With only a few minutes leeway between rare and well-done, timing is key. We’ve put together some tips to help you from start to finish.
Cooking the perfect steak in six steps
- Select your best pan
- Choose your steak cut
- Pick your oil
- Cooking your steak
- Check it’s done
- Leave to rest
Best pan for steak
We recommend frying your steak, although you can grill it if you prefer. A heavy-duty, thick-based frying pan, ideally with a non-stick coating, will achieve good results, as will a heavy griddle pan or skillet. These types of pans get really hot – ideal for getting that slightly sweet, charred finish to the outside of your meat.
If the pan isn’t big enough for all your steaks, don’t be tempted to squeeze them in anyway. Cook them one or two at a time then leave them to rest as you cook the remainder of your batch.
Cuts of steak
The cut of steak you use is all down to personal preference but we have highlighted the three main ones below:
A very popular cut, the sirloin comes from the upper middle of the cow. This is a part of the cow that doesn’t do as much as, say, the shoulder, so it is very tender and well-marbled with fat which enhances the steaks wonderful flavour.
Key tips: Must make sure all the gristle is removed when choosing the cut and cooking. Make sure you season and oil the steak before cooking.
This is the most lean and tender of all the steaks. The fillet tail is usually cut off and used for dishes such as stroganoff, or can be flattened for sandwich steaks. The butt end is normally for Cheateaubriand, while the centre cut fillet is the prime part of the fillet and often the most expensive
Key tips: Pat the steak to remove any excess moisture. Use maximum heat to cook the steaks. Look out for steaks with a blueish membrane around them, known as silverskin. This should be removed, or it will tighten on cooking and render the steak tough. As this steak is very lean, make sure that you baste the steak throughout the cooking process to ensure its moist. Season the steak but heat the oil first in the pan.
Prime rump steak
Considered to have more flavour than other cuts, this is tender, good everyday steak taken from the lower back of the animal. Usually quite large.
Key insider tips: It’s recommended to grill and slice before serving. Best served medium to medium rare. Season and oil the steak before cooking.
Whichever cut you choose, always allow the meat to come up to room temperature to help it cook evenly – never add it to the pan direct from the fridge as it shocks the meat and the fibres contract making it tough.
Which oil to use to cook steak
When it comes to how you apply the oil some chefs like to oil the steak then add it to a hot dry pan, while others add a splash of oil directly to the pan. Once the oil starts separating, it’s hot enough to add the steak. Whichever method you use, the important thing is to get an even spread of oil.
If you oil the pan rather than the steak, don’t be tempted to put your meat in early – if the oil is too cool, your meat could turn out greasy and under-browned. You want your oil to be almost smoking when the steak hits the pan. Always take care when using hot oil.
How to cook steak
What you can expect from each category of steak.
- Blue: Should still be a dark colour, almost purple, and just warm. It will feel spongy with no resistance.
- Rare: Dark red in colour with some juice flowing. It will feel soft and spongy with slight resistance.
- Medium-rare: A more pink colour with a little pink juice flowing. It will be a bit soft and spongy and slightly springy.
- Medium: Pale pink in the middle with hardly any juice flowing. It will feel firm and springy.
- Well-done: Only a trace of pink colour but not dry. It will feel spongy and soft and slightly springy.
It’s very important to consider the size and weight of your steak before calculating the cooking time.
We recommend the following cooking times for a 3.5cm thick fillet steak:
- Blue:About 1½ mins each side
- Rare:About 2¼ mins each side
- Medium-rare:About 3¼ mins each side
- Medium: About 4½ mins each side
We also recommend the following for a 2cm thick sirloin steak:
- Blue:About 1 min each side
- Rare: About 1½ mins per side
- Medium rare:About 2 mins per side
- Medium: About 2¼ mins per side
For a well-done steak, cook for about 4-5 minutes each side, depending on thickness.
How to check steak is cooked
Use your fingers to prod the cooked steak – when rare it will feel soft, medium-rare will be lightly bouncy, and well-done will be much firmer.
How to rest a steak
A cooked steak should rest out of the pan, covered in foil for at least five minutes and ideally around half the cooking time – it will stay warm for anything up to 10 minutes. Here, pure science comes into play – the fibres of the meat will reabsorb the free-running juices resulting in a moist and tender finish to your steak.