It sounds so simple, yet doing it right can be so elusive. Learning how to cook the perfect steak is akin to mastering how to clean everything in your kitchen. It’s one of those things adults just somehow know how to do. Before you think about what to rub on your steak, you first need to know how to cook it. Here’s the scoop.

Step 1: Select The Perfect Steak

There a lot of different cuts out there when it comes to steak. There’s ribeye, there’s flank steak, filet minon, and even something called butt steak. What you look for in a perfect steak will vary by what kind of cut you need, but here are some general rules.

First, take a look at the steak’s marbling. Marbling is basically layers of fat, and the right amount will make a steak tender, flavorful, and not too tough. You’ll want to look for a long, white layer of fat along the edge of the steak, and some tinier thin ones interspersed throughout. Avoid cuts that don’t contain that white strip, have a yellowish tint, or in which there are large chunks of fat within the flesh.

Next, take a look at the color of the meat. Brown tones tend to be found in dairy cows, so look for a steak that’s pinkish in appearance.

Step 2: Get Your Pan or Grill Hot

All celebrity chefs agree that if you’re pan-searing or grilling a steak, it pays to heat the cooking apparatus up long before placing the steak on it. This will help ensure that the steak cooks evenly, so that no edges become overcooked (and therefore tough) in the process. You can either turn your grill on and wait for it to get hot (if you’re grilling) or put a seasoned cast-iron skillet in the oven at 500 degrees to get it hot.

Step 3: Use Butter

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay recommends basting the steak with butter, while Pioneer Woman suggests coating your grill with butter prior to cooking. Either way, use butter.

Step 4: Grill or Sear

If you’re grilling, now’s the time to put your steak on. The grill is already hot, so you should hear some sizzling right away when you put the meat on the grill. Press it down slightly so as to leave some char marks.

If you’re searing the steak, you’ll do essentially the same thing. Take the pan out of the oven, place it over a flame, and put your steak right in it.

Step 5: Cook It Right

Keep in mind that most seasoned chefs agree that medium-rare or rare is the best way to eat steak. But if that freaks you out, you can cook your steak all the way until it’s well done. Just take care to cook it evenly and not too much. Four to five minutes per side is generally the recommended length of time, but this will vary depending on your level of heat and the thickness.

Other Tips

Last but not least, some words of helpful advice:

  • Bring your steak to room temperature before cooking (as in, take it out of the fridge about an hour before you’re going to cook it). This will help ensure that your steak cooks evenly.
  • If you’re interested in marinating your steak, find a good recipe and allow enough time for it to marinate for at least eight hours.
  • If you’re heating up a pan in the oven prior to cooking, wear an oven mitt when taking it out!
  • Serve with horseradish for a classic steak combo.

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(Photo via Terje Sollie/Pexels)