Steaks do best with high, direct heat, as with pan-searing or grilling, but with proper prep and techniques, you can bake them successfully. To offset slower, indirect oven cooking that tends to dry steaks out, start with a tenderizing marinade for a melt-in-your-mouth finished product. Also, don't make the common mistake of salting your beef too close to cooking time, or you'll end up with a drier, tougher meal.
Many people think of marinades as tenderizers, but most merely impart flavor. Some dairy products, however, do tenderize beef, and they lack the acidity of other tenderizers that can make meat mushy. Before baking, marinate a steak in milk, buttermilk or plain yogurt. Add seasonings, if you like, such as salt, pepper, rosemary, chili pepper powder or paprika. Soak a 1-inch thick steak for about 2 to 8 hours in the fridge. Keep it toward the shorter end for naturally tender cuts, like those from the loin, and go longer for tougher cuts, like those from the round or chuck.
Take the steak out of the marinade 1 to 2 hours before cooking and blot it dry thoroughly with paper towels. Pat plenty of sea salt or coarse kosher salt over all its surface area; large-grained salts are most effective for drawing out and seasoning the meat's moisture. Because you've salted this far in advance, the meat has enough time to reabsorb this moisture. Leave the steak out at room temperature for the 1 to 2 hours until you cook it, as it cooks more efficiently and evenly if it isn't too cold when it goes into the oven. The less time in the oven, the more tender and juicy it turns out.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about the last 15 to 20 minutes before cooking. High heat is appropriate for developing a nice crusty bite on the outside of the steak while protecting the quality of the inner meat. If you want to season the steak with peppercorns, thyme, rosemary or any other ingredients, pat them on to taste. Cover a rimmed baking tray with a piece of aluminum foil and give it a light coating of nonstick spray or cooking oil. Center the steak on the baking tray; if you're making more than one, leave a little space between them.
Put the beef into the middle of the oven. Baking times depend on a number of things, such as the desired doneness, the steak cut and thickness and the oven's performance. The USDA advises cooking steaks to an internal temperature of 145 F, which is medium. Don't cook it any further, or it won't melt in your mouth. For even more succulent results, you might opt to cook it to rare -- 125 F -- or medium-rare -- 135 F. Use a meat thermometer. For a rough guide, a 1-inch thick steak should generally bake for around 12 to 14 minutes to hit medium. Rest a steak for 5 minutes before cutting into it to preserve its inner moisture.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Beef from Farm to Table
- Fine Cooking: Marinades Add Flavor But Don't Always Tenderize
- Serious Eats: The Food Lab's Complete Guide to Pan-Seared Steaks
- Lobel's: Lobel's Guide to Cooking the Perfect Steak
- Woman's Day: Janey's Baked Steak
- What's Cooking America: Internal Temperature Cooking Chart
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