All you need is to make a great dinner is a little salt and pepper and a good cut of steak! It’s a simple dish, and when it’s done right, it’s certainly satisfying – but there are mistakes that cooks everywhere continue to commit without even realizing it. What should be a succulent, juicy dish ends up being dry or tough. Here are the 5 most common mistakes people make to mess up a perfectly good steak.
1. Not letting your meat thaw before cooking.*
If you’re cooking your steak at a temperature between 250 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s best to let your steak warm up a little bit before cooking. The reason for this is that the warmer the meat starts off prior to cooking it, the shorter it will take for the whole cut to cook evenly. You can achieve a nice medium-rare sooner without over-cooking the outside, particularly for thick steaks.
*However, if you’re going to grill or fry your steak at very high heat (somewhere around 450 degrees Fahrenheit), using cold steak is beneficial since it decreases your chance of over-cooking the center, while still giving you a nice seared outside.
2. Salting steaks too early or too late.
Salt draws out moisture from whatever it’s placed on; this is what makes it effective for curing, but it can be your enemy when it comes to a great steak. Salting a steak too early (anywhere from the day before to several hours prior to cooking) results in much tougher, less juicy steak. For the best results, salt your steak just before cooking (or as early as an hour before cooking, if you’re so inclined). You’ll get a great crust on the outside with tons of flavor!
3. Flipping the steak more than once.
The point of grilling or pan-searing a steak is to create a great, flavorful crust that seals in the juiciness. To produce a great crust, you should only flip your steak once. If you keep flipping the steak over and over again, you’re breaking down that crust and your steak will be less juicy because of it.
4. Poking or prodding your steak with sharp objects as it’s cooking.
Again, the reason you sear a steak is to form a nice crust that helps keep all that moist, juicy flavor inside. If you cut the steak in any way, be it with a knife or fork or any sharp implement, you’re just creating an incision where all the nice juices from the inside can run out. Plus, if there’s too much moisture cooking in the pan around the steak, you’ve essentially started steaming your steak, rather than searing it.
5. Cutting your meat right after you take it off the pan.
For the best possible steak experience, you need to let your steak rest for at least 10 minutes prior to cutting it. Right when it’s taken off the pan, the juices inside of the steak are just waiting to burst out. If you let it rest for a bit, the juices will redistribute themselves throughout the steak. That way, when you cut it, more juice will stay inside the steak and less will be wasted as it spills out onto cutting board or plate.
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