When all you're making is a single steak, dragging out the grill seems like a lot of bother. So does heating up the broiler in your oven, which uses a whole lot of electricity and leaves the whole house sweltering. The easy answer is to use your toaster oven for the job. It's the perfect size when you're cooking for one; it uses minimal electricity, and it won't heat up your kitchen.
Choosing the Steak
Broiling and grilling are very similar cooking methods, so look for "grilling" steaks at the meat counter. These include premium ribeyes, T-bones and strip-loins; flavorful top sirloin; and newer cuts including flat-iron steak and "chuck eye." Avoid anything that calls for marinating or slow cooking on its label, because those are too tough for quick broiling. For your first attempt, choose a thick-cut steak. Most toaster ovens have relatively low-powered broiler elements, so thin steaks often don't have time to brown before they're fully cooked.
Marinades can affect how a steak cooks, so don't use any the first time you broil a steak in your toaster.
Salt the steak 45 minutes to 1 hour ahead of time, so the salt has time to absorb into the meat.
Line the toaster's broiling pan with foil, to make cleanup easier. Parchment paper will burn under the broiler's heat, so don't use it. Set your toaster oven to Broil, and let it warm for at least 10 minutes.
Open the door, and place your steak in the center of the broiling pan with a pair of tongs.
Broil the steak for 7 to 10 minutes per side, or until it reaches your desired degree of doneness when tested with an instant-read thermometer. Use the thermometer if you have it, because cooking times vary depending on the cut.
Some manufacturers specifically warn against using foil in their toaster ovens. Check your user's manual to be certain.
A Word About Doneness
Everybody has a personal preference for doneness, from barely rare to well done. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a minimum temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit for food safety reasons -- or medium. Most diners find medium-rare, or 130 to 135 F, is optimal for steaks, so this is a question for each diner to decide. The USDA's guidelines are deliberately conservative, and would also rule out -- for example -- any egg with a soft yolk.
The elements in your toaster oven are much closer to the food than they would be in a regular oven. This means there's a greater chance of fat spattering onto the burner and making lots of smoke, or perhaps even igniting. Keep the windows open when you broil, to keep smoke to a minimum. Keep an eye on your steak as it broils, and don't leave the room in case it should catch fire. If a fire does start, turn off the toaster and leave the door closed until it goes out on its own. If you take it out of the toaster you run the risk of burning yourself or spreading the fire, and trying to douse the flames will ruin your steak.