How to Cook Tender Steaks

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Start with a well-marbled, pink cut of meat.
Start with a well-marbled, pink cut of meat. (Image: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images)

Steaks will naturally vary in tenderness, depending on the type of cut you choose. According to the USDA's grading system, a Prime cut is practically guaranteed to be tender, a Choice cut depends on the cooking method and a Select cut will most likely be the least tender cut. However, there are basic cooking techniques that, if executed correctly, will result in a tender steak no matter the cut. The main steps to remember are: room temperature, dry, cook, rest and season.

Things You'll Need

  • Steak
  • Paper towels
  • Sharp knife
  • Seasoning
  • Marinades
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • Heavy-bottomed metal pan
  • Heat-proof tongs
  • Oven
  • Oven mitt
  • Aluminum foil
  • Grill
  • Meat thermometer

Basic Preparation

Remove the steak from refrigerator. Let it rest at room temperature for an hour.

Pat steak completely dry with paper towels.

Score any fat around the edges of the steak to prevent curling. Do not cut into the meat.

Apply any seasonings or marinades to the steak before cooking. Do not apply salt to the steak until right before it is served.

Salt Curing Preparation

Remove steak from the refrigerator.

Cover both sides of the steak with kosher salt.

Let the steak rest an hour (less for thinner steaks).

Rinse salt off both sides of the steak and pat it completely dry with paper towels.

Cook the steak with pan broil method or on the grill (see Sections 3 or 4).

Pan Broil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat a heavy all-metal pan on the stove top on medium-high heat for three to five minutes until a drop of water beads and moves across the surface of the pan.

Brush olive oil on both sides of the dry steak. Place the steak to one side of the pan. Cook it for 45 seconds.

Use tongs to turn the steak over to the other side of the pan. Cook it an additional 20 seconds, then reduce heat to medium and cook the steak for 30 seconds more. Flip the steak to the first side and place the whole pan on the center rack in the oven.

Let the steak cook two minutes. Flip the steak and cook for an additional three minutes.

Use a meat thermometer to gauge the temperature of the steak. Make sure it's at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit (for a rare steak). Remove pan from the oven using an oven mitt. Remove the steak from the pan, cover with aluminum foil and let it rest for 15 minutes. Season the steak with salt and serve.

Grill

Heat the grill to medium-high.

Brush olive oil on both sides of the dry steak. Place the steak onto the grill.

Let the steak cook three to four minutes. Flip the steak and grill an additional three to four minutes until it is done.

Use a meat thermometer to gauge the temperature of the steak. Do not serve if the internal temperature is less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove the steak from the grill and let it rest for 15 minutes. Season the steak with salt and serve.

Tips & Warnings

  • Choose Prime beef steaks that have a firm texture and feel with a light red color and fine lines of fat marbling.
  • Choice and Select beef steaks will become tender with the salt-curing method.
  • Cook the steak to 120 degrees Fahrenheit for rare, 125 for medium-rare, and 130 for medium.
  • If the steak is within 5 degrees of being done, it will raise to full temperature while it rests for 15 minutes.
  • Do not serve if the internal temperature is less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

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