A good steak is a beautiful thing. When you know how to cook steak and have a few easy recipes on hand, you can easily recreate steakhouse menus over-and-over again.
What is Steak?
A steak is basically a slice of meat. It’s often times beef, but it can also be fish, pork, bison, or other grazing animals.
What’s the difference between a steak and a roast?
You may have noticed that some steak names are very similar to roast names. For example, a Prime Rib Roast and a Ribeye steak. As the name implies, both of these cuts come from the same primal cut of beef (Rib). If you slice the meat into individual slices, you have a roast. If you keep it larger, it’s a roast.
When trying to determine the difference between a steak and roast and learning how to cook steak, you can also think about how the meat will be cooked (in addition to looking at the size – individual slices or larger cut of beef). A steak is fast-cooking and a roast is slow-roasting.
What part of the animal does steak come from?
We talk a lot about beef cuts on our site. As a basic overview, the USDA divides a cow into eight regions. They are called the primal cuts, or the main cuts.
- Loin (short loin and sirloin)
- Short Plate
Steaks come from a variety of areas. The Ribeye Steak comes from the rib section. The Strip and Tenderloin Steaks comes from the loin section. The Sirloin Steak comes from the sirloin steak. The Flank and Skirt Steak come from the flank section. Just to name a few.
Why are some steaks more tender than others?
Since meat is a muscle, the tenderness of a steak is related to how much work the muscle does. A good rule of thumb to remember is that beef gets more tender as the distance from horn and hoof increases.
Since a cow is constantly using its legs and neck, those muscles are more developed and a steak from those areas will be less tender.
If you want a tender steak, you need to pick a steak from the loin section since that’s the center of the animal and those muscles don’t work as much as others.
Why are some steaks more flavorful than others?
A steak’s flavor all comes down to the marbling (the amount of fat interspersed with lean meat). The ribeye is the most marbled cut, and it’s also the most flavorful.
What’s the difference between Prime, Choice and Select?
The USDA grades beef with quality grades for tenderness and flavor, and a yield grade for the amount of usable lean meat. The three beef grades most consumers are familiar with are Prime, Choice and Select.
Prime beef has abundant marbling, and is the grade of beef you usually find in higher-end steakhouses. Choice is high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. Select beef has less marbling, which means it has less flavor than higher grades.
The greater the amount of marbling (white flecks of fat within the meat), the higher the grade of beef because marbling makes beef more tender and flavorful.
What’s the best cut of steak?
Most people pick their favorite cut based on a specific characteristic of the steak – such as a steak’s tenderness, juiciness, flavor and leanness. If you only care about leanness, you’ll probably want a sirloin steak. If you and your taste buds want a juicy steak that’s full of flavor, you will want a ribeye.
Even though taste buds vary, there are four cuts that generally rise to the top of all lists: Tenderloin, Ribeye, Strip and Sirloin.
- Tenderloin: An extremely tender cut of beef that will melt in your mouth.
- Ribeye: Known for being well-marbled and the most flavorful cut.
- Strip: Strip steaks are a steakhouse classic and an all-around favorite. They’re known for marbling, tenderness and flavor.
- Sirloin: This is a lean, beefy-flavor steak that’s moderately-tender.
How to cook steak?
Many home cooks default to grilling a steak. This is a great method and one that we often use, but you also have other amazing options.
- Grill: Make sure your grill is piping hot, and then grill the steak for 4-5 minutes, flip, and do it again.
- Stovetop: Place the steak into a really hot frying pan with about 1 tsp of oil. Cover, and cook on each side for about 4 minutes.
- Oven: This is a popular method that restaurants use. First, you’ll heat a skillet on the stove top and then sear the steak in the skillet for about a minute on each side. Then, place it in the oven to finish cooking.
- Broil: Broiling is a lot like grilling. The biggest difference is that with broiling the heat come from above the meat instead of below it. Let the broiler preheat, place steaks on a broiling pan, and broil for 3-5 minutes on each side.
If you need a step-by-step directions on how to cook steak using a specific beef cooking method, check out this post with infographics.
Does my steak need to be at room temperature before cooking it?
It’s up to you. If you look online, you’ll discover that some famous chefs are advocate of it being room temperature and others say it’s best to cook it straight out of the fridge. We have used both methods and don’t see a dramatic difference between the two.
How can I tell when my steak is done? What’s the touch test?
The most common way to ruin a steak is to overcook it. Thankfully, this can be easily avoided by using an instant read thermometer.
A good meat thermometer will improve how you cook beef more than any other kitchen tool. It’s a must have in any kitchen.
In case you’re thinking, but what about DIY touch-test methods to check for doneness? Yes, we know they’re out there and we’ve talked about them before. However, a thermometer is the only way to guarantee that your beef is done to the appropriate temperature. In our kitchen, we always test our beef with a thermometer and we recommend that you do the same. Here’s our favorite thermometer and we use it every day.
Is it important for steak to rest? How long should it rest?
Yes, it’s important to let steak rest after cooking for about 5 minutes. The reason for this is because the steak will continue to cook even after you remove it from the heat and the juice will redistribute throughout the meat.
Dry rub or marinade?
Dry Rub or Marinade for Steak? Do you know what’s best? It depends on the cut of steak, but both are great options. We talk about the difference between rubs and marinades here, and we also share our 10 best beef rubs that you can make at home.
How to defrost steak?
There are four easy and safe ways to defrost steak: refrigerator, cold-water, microwave, and cook it frozen.
Our go-to method is the refrigerator, which does require a little meal planning. A frozen steak will take approximately 8-10 hours to thaw. If you throw it in the refrigerator before you leave for work, you should be ready to cook it by the time you come home.
How to store steak?
According to the USDA’s food safety website, raw steaks can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days and in the freezer for 6-12 months.
Easy Steak Recipes:
- Pan Fried Ribeye with Garlic
- Mongolian Beef
- Pepper Steak Stir Fry
- Lemon Pepper Flank Steak
- Parsley Steak Butter
- Easy Blue Cheese Butter for Steak
Favorite kitchen tools cooking steak:
One more thing!
Interested in learning more about beef from someone who raises beef? Check out our ebook.
If you’d like to keep up with our farm, we have a weekly e-newsletter where we share about farm happenings, beef recipes, and when our next beef will be available to order. When you sign up, you’ll get a cheat sheet with 9-must-ask questions before buying beef directly from a farmer.
Other beef posts you may like:
- Prime Rib with Garlic Herb Butter
- What Everybody Ought to Know About Beef Cuts
- Dry Rub or Marinade for Steak? Know What’s Best
- 10 Best Beef Rub Recipes
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