Always make sure to use a meat thermometer to ensure the expected temperature before taking the steak out of the pan.   

Searing the steak only once

Searing is the step done on the outside but what is visible mostly on the inside. It has all the things to do with the colour and texture of the steak after cutting it to dig in. If you want your taste buds to dive into the elegency of medium-rare steak, searing it only once either on the pan or grill is a big oops for you. By the time your steak will reach 150 degree Fahrenheit, the side directly in touch with the pan or grill will most likely be a dry, woody, flavourless, tough piece of steak because of the contraction of the muscle fibre and connective tissue will squeeze all the moisture out of the meat. Say, you need 10 minutes to cook a steak considering its thickness. You seared the steak after a long 5 minutes of leaving it on the insanely hot pan. Now as you flipped your steak finally, the thing you are seeing is your tenderloin or ribeye that cost you a whole lot of money is burnt on the edges and you know that side is overcooked on the inside and you don’t love it at all.

At this point, as you have a lesson that cost you a costly piece of meat on your imagination, let’s do the right thing in the real world to make it worth your money of hard work, shall we? From now on start searing your steak every 60 seconds till the estimated time of cooking it.

The benefit you will get from searing frequently is

  • The steak will have enough time to have a crust outside but not too much time to burn that outer side and overcook on the inside.
  • It’ll have even heat all over the outer surface of the steak leading to an even cooking throughout the whole steak unlike the steak seared only once in the whole cooking leaving an uneven doneness.
  • Searing the steak every 60 seconds will give the final product of a beautiful elegant medium rare steak of blended brown on the outer layer to it’s way inside becoming more pinkish, the quality steak served in the restaurants which you are going to make in your kitchen now that you know this trick. You’re welcome!

Not using butter and garlic mid-way the cooking

Now as you already know butter is a big fail for an even seared steak for it’s low smoke point, so many people don’t use butter while cooking steak. But here I am giving you my best tricks that’ll undoubtedly make your steak stand out in taste than the ones of people who followed all the basic steps correctly. You surely can use butter, not as the searing oil for the steak of course but you can use it in the mid-way of cooking only to add a ton of flavours to your steak along with some smashed pieces of garlic. No need to peel off the garlic, just squash some pieces and throw them into the pan along with some butter cubes. This will add up some mouth-watering  aroma to the steak which everyone will appreciate a lot.

3 of 3 categories: Mistakes done off heat 

Not giving the steak time to rest when it’s off the heat

Cooking is not a thing that starts with getting in the heat and ends with getting off the heat. Cooking is a whole process of an art starting from the preparation to the presentation. Just like a piece of meat needs to be warmed up to room temperature, well seasoned, rested for absorption and finally getting into the heat, there’s more to get a juicy bite of the steak. While cooking, the fibres of the meat start to shrink resulting in the waters inside them squeezed out collected in the empty spaces between the fibres. You cooked a flawless steak leaving that beautiful smell which is making you want to dig in right away, but have patience a little while, you do want to get the best result! It’s off the pan not meaning it stopped being cooked. It’s still in high temperature and fibre needs to be calmed down, absorbing some of the water back in which is the reason for the juiciness of the steaks.

If you are too impatient to bite into the steak, you’re going to miss out the juiciness of it because most of the juices will be on your plate for cutting the steak fibre making the liquids ooze out from it. But don’t worry, take a foil and wrap it around your nicely cooked steak letting it rest for 10-15 minutes. This will do the trick and your steak will be ready to melt into your mouth. 

Cutting slices in wrong ways

Now after unwrapping the foil, don’t keep cutting the steak randomly like others. People don’t focus on this and many times cut the steak parallel to the long fibres of the steak which needs more effort to chew and eat the steak. Always slice the steak perpendicular with the grain of the long fibres making little ‘T’ like shapes on the cutting surface so that the fibres cut short and the steak tastes less chewy, and more tender instead. Now that you avoided most of the mistakes people make while cooking a steak, your steak turned out too good to be true using all my tricks, now it’s time for you to dig into the art you cooked on your pan. Bon appétit!

A guide to cook steaks perfectly in a nutshell

First of all, know your meat, know where your meat is coming from a cow, how much temperature it needs to be cooked. Make sure to have an evenly medium thick piece of meat. Soak up the steak dry with a paper towel for getting the classic brown colour outside. Then season the meat at least with sea salt and black pepper in the right amount. You can add chilli powder and ground cumin if you want. Then leave the seasoning for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, forgetting about all your nonstick pans, prepare a cast iron or a stainless steel pan by cleaning it nicely. Always use oil with a high smoke point such as avocado oil and soybean oil to cook steaks. After heating it to the Internal temperature of your steak as per you want it to be medium rare or anything, throw your nicely seasoned piece of meat into the pan after confirming the estimated temperature with a thermometer. Don’t continue with the mentality of searing the steak once in the whole cooking process. Sear it every 60 seconds till the end of cooking. Somewhere in the middle, add some butter and smashed garlic on the pan. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the expected temperature inside the steak before taking it off the heat. Give your hot steak 10 minutes to rest. When the fibers cool down after this time, slice it perpendicular with the long fibres leaving ‘T’ shape marks on the sliced pieces body. After doing all these steps correctly, enjoy your juicy flavourful steak you cooked. 

2 thoughts on “Mistakes everyone makes when cooking steak

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *