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November 13, 2005

How to Cook a Great Steak

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COOK IT JUST RIGHT
Broil it, grill it, or sauté it — done right, any of these methods will yield a good steak. The most important thing is to not overcook it. For best flavor, texture, and juiciness, cook a steak rare or medium-rare. Here are some tips for cooking steak.

Broiling: Cooking meat or other foods on a pan under direct heat is known as broiling. This method is especially good for steaks and other thin pieces of food because they acquire a crisp, brown crust. Most home ovens come equipped with broilers. Some can be set to low or high heat, while others have only one setting; I find the best method of regulating the cooking in a home broiler is to adjust the placement of the pan. The farther the steak is from the heat, the more slowly it will cook. For a thick steak, start cooking the meat close to the heat so that its surface is about two inches away, and leave it there until it is nicely browned on both sides. Then adjust the distance of the pan farther from the heat to finish the cooking. Thinner steaks can be cooked three inches from the heat and will probably be done by the time they have browned on both sides.

Grilling: Whether done on an indoor grill, a grill pan, or an outdoor barbecue, grilling is similar to broiling, except that the food is placed over, not under, the heat source and grilled foods acquire the characteristic striped markings from contact with the ridges of the grilling surface. The advantage of an outdoor grill is that you can use aromatic charcoal or wood chips to add a distinctive smoky flavor to foods. The same principles apply to grilling as to broiling, except that if you are cooking on a grill pan or grill where the distance from the heat is not adjustable, you can move the food to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking.

Pan Roasting: When cooking thick steaks such as filet mignon, or a chateaubriand for two, the method I prefer is pan roasting. I cook the meat in a small amount of oil or butter in a skillet, then transfer the skillet to a 375 degree F oven. This way the meat gets a good brown crust on the stovetop, and cooks evenly through in the oven.

Go to the next page to see the Cooking Temperature Chart.


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