How to Buy and Cook the Perfect Steak

perfectly medium rare steak in a cast iron skillet with grilled asparagusCrisp and caramelized on the outside, but never burnt. A first bite that melts in your mouth as the savory, perfectly seasoned flavor of beef hits your palate. The rich, smoky aroma of animal fat dripping onto an open fire.

That, my friends, is a perfect steak. You don’t have to make reservations at an expensive steakhouse to reach this sort of steak nirvana. It can be yours any night of week in your own kitchen by following a few simple and painless steps.

Navigating the Meat Case

First things first – you’ve got to buy the steak. To understand the meat case at a butcher shop, you must first understand your cuts of meat. Close your eyes and visualize standing in a field while looking at the side of a cow or steer. The first cut of meat behind the head is the shoulder, known in butchery terms as the chuck. Although flavorful, the often-used shoulder muscle is mostly tough and full of connective tissue. The meat from this section of a cow is less expensive and primarily used for slow-cooked roasts. However, if you’re looking for a bargain, a top blade steak, also called a flatiron, is a flavorful, fairly tender chuck steak to throw on the grill.

Next in the line-up, anatomically speaking, are the portions of a cow that butchers call the rib, short loin and sirloin. The meat from this top, middle area of the cow is the most tender, since the muscles move the least during a cow’s life (as compared to the shoulder, hind end and shank). From these three larger cuts come most of the steaks you see at the market.

Rib or Ribeye Steaks

Rib steaks are basically a prime rib roast cut into portions, with or without the bone.

The Difference Between a Rib Steak and a Ribeye Steak

A rib steak has the bone attached, but the more popular ribeye steak has had the bone removed. The ribeye is also sold as a Spencer steak in the western U.S., and Delmonico steak in the East. Rib steaks usually have large pockets of fat, which add flavor and give the steak a moist, juicy texture.

Short Loin Steaks

Short loin steaks are cut from the area below the backbone. There, you’ll find tenderloin or filet mignon, strip steak, New York strip, porterhouse, and others.  is home to some of the most tender and popular cuts of beef, such as the Tenderloin, Strip Steak, T-Bone and Porterhouse Steaks. Loin cuts are great prepared on the grill or under a broiler.

Which Short Loin Steak Is Best?

Some people find a long, narrow and slightly triangular top loin steak to be less tender than a rib eye and miss the extra ripples of fat. Others think a top loin steak has just the right balance of flavor and tenderness, without being too fatty. When it has a bone, a top loin steak is known as a shell steak. When the bone is removed it goes by many names: a strip steak, Kansas City strip, New York strip and sirloin strip steak, (which, confusingly, comes from the short loin, not the sirloin) are all the same cut of steak.

Tenderloin, Chateaubriand, and Filet Mignon

Also cut from the short loin portion of a cow is the tenderloin, a portion of meat considered to be extremely tender (hence the name). Tenderloins are easy to recognize in the meat case, due to a long, cylindrical shape that’s thicker on one end then tapers down. A tenderloin is cut into many different types of steak, and all are pretty pricey. The thickest part (usually about 3 inches thick) of the tenderloin is cut into a steak known as chateaubriand. Filet mignon (also known as tenderloin steak) is cut from the meat behind the chateaubriand and is slightly less thick. Filet Mignon is thought to be the most tender part of the tenderloin, but on the downside, the flavor can be pretty mild.


T-bone Steaks

Last but not least, the short loin gives us the t-bone, a steak named for, you guessed it, a “T” shaped bone that runs down the middle. On one side of the bone is meat from the top loin, and on the other is a thin strip of tenderloin. Some say this steak combines the best of both worlds: the tenderness of a tenderloin steak and the rich, “meaty” flavor of a top loin steak.

If you’re really hungry, skip the T-bone and go straight for the porterhouse, which is simply a t-bone steak with a bigger portion of tenderloin attached.

READ NEXT: Carniflex – The Carnivore Diet with Strategic Leniency

Sirloin Steak

The sirloin is basically the cow’s hip. Sirloin steaks are usually fairly large but thin, and the meat is both moderately flavorful and moderately tender. Steaks from this region of a cow tend to be a good value. The most well-known among them are the top sirloin steak and the tri-tip, both boneless. Lesser-known steaks cut from the sirloin are the pin-bone, flat-bone, round-bone and wedge-bone steaks.

Directly below the loin and sirloin, on the underside of the cow’s belly, is the flank. Flank steak is a thin, wide, boneless cut with a texture (grain) that looks very stringy. Cooked very quickly to medium-rare and sliced thinly against the grain, the chewy texture is less noticeable and you will be rewarded with rich flavor.

Seasoning the Meat

Chef seasoning filet mignon on wooden board at restaurant kitche

If a high-quality cut of meat is cooked correctly, you really don’t need much more than salt and pepper. Which makes one think that seasoning a steak is a very short topic, until of course, you consider the hotly debated “salt early” and “salt late” theories.

Cooking Steak: Salt Early vs. Salt Late

The Salt Early Theory: Salting meat many hours or even days before cooking breaks down the protein in meat and makes it more tender. Initially, the salt draws out moisture, but over time the meat re-absorbs the moisture, which is now flavored with salt and therefore adds more succulent flavor to the meat.

The Salt Late Theory: Salt dries meat out. Period. Don’t add it until immediately before cooking.

In this debate, we take the middle road. In our experience, the salt early theory rings true with larger or tougher cuts of beef. For your average steak, salting about a half-hour before cooking is ideal and seasoning right before cooking works just fine, too.

Before seasoning, always make sure to pat the steak dry. Some people like to brush the steak with oil (avoid olive oil, which can become bitter at high heats) or a combination of melted butter and oil before seasoning to help the outside of the steak brown. Season both sides of the steak, using a teaspoon or less of both salt and pepper. Remember, you can always add more seasoning after the steak cooks, but you can’t un-salt the meat.

After seasoning, let the meat sit on the counter for a bit so it comes up to room temperature (a good rule of thumb is at least 10 minutes for every inch of thickness).

If you want to branch out from salt and pepper, marinades and rubs can be used on any type of steak, but are an especially great way to bring flavor to less-expensive cuts.

Cooking Methods

What we love about cooking steak on the stove is how easy it is to get a crisp, caramelized coating on the outside of the steak without over-cooking the middle. More often than not, this is harder to achieve on a grill. Using a combination of the stove-top and the oven is a tried and true method for perfect steak. The question is, which comes first?

How to Cook a Steak in the Oven and Cast Iron Skillet

The most common method is searing the steak first on the stove, then finishing it in a hot oven.

  1. Pat dry and season the steak.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. When the oven is up to temp, drizzle a little oil in an oven-proof pan (cast iron works great) and then heat the pan on the stove over high heat for several minutes until it just barely starts to smoke (you can give the pan a head start by putting it in the oven while it preheats).
  4. Drop the steak in the pan and let it sit without touching it for 3 minutes. Be prepared to turn on your fan or open some windows, as there will be smoke.
  5. If the steak is stuck to the pan, it’s not done browning yet and needs a little more time. If it comes up relatively easily after 3 minutes, flip the steak.
  6. Put the pan, with the steak in it, in the oven.
  7. Let it bake for several minutes, then check by temperature or texture for doneness.

Reverse Sear Method of Cooking Steak

A small but vocal population of steak lovers swears by the “reverse sear” technique. The theory behind this method is that cooking the steak in the oven first will dry the outside of the steak while slowly cooking the inside and keeping it tender. If the outside of the steak is dry, it will then sear faster and more efficiently in a hot pan.

  • Pat dry and season the steak.
  • Preheat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place a wire cooling rack on a cookie sheet then put the steak on the cooling rack. This allows hot air to circulate around the entire steak.
  • Bake the steak until the internal temperature is 100-110 degrees.
  • Drizzle a little oil in a pan over high heat. Just as the pan begins to smoke, drop the steak in the pan.
  • Cook the steak for 2 minutes on each side.

So does this method really yield a more perfect steak? We have to admit, it did brown the outside of the steak very nicely while leaving the inside really juicy and tender. As a bonus, you get nice grill marks from baking the meat on the cooling rack. Give it a try, and you be the judge.

Grilling Steak on an Outdoor Grill

In some people’s minds, however, the only way to cook a steak is over an open flame in the great outdoors. Many of these same people consider grilling an art form that cannot be mastered overnight. It takes years of experimenting with different types of grills, different heat levels and cooking times and various seasonings and marinades. This may be true for some fanatics out there, but we feel pretty confident that you’ll get a great steak the first time out if you pay attention to a few key things.

Charcoal Grilling vs. Gas Grilling for Steak

The “charcoal vs gas” debate is one that has gone for decades, and we think they both have their place. For convenience and the easy ability to control heat levels, a gas grill can’t be beat. For depth of flavor, charcoal usually wins out.

Either way, you never want to put a steak on a cold grill. Wait until it heats up. For a gas grill, this is easy. Simply turn the knob to medium-high and keep the lid closed for 10-15 minutes. For a charcoal grill, the type of charcoal you use will affect the heat level as well as the flavor of the meat. Briquettes are easy to light, hold steady heat and are inexpensive, but they are also made with questionable additives that can give meat a chemical flavor. We favor hardwood charcoal (made from oak, hickory, mesquite, etc) for a natural, smoky flavor. Hardwood charcoal can be a little trickier to light and once it gets going it burns hotter and more unpredictably, which requires keeping a closer eye on the grill. A small price to pay, we think.

There is no point in using hardwood charcoal and then dousing it in lighter fluid, which will make your meat taste like it was marinated in petroleum. Instead, use a charcoal chimney starter to stack and light the coals. Once the coals are lit (usually about 30 coals are needed to provide adequate heat) wait until they change from bright red to an ashy white, which usually takes at least 20 minutes. Spread the coals out, placing most of them on one side to create a high heat side and a few on the other side of the grill to create a low heat side. Cover the grill for about five minutes so the heat builds to medium-high. To test the heat, simply hold your hand a few inches above the grill. If you can’t hold it there for more then 2 seconds, you’ve got high heat. If you can hold it there for 4-6 seconds without pulling away, the heat is medium-high.

Now, you’re ready to cook. Start by placing the steak (patted dry, seasoned and close to room temp.) over medium-high heat for at least 3 minutes without turning. This is about right for a 1-inch steak; thicker steaks will need another minute or two. Flip, and grill the other side for another 3 minutes. This should brown both sides and bring the steak to the brink of medium-rare.

To bring the steak up to desired doneness, move it to an area of the grill that has less-intense heat. Close the lid and cook for another 3-5 minutes before checking if it’s ready.

Although flames add excitement to grilling, they do nothing for the meat but burn it. Move the steak away from flare-ups as soon as they occur. In general, try to move the steak as little as possible while it cooks – too much movement prevents the steak from searing and getting a crispy, brown coating.

Is It Perfect Yet?

A thermometer is the most accurate way to gauge if steak is done to your liking. Although your thermometer will probably tell you that 145 degrees is rare for beef, any chef you ask will tell you differently.

Temperatures for Steak Doneness

  • Rare: In a chef’s mind, rare means very pink, is closer to 125 degrees
  • Medium-rare: You’re looking for 125-130 degrees
  • Medium: 130-135 degrees
  • Medium-well: 135 to 140 degrees
  • Well done: 140 and above

You can also give the steak a poke with your finger. Rare is squishy, medium-rare is spongy, and medium-well is taut. The steak will continue to cook at least five degrees when it’s off the grill or out of the pan, so err on the side of taking it away from heat earlier rather than later.

Do Not Skip This Step When Cooking Steak

The final step, which should be included no matter how you cook your steak, is letting the meat rest before cutting into it. As the meat cools down the proteins begin to firm up and hold moisture, so when you cut into the steak all the juicy goodness won’t run out. About 8-10 minutes should do it, and a loose cover of foil or no cover at all is a much better choice than tightly sealing the meat up while it rests. If you’re like us, it takes at least 8-10 minutes to set the table and get everyone to sit down, so usually this step simply happens without having to think about it.

Hungry yet? Get over to your local butcher shop, grab a little salt and pepper, and give one of these cooking methods a try. In less time than it takes to drive to a restaurant, you’ll be sitting down at your kitchen table with a tender, sizzling hot, and dare we stay it, perfect steak on your plate.

perfectly medium rare steak on a platter with grilled asparagus

TAGS:  cooking tips

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

90 thoughts on “How to Buy and Cook the Perfect Steak”

Leave a Reply

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

  1. My primal Journey started today but I ate some salted peanuts already, those little buggers always get to me but I’m sure a nice steak like this would sort me out. Looks Tasty

    1. Mmmmm, I might have to swing by the butcher today and pick up some sirloin. I’ll have to see what they have in grass-fed…

    1. Absolutely! I try to get outside as much as possible, but working and grabbing up extra shifts doesn’t allow me to be out as much as I’d like. So it’s nice to know there’s always something great to read here.

  2. Good call on the steak post, Mark.

    I’m actually pretty good in the kitchen. BUT.. I’ve always been rubbish with steaks and grilling large hunks of meat. That’s why I stick to stews, stir-frys, etc.

    Thanks for the help.

  3. If you really want a perfect steak every single time, I’ve got two words for you: Sous Vide.

    1. Agreed! Since investing in a water oven and vacuum sealer I’ve become very adept and consistent at producing perfectly cooked steaks, chicken breast, salmon etc… What’s particularly great about Sous Vide / Low Temp Cooking is that the process makes cheap but usually more flavorful cuts of tougher meats become texturally perfect and tender.

      This process has enabled me, a very average home cook to significantly increase my meat consumption and enjoyment of meat exponentially.

      Thorougly recommended to all meat eaters.

      1. was gonna say the same thing. I like to sear in cast iron on the grill. Rocket hot, 90 seconds on a side. Best done outside since it will create a lot of smoke, but perfect every time. Also a lot easier to get a flank steak rare/medium rare and a good crust.

  4. Meh. I just lightly season both sides, and slap it on the grill just long enough to scorch the outside (about 2 minutes per side on my grill). Kills all the E.coli on the outside, leaves the middle cool and raw. I consider anything more than that to be woefully overcooked.

  5. Ribeye is my fav cut. we cook ours 5 mins each side turning once on our grill. usually we can tell how cooked it is by pushing a little on it to see how squishy it is. the more firm, the more cooked.

  6. Has anyone ever tried to dry age steak at home using a vacuum sealer? Does it work well?

    1. If you use a vacuum sealer, you would be “wet aging,” if I’m not mistaken, which is generally considered inferior to dry aging.

      I can tell you that I have used the refrigerator for dry aging meat, and it works very well, since the fridge is a very dehydrating environment, and in the absence of water, bacteria doesn’t stand a chance.

      You just need to make sure your meat is completely exposed to the air, i.e. on some kind of rack.

      For storing leftover meat in the fridge, wrapping in parchment paper almost guarantees that the meat will never go bad, only turn into beef jerky eventually- again, no moisture means no bacteria means no spoilage.

      Far, far superior to storing in plastic, which is basically a bacteria breeding machine, since the moisture left in the meat is retained in the bag, which bacteria love…

      Hope that helps.


      1. A good butcher should age the steaks before you even buy them. Nothing less than 30 days at my butcher. This, to me, is more important to the eating than when you season the meat.

    2. You can look into Umai dry bags, and “dry age” in the fridge. Works pretty well. Also great for charcuterie

  7. My preferred method is to season with salt and pepper (fresh cracked, of course) and cook on a cast iron grill pan that has been lightly oiled, usually 6 minutes per side. Lately we’ve been on a bit of a budget crunch, though, so I may have to investigate marinades in order to make sure my steaks are always nice and tender. Tough, hard to chew steaks make me sad.

  8. Killer, definitive post. Determining the doneness of the steak is often difficult, and I’d suggest using “the thumb method.”

    The fleshy mound at the base of your thumb becomes firmer the more you flex it, which happens the further you bring it inwards, touching the tip of your thumb to the tip of the other fingers to create a ring.

    The elasticity of this area correlates with the doneness of the steak as follows:

    Relaxed hand (no ring): rare
    Ring with index finger: medium rare
    Ring with middle finger: medium
    Ring with ring finger: medium well
    Ring with pinkie: well

  9. What a coincidence–I just decided a coupel days ago that it was time to learn how to cook a steak so I read a bunch of stuff online and cooked it.
    Turned out great–it’s surprisingly easy if you just sear it in the pan and then finish it in the oven 🙂

  10. so which oil would you suggest to mix with butter to coat the steak?

    1. Hello! I’d like to echo this question. I understand that coconut oil is an option for pan frying a steak, but since my husband doesn’t like the taste, is there another kind of oil you would recommend>

      1. Well, considering the trick I outlined above to get a well done steak if you only have a poor cut (too lean and too thick), I’d guess that you could just adapt that: slice the cut even thinner than the way it comes, then fry it in unsalted butter. Since you’re trying to fry it and the water in the butter will send out droplets from bursting bubbles as it boils, it’s probably quicker, easier and safer to use clarified butter or ghee instead. Also, I’d guess that frying in beef tallow/lard would be a good match for flavour (like the butter, it comes from the same animal).

  11. A Tip.

    If you need to tenderize your meat put it in a plastic bag with some sliced fresh(not canned) kiwi or pineapple (not both) and let it rest for about 1 hour then its ready to be cooked.

    *Kiwi and Pineapple contains an enzyme that breaks down protein and tenderize hard and tough meat.

  12. Great post. But, we never find the need to finish the steak in the oven, just use a very hot cast-iron pan and a steak that’s at room temperature, dried and seasoned, appropriate fat in the pan or oil the steak or both, then time each side carefully (depends on the thickness). We both prefer medium-rare. Works great for us.

  13. Oh this is easy. I just cleaned the grill and now am ready to fire it up. Hmmmm what to do….

  14. Thanks so much for this post, Mark. My SO has ruined many a steak on the BBQ and has almost tossed the (new) BBQ out with the garbage in frustration. I’m going to send him the link to this post so he can be enlightened and encouraged to try once more. 🙂

  15. I used to be a Kitchen Manager for Outback Steakhouse. Ahhh grilling for a living.

  16. have always been a huge fan of steak and this was an excellent post.

    when i was working in a steakhouse and just learning to run the grill an old timer taught me this to teach me about doneness. found it worked well. press your finger gently on your these parts to correlate to how done your meat is:

    rare: your lips
    medium rare: your chin
    well done: your nose

  17. So hungry now! I have fallen of my primal waggon in the last week or so, however I’m so back on it tomorrow. Starting my primal fitness on Monday. I have a few fields full of cows right by my house, do you think the farmer might miss a few? Grok on cyber world.

  18. Mark (et al) what is your take on AGEs and nitrosamines? We hear a lot about how frying/caramelising meats can create these dangerous oxidising compounds. I also watched a TV show the other day that mentioned how frying vegetables at high heat can create acrylamide – a potent carcinogen.

    So if fried foods contain these dangerous compounds, why are they so tasty? For example, cook some beef in the slow cooker, or boil some sweet potatoes, then slather them in butter – tasty. But fry the meat and potatoes in the butter instead and its even tastier.

    Do you think we have somehow evolved to prefer fried foods for some reason, despite the apparently dangerous chemicals produced during high-temperature cooking? And anyone care to speculate what these benefits might be?

    1. Great question Stekie. I too would love to know more about this.

    2. Mark says to eat a big ass salad, some broccoli, or some other anti-oxidizing food with it.

  19. The butcher at whole foods turned me on to Borsari seasoning salt, it really takes steaks to the next level. They have a citrus version, that it great on chicken or salmon as well.

  20. Read “The Omnivore’s Dilema” and you’ll never want a piece of Kansas beef again. It’s a big slab of carcinogenic, corn fed, ruminant toxic waste.

    Grass fed or dead. That book ruined me whenever I see a piece of beef in the store.

  21. “Close your eyes and visualize standing in a field while looking at the side of a cow or steer.”

    Visualize a cow standing in it’s own manure…………..

    Sorry, just read the chapter in the book about Kansas cows, and eating Primal does not include eating a creature raised in it’s own feces.

  22. My husband “dries” our steaks on a rack in the fridge for at least 24 hours before either grilling them or pan seering then finishing them in the broiler. DELISH! Having ribeyes tonight! I love meat! ~Karyn

  23. We grill 5+ times a week. The other days we smoke or crockpot something.

    The best way we have found to cook a steak is directly on the coals of a campfire. Just like Grok would have done. It’s a bit of a process since it takes at 2-4 hours to get a halfway decent bed of coals. It depends on the type of wood you’re using. You need at least a 3″ thick bed and enough fresh coals to flip the steak on when you cook the other side.

    It takes a little practice.

    Here (desert southwest) it isn’t much fun to do in the summer when it’s 100F+ at 5pm so we only do this in the winter.

    If you cook directly on the campfire coals, make sure you rub the meat with a little fat first. Either trim a bit of fat off the steak and warm it up a bit and rub it on the meat, or use a little bit of olive oil. It will keep some of the ash from sticking. You’ll have to lightly brush it off anyway unless you don’t mind the added crunch!

    Save the steak bones for making meat stock from later on.

    1. Forgot to add

      * Use a good hardwood, not briquettes. We use well aged (dried for at least 2 years) eucalyptus. It has sweet smoke.

      * Don’t let anyone throw trash, particularly plastic, in the fire while you are building up the coals or when you’re cooking. Or, actually, at any time.

      * Use the longest tongs you can find to keep from getting burned.

  24. For a little added flavor to the charcoal grills toss on some large stems of fresh sage, rosemary or lemon balm just before putting the meat on. Lovely.

  25. This is perfect for me as I recently decided to take my cooking skills to another level. Starting with steak, perfect! What’s next?

  26. sear both sides til as brown as u like and then pressure cook it for however long dep on tenderness level.Byowtiful

  27. Trader Joe’s, at least here in San Diego, sells hardwood charcoal briquettes that contain only hardwood and cornstarch (used to shape the briquettes). I find them a nice compromise between the awesomeness of chunk hardwood charcoal (in which there is neither char, nor coal, hrm) and the convenience of brand-name briquettes, which contain too many additives (and coal).

  28. Anthony Bordain said the best thing you can do with a steak is to leave it the f*ck alone for at least 10 minutes after you finish cooking it. It really does make all the difference in the world.

    1. Let it sit for 10 minutes after cooking? I’m not sure it would make much difference for my steaks. I leave them out long enough to get to room temperature before cooking, and then I show them to the grill just long enough to scorch the outside. I don’t actually cook them more than about 1/8th of an inch into each side; just enough to kill the bacteria introduced by the butchering process. The interior of my steaks are essentially raw.

    2. Disregard ANYTHING Bourdain says. Five minutes is good enough rest time.

  29. Am I the only one concerned with sous vede cooking? I have been bringing my food in pyrex to warm up at work or years, because I am concerned of the chemicals that leach from plastic. I can’t imagine cooking my meat in a ziplock!

  30. One item missing in this discussion: What did the animal eat before it became your steak? If the animal ate grain, you are on the wrong end of the food chain. If the animal ate grass, it’s going to be a positive contributor to your diet with a better omega 3/omega 6 ratio as well as a better mix of fatty acids overall. Go grass-fed for your steaks, learn to cook them right. Better flavor and nutrition.

  31. There is now a common view, derived from the USA, that steaks cannot or should not be cooked well done. In fact, there are even some chefs who think that customers who ask for a well done steak have poor taste, and think they can get away with doing a shoddy job with the order!

    And, in fact, you usually cannot get a proper well done steak if you are using the sort of cuts that have developed under this tradition. But that is entirely self inflicted, since this tradition has led to cuts that are too thick and breeds of cow that are often too lean. It would work perfectly well if only you could get thinner cuts with more fat in the animal.

    However, all is not lost. There are ways to repair these defects even if you cannot get the right raw materials, at least partly. Chill the meat to make it easier to cut, then slice it horizontally with a very sharp knife while pressing down on it to steady it, being careful to cut away from yourself to avoid injury. Then, using a sharp knife, cut a few small pockets in the new, thinner cuts, and squeeze butter into them to replace the missing fat – preferably unsalted, but you can use salted or herb or garlic butter if it suits your taste. Allow the cuts to reach a suitable temperature (always being very careful not to let them stay at the wrong temperatures long enough for bacteria to build up), then cook them more and longer than you thought was practical (but not as long as it would take if they were still thick cuts), and you will get decent well done steaks. It can be done, and it’s worth it.

    1. Actually, I have quite the opposite problem. I ask for my steak medium-rare, and it always comes out medium-well to well. Restaurants and chefs are so afraid of being sued for food poisoning that they don’t even do what the customer wants.

      1. I appreciate your comment, but just wanted to weigh in on this. I have worked at steak restaurants that care very much about getting the customer’s request perfectly. It really comes down to the chef knowledge and experience. I also now handle claims concerning food borne illness and typically there is a warning on the menu about consuming raw foods which can put responsibility back on the consumer.

    2. I second that. A well done steak doesn’t have to mean cooked to leather and a good one is a treat. I find searing 4 minutes a side in a hot pan and then finish in a LOW oven (~90C) for 5-10 minutes works well.

  32. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to how long it takes for the steak to reach a temp of 100-110 in the second example (reverse sear)?

  33. Sounds good, except when the animal fat drips into the open fire it releases Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, one of the most potent carcinogens known. Stick to cast iron.

  34. I eat most of my beef raw–I like the taste that way, and the fat and protein is intact. I actually like chewy meat. Otherwise, I just sear it on the outside.

  35. Three comments:

    1. I *love* the pan-and-oven method, but it REALLY creates a big mess. There’s a profusive amount of fatty smoke that tends to film over your whole kitchen, and make sure you disable smoke detectors!

    As a compromise, I will do the same thing outside on my gas grill with a side burner, using the grill as the oven. This works fairly well; the result is not quite as good, but there is less mess. Only problem I’ve found is that the outside burner really does a number on my cast-iron skillet – it burns the fat coating on the outside so its covered in a soot layer for a long time.

    I usually just settle for grill-only now, but maybe someone else has solved these issues?

    2. Mark didn’t mention it, and we all love fat around here, but for steaks you unfortunately must trim any large pieces of outer fat off. It will melt, the melt will catch on fire, the fire will ignite your meat, and you will be eating a cinder. I lost a really wonderful tri-tip this way.

    3. Put a dollop of butter on when you transfer the steak to the low-temp side! Yum!

  36. Grass fed cow.

    Both sources I have now are private, in Michigan.

    Check with your local farmers market, ask around. On another national forum there are many who are aware of the health benefits of grass fed animals.

    Grain fed produce higher Omega 6
    Grass fed animals produce higher Omega 3

    I likened a batch we recently ate to shasimi (raw fish Japanese style) in its flavorful delicacy and afterglow. Yum.

    I found cheese and butter from pasture feed (grass) cows at Zingermans deli. I think they are online. Not sure about beef from them.

    Man is an animal so I starting abstaining from grains 3 years ago. Now I discover the Primal Diet.

    Great taste and good health; a great combo.

  37. My husband tells me I am a great cook, but I know that steaks are something I have not mastered. I am always afraid of ruining an expensive cut of meat…but not now! I can’t wait to try all of these methods!

  38. I used to love to use the fond from pan frying a steak for a pan sauce, but haven’t tried it since going Primal. Anyone have a good Primal pan sauce recipe?

  39. I have a great cheating method for testing how done a steak is.

    Step 1. Open up one of your hands and feel the fleshy part of your thumb.

    Step 2. Now, touch your thumb to your index finger. Feel the meaty part of your thumb? That is roughly ‘medium rare’.

    Thumb-middle finger: medium
    Thumb-ring finger: medium well
    Thumb-pinky: welldone (or just burn it).

    No need for fancy thermometers…

  40. The best meat cooking tool you will buy is a digital thermometer. Cook your meat to exactly 125F and remove from the heat source – perfect every time.

  41. Ok,,,,,,,, 3 things,,,,,,
    1. putting meat on a hot grill makes it stick to grill.
    2. letting your meat sit to room temp, is a no no, bacteria likes that.
    3. letting meat cool down after cooking makes steve a cold steak eater, and he doesn’t like to eat a cold steak just after being cooked. altho you should let it rest abit ,but not too long.
    4. gas grills suck. i know, i know,, that’s 4,,, just had to throw in. enjoy

    1. 1. Not if you oil it…

      2. Letting your meat sit for a few minutes at room temperature is NOT going to allow any appreciable amount of bacteria growth–restaurants do it all the time.

      The others are all right I guess 😉

  42. What cooking oil do you advise for cooking on a BBQ? My dad wants to use Canola or Rice bran oil but I understand those oils are very processed and Olive oil shouldn’t be used at high temperatures.

    1. Don’t. Instead, use butter, preferably unsalted. If it absolutely has to be in liquid form, use ghee (Indian clarified butter) or similar – but sparingly, as it is highly concentrated. See my earlier comment about steak in particular.

  43. Great post! I’ve never had a problem grilling or even slow smoking meat but I was curious as to the best way to cook a steak inside. The stove-top sear in a cast iron pan, then finishing it in the oven at 475 produced a unbelievable steak. The carmelization was even better after a 24 hour marination! Thanks for the advice!

  44. I remove my 1-1/2″ to 2″ steak from the frig one hour before starting the cooking process. I place them on a elavated wire rack on the counter. I then salt the entire steak with kosher salt, I use diamond crystal because the salt crystals are more consistantly the same size.
    While the steaks are resting and coming up to room temperature on the wire rack, I start preheating the oven to 350 degrees I place a oven proof 10″ stainless steel skillet in the oven and let it preheat. After the steaks have rested for app. 55 minutes, I place the elevated wire rack with the steaks on them, into the 350 degree preheated oven, and allow to warm up for 5 to 7 minutes, at 350 degrees the marbleing fat and protine in the steak starts breaking down causing juices to be released inside the steak that will further add to the tenderness. I then remove the rack from the oven and return to the counter top.
    Next I pat dry the entire steak surfaces and apply a medium thick coat of Avacado oil to all surfaces of the steak. ( note Avocado oil has a smoke point of 500 degrees its great for searing,and produces a perfectly crisp and brown fond on the steak surfaces and in the pan for making your pan sauce )
    Next remove the preheated stainless steel skillet from the oven and place on the stove top over medium high heat. Next using fresh cracked black pepper apply the amount you prefer then place the steak peppered side down, into the center of the skillet and do not move it for 3 to 4 minutes
    ( while the steak is searing apply pepper to the top surface) then when the steak moves freely, flip the steak over and allow to sear for 3 to 4 minutes more.
    Then using thongs remove the steak from the skillet and return to the wire rack on the counter. Let the steak rest for 15 to 20 minutes, while the steak is resting, increase the temperature of the oven to 465 degrees and let it preheat to that temperature.
    Once the oven reaches 465 degrees, place the steak into the same skillet it was seared in, pour a medium coating of melted butter over the top surface if the steak and then place the skillet into the oven, center of the center shelf.Set the timer for 9 minutes, when the timer reads 7 minutes reduce the temperature to 440 degrees when the timer reaches 5 minutes reduce the temperature to 420 degrees when the timer reaches 2 minutes shut the oven off, and allow the steak to finish out the timer. Then remove the skillet from the oven and place the steak on the elevated wire rack, and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Using a instant read thermometer inset into the thickest part of the steak. It should read app. 140 to 145 degrees.
    This internal temperature will finish the steak while resting. During the final 20 minute resting of the steak place a oven proof plater into the oven and warm. Also using the same uncleaned skillet from the cooking processes create your pan sauce ( if you are having one) be sure to scrape the brown fond from the bottom surfaces of the skillet, this will add amazing flavor to your pan sauce.
    Once the resting is completed, place the steak on the warmed platter, and drizzle the Pan sauce over the top of the steak, slice and serve.

  45. I don’t understand how this guy left out skirt steak it’s like the most delicious cut of meat ever!!!

  46. hey mark, great articles. one question in one of your articles you state that lard and even coconut oils some point is around 350. but then in several recipes you say to put the oven as high as 450? im just a little confused, wont this cause the oil to burn, creating unhealthy oil. could i cook at says 350 instead and add time? thanks mark

  47. Mmmm delicious! Thank you so much for the tips my steaks always end up dry or not dark enough on the outside. I definitely favour the first method now searing the outside first then heating in the oven sounds perfect. The second option just seems a little complicated. But thanks will be using your recepie tonite for sure.

  48. You Paleo people are the Kardashians of the fitness world; you’re so ridiculous and faddish. First of all, meat purchased from the supermarket is toxic. Not only does the trauma of farm factory slaughterhouses turn the meat into cortisol/rigor mortis impacted garbage, the animals are pumped full of antibiotics, hormones, and God only knows what else. Yeah, that sure is healthy. Morons.

  49. Thank you for this very informative site! I hope you don’t mind that I shared it on FB. Looking forward to cooking my Spencer steaks tonight!

  50. Allowing the steak to come to room temperature is a myth. Google food lab room temperature steak.

  51. Wanted to Thank You for teaching me the difference in charcoals. Hardwood charcoal is the way to go. I finally found what I have been missing in my BBQ’s. Just made the best steak dinner ever Thanks!!!!!

  52. I love sous vide and reverse sear. My new favorite, as sacrilegious as it may sound, is the smoker. Throw the temperature probe in, smoke it at high smoke (225) until it hits a bit below your desired temp (say, 125), then take a torch to it or throw in a cast iron pan to sear it. Salt, pepper, smoke, and maillard are all you need.

  53. I have been using a different sort of reverse sear…. I cook chops or steaks low and slow, on the stovetop, with a dab of water. When the meat is just barely rare, I take it out of the pan, and put it on a dish. I turn up the heat and let the pan heat until the juices brown, then throw the chops/steaks back in and swirl them around to pick up the caramelized juices. You end up with a juicy, rare, chunk of meat, with the lovely flavor of a sear, without the dry crust! I love it!