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2023-07-09 14:13:18

Steak 101 - How to choose a steak and cook it in a pan (no thermometer)

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Here's everything I wish I had known when I first started trying to cook steak .

This is a basic primer on how to choose and cook a steak in a pan to medium rare or thereabouts by using your senses .

Not a thermometer , don't be expecting anything unusual .

This is the 100 level course .

There are three cuts that I would consider the best entry level steaks , the rib eye , the strip and the tenderloin .

Yes .

These are American butchery terms .

That's where I am .

That's what I know .

That's what I can get at the store .

But other countries do cut their meat differently .

All three of these cuts come from the back of the cow , which on a quadruped is the area of the body that does the least work .

Therefore , these are the most tender cuts .

Here's my favorite of the tender cuts , the rib eye that comes from the section of the cow , we call the rib in the US and it actually has at least two muscles in it .

The Longus Dorsey , that's the main body of the meat .

There also called the eye .

And around the edge is the spinalis Dorsey also called the cap .

That is my favorite of my favorite .

Some people are put off by that big line of fat that runs between the two muscles .

But I'll show you a way of dealing with that .

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Beginners are often drawn to this one .

The strips stick New York strip .

It's sometimes called Brits .

Call it a sirloin .

It's also the longus muscle , but it comes from farther down in what American butchers call the short line .

It's appealing because it's mostly all one muscle .

It doesn't seem to have any big bands of fat or connective tissue running through it and it's an even size and shape , cook it if you want to , but it is not my favorite .

It's a little boring and often has some connective tissue hiding inside underneath the strip stake on the cow is a T shaped bone .

And underneath that is this muscle .

The tenderloin also called the filet .

It's the so major muscle there .

You can see it running right underneath the strip stakes .

And the thing that we call sirloin in the US Brits call that the rump .

That's a good steak too , not as tender , but nothing is as tender as the tenderloin .

This muscle does almost nothing on a quadruped so it's insanely soft .

It's also therefore generally the most expensive cut on the cow .

These are all pretty pricey cuts , but they're expensive for a reason .

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They're from the middle of the animal's back , which means they're very tender which means they're very easy to cook successfully .

That's as opposed to say , this flank steak , which comes from the belly of the cow .

Arguably it's not even a steak at all .

Look back at the rib eye , see those lines running up and down the side .

That is the grain of the meat .

The actual muscle fibers running parallel to each other .

The narrow definition of steak is a relatively thin piece of meat cut across the grains that you have very short .

Muscle fibers running up and down instead of long ones running across , cutting the fibers short is one way to tenderize meat .

That's what makes a salmon steak different from a salmon filet .

See on the latter there , the muscle fibers are running across instead of up and down .

So they're longer not a big deal with salmon because salmon is so tender .

But on beef , it matters .

The flank is so thin that you can only cut it into a steak with the grain .

So you have these very long muscle fibers running side to side , not up and down .

It's inevitably chewy unless you slice it very thinly against the grain after it's cooked .

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That's just one example of how things get more complicated once you graduate beyond the expensive tender cuts that we're talking about today .

Now say you choose rib eye , good choice .

What kind of rib eye ?

There's a million options .

Here's three .

This is choice beef , probably the most common grade of beef sold as steaks in us grocery stores .

It's fine but much more rare and much more expensive is prime beef .

This is beef that has a lot more marbling .

Marbling is fat , not these big blubbery chunks of fat sitting between the Mussels .

It's these little flecks of fat inside the Mussels themselves .

This is the stuff that's gonna melt when cooked and fill the meat with moisture and flavor .

Here's a grass fed rib eye .

This cow grazed on grass instead of being fed corn , grass is a much lower calorie food .

So the beef usually won't have as much marbling .

This is probably healthier for you and arguably better for the environment .

That's a surprisingly complicated issue though .

And it's not quite clear .

But anyway , those are probably the three most common beef types here in the US , dry aged grass , finished grain finished .

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I'd consider those all distinctions to be discussed another day .

Like I said , we're gonna cook this one in the house on the stove , in a pan .

What pan ?

A lot of people consider a cast iron pan to be the ideal choice and they might be right .

It's naturally somewhat nonstick and it's very heavy .

So it's good at holding and evenly conducting the very high heat that we generally use to cook steak .

A thinner pan would be more likely to swing up and down in temperature and have hot spots .

I would not advise a teflon non-stick pan for steak at the temperatures at which people see your steak .

It is possible for the nonstick coating to break down and release some harmful gas .

This is a mid priced stainless steel pan .

It's not as heavy as the iron pan , but it's got a solid base on it .

I think it'll do fine time to get it .

Heating .

Fun story .

When I was first learning to cook from chefs on TV , they told me to crank my burner to maximum and let the pan heat for like 20 minutes .

I did that .

Then I put in a little oil and it immediately burst into flames .

Fact is professional chefs generally work on gas stoves .

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But the electric stoves like a lot of Americans have at home can often put out more heat than a gas stove .

I think that's an example of how chefs aren't necessarily the best people to teach home cooking with my pan in my stove .

I found that the high side of medium high is best , but you'll simply have to experiment .

I'll let that heat for a few minutes .

Here's one of the strips sticks right out of the fridge , blotting it dry , can help a little with getting a better crust on it .

Some of the world's greatest chefs say you got to take it out 20 or 30 minutes in advance and let it come up to room temperature before cooking .

There's a lot of reason to doubt the efficacy of that .

But I'm gonna sidestep that whole debate and simply say that you absolutely can cook a great steak straight out of the fridge and it's the easier thing to do .

So , we're doing it .

I'm seasoning conventionally right before cooking dry brining is a topic for another day , salt and pepper on both sides .

If you don't know how much you like , be conservative , you can add more at the table and it works either way .

But I actually like to oil the steak rather than the pan just a little and smoosh everything around .

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I think this results in less oil burning and smoking on the uncovered surface of the pan .

Yes , I'm using extra virgin olive oil .

Contrary to popular belief , you absolutely can use it at very high heat .

I have a whole video explaining why I linked in the description but use whatever oil you want .

Avocado oil is good for steak .

Hey , why do you have to cook steaks at a very high heat ?

What would happen if you just did it on like medium ?

Well , let me show you layer in here and wait until the first side is browned .

Decent crust on that crust formation is absolutely a function of both temperature and time .

You can get nice browning on a lower heat for a longer time .

But now I can tell this is already almost done inside and the bottom crust is yikes palate .

Take that out .

Look inside and yeah , that's actually overcooked for my taste .

That's medium .

And when you taste it , it tastes like beef , but it doesn't taste like steak .

You have to blast steak with very intense heat to get those crusty brown flavors on the outside before the inside gets overcooked .

That's in contrast to say a chicken breast .

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You got lots of time to brown the outside because you want chicken cooked all the way through .

If you want your steak still pink on the inside , you gotta brown the crust fast .

So in this goes on the high side of medium high , it's good to pat it down to make sure the whole surface is making contact .

Now , pretty soon this is gonna make some smoke .

Does that mean you can't cook a good steak in a pan if you live in an apartment building with poor ventilation and a sensitive smoke detector .

Yeah , maybe not .

Honestly though , if you do see a ton of smoke , you really might be burning it .

So you can simply take it off the heat for a sec .

The conventional route now would be to wait until the first side has a good crust on it .

And if it does , it should pretty easily release from the surface of the pan .

When you flip , you can see , I actually did burn it just a little bit there on the edge , not a big deal but better avoided .

Now we wait until we get a crust on the other side and we test for internal doneness by poking it .

People swear by this nonsense where if you want medium rare , it should feel like poking your hand here .

And if you want it medium , it should feel like here or something .

I'm sorry .

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That's all crazy talk because everybody's hand is different and every steak is different .

The more tender cuts will feel softer , the fattier cuts will feel softer , dry , aged beef would feel firmer .

Every steak is different .

So I think the better thing is to compare the steak to itself .

Poke it when you know it's still raw on the inside .

That's your baseline reading for that particular steak .

Then you wait until you can feel the inside going a little firmer when it's raw inside , it'll feel squishy when it's going on .

Medium rare .

It'll start to feel bouncier .

A good visual clue is to look for pink juice pushing up to the surface of the steak on the top or on the sides , that's not blood .

It's just protein rich water from inside the steak .

And it generally doesn't start pushing out like that until you're at least at rare .

This feels bouncier to me over here , but over here it's still a little squishy steaks aren't evenly shaped and it's not always possible to cook them evenly throughout using conventional techniques .

I'd much rather have a slightly underdone spot than an overdone spot .

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So for me , this is done that took six minutes , we'll let this rest on the cutting board for a few minutes because it is still cooking .

If we cut into it immediately , it might still be raw in the center .

But carryover cooking is when heat from the still very hot surface continues to conduct into the center .

It will also spill less juice .

If it's rested a bit .

Now I'll cut right into this at the thickest part and you can see it's actually more like rare in there .

But if I cut elsewhere on the steak , it's medium rare .

That's the situation I'd much rather have .

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Don't laugh .

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Look it up full tang .

The blade itself is more Asian style which I love .

It has a pretty narrow cutting edge .

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It's made of Japanese steel and it's crazy sharp right out of the box .

Look at that paper , thin slice of tomato and nice clean slices on the stick your whole life in the kitchen becomes way easier once you get a good chef's knife and you can have this one for 20% off .

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That link is in the description .

Thank you .

Now let me season one of these rib eyes , by the way , I like to season the first side of the steak and then season the area of the plate next to the steak , put on a little oil , rub it in , then lift the steak onto the seasoned plate to season the other side .

This way , I only have to wash my hands once in the process instead of twice hot pan .

And this time I'm gonna do the more new thing of flipping the steak every 32nd seconds or so .

If you have the time to mother your steak , I really believe in this method .

It might not look like it now , but it does result in a great crust .

You'll see it build .

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I think flipping frequently is better for beginners because you can see exactly what's going on .

You're not going to be surprised by any burn spots .

You'll see them coming .

Got a poke .

Now , while I know the inside is still raw to get my baseline reading , feel squishy flipping every 30 seconds generally cooks the interior a bit more evenly and it cooks the whole thing faster .

This one took less than five minutes .

I see pink juice starting to push out when I poke it .

It feels noticeably bouncier than before .

It's in the vicinity of medium rare .

Why don't I just use a thermometer in general ?

I prefer cooking with my senses .

It's like playing music from memory instead of off the page .

I think it's also hard to take the temperature of something as thin as a steak , especially if you have a cheap thermometer , you can get some crazy inconsistent readings depending on exactly where you position the thermometer .

I really think going by eye and feel is easier and more enjoyable .

Even if it's not perfect , that's a hair more rare than what I was shooting for .

But I honestly think a secret to home cooking is to relax your expectations a bit .

You don't have a paying customer to please .

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You don't have to nail it .

Steak is good at many levels of doneness .

You might have this idea in your head that you need to cut this against the grain .

But here's the thing , it was already cut against the grain because this is a steak in the narrow definition of the term , the only way to get the meat fibers any shorter would be to slice on an extreme bias or at an angle doing this , we could at most cut the muscle fibers in half , which isn't gonna do much for tenderness .

That's not a thing I worry about when I'm cooking one of these tender cuts , they're already cut against the grain .

If you don't like those big fat globs between the eye and the cap , what I often do is cut the cap off and then shave off the fat .

I love fat but marbled fat , not blobs of un rendered blubber .

Plus there's connective tissue in there too white , hard bands of tissue that do not soften when cooking man .

Those bites of the cap are so good .

Ok .

Now let's talk about the filet .

Notice how it's cut twice as thick as the other steaks .

That's traditional for tenderloin .

Probably because they're so narrow .

You could simply cut it into two thinner steaks .

And I do that sometimes because here's a counterintuitive truth of cooking steak .

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The thicker the steak is the lower the temperature you have to use .

These approximately one inch or two centimeters are the perfect thickness , I think because you can easily brown the outside without over or undercooking the inside .

If you had a much thinner steak , you'd have to hit it with the highest heat you've got in order to have a prayer of browning the outside before the inside got overcooked with a very thick steak like this .

The opposite is true .

You have to go slowly or else the outside will be toast before the inside is done .

And for that reason , thick steaks might be more viable in a poorly ventilated apartment .

I'm just putting this on medium heat and I'm gonna flip it every 30 seconds or so until I like the crust .

Take my baseline poke that is so soft .

After a good four minutes of flipping my crust is almost done , but the inside is still clearly raw .

Some people would finish the steak in the oven at this point .

I think that's a great option if your oven is already hot , but I'm gonna turn the heat down a little more .

Put a big knob of butter in there and use it to baste the steak .

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This tastes amazing and it'll help me keep all sides cooking as if it was in the oven .

About eight minutes after I put in the butter , I can feel it's bouncier than it started .

Still very soft though because it's tenderloin .

That's why we're comparing its feel to itself from before as opposed to something fixed .

Like my hand , my wife is going to eat this one and she likes it closer to medium .

So I'll let it cook for a minute or two longer after I feel the inside is starting to firm , let it rest .

And that doesn't have a ton of beef flavor , but it is super soft , very appealing texture .

For our last example , I will say that I think steak cooked in a pan is best when you use the following flavorings .

A few garlic cloves crushed with the side of the knife to open up their structure .

If the skin doesn't have any mold or anything on it , you don't even have to bother taking it off a woody herb like thyme or rosemary and some butter .

Ideally cultured butter , slightly fermented butter that tastes great on steak .

I've got my prime rib eye here and I'm deliberately under seasoning it a little bit so that I can put some finishing salt on at the end , put that in the pan flip every 30 seconds or so .

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And when I feel like I'm about a minute away from being done , I'll put in my garlic herbs and butter .

The garlic and thyme flavor the butter , which then flavors the steak rather than basting with a spoon , you can't just keep flipping the steak , that'll coat it nicely .

You do this at the end because the butter would burn if you put it in earlier and if things seem like they're gonna burn , nonetheless , turn off the heat and let the state coast for the last mile , it feels bouncy instead of squishy .

I see juice pushing to the surface .

I'll pull that out and pour some of that flavored butter on top .

So good .

Why is medium rare ?

Often considered the best doneness ?

Well , at that temperature , the marbling inside has melted but it has not yet all left the steak .

It's still in there .

In liquid form .

Rare , steak can feel a little slimy on the inside in part because the fat hasn't rendered done steak tends to be dry and cooking meat .

Beyond pink really changes its flavor , but it's your steak and you should cook it .

However you like it .

I like to put some super crunchy finishing salt on at the end .

This is volcanic sea salt .

I just think it looks awesome .

And yes , unless company is over .

I like to eat right off the cutting board .

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The pieces .

Just sit there soaking up all that delicious juice and butter and it'll stay warm there longer .

You transfer it to a cold plate .

It'll go cold immediately though .

You can warm plates .

I have a whole video about that in the description .

But anyway , good luck if you want to do this , I suggest looking out for a sale on some steakss , buy a bunch and just cook them one after the other for yourself and no one else as soon as you've had a bit of tactile experience cooking steak , it simply becomes one of the easiest and quickest meals to make .

Oh , and if you're wondering why didn't he cover reverse searing or all kinds of other things ?

Remember ?

This is just the 101 class .

I'll see you in the 201 .


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