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How to Cook a Steak

Timing, Texture, and Appearance

By

FILET MIGNON
Rita Maas/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Cooking a perfectly done, juicy steak is a practiced art, and contrary to popular belief, doesn't require a thermometer. An experienced cook gauges steak doneness by the look and feel of the meat as it cooks. No special equipment is needed, just a commitment to watch the steak as it cooks and be observant of the telltale signs of doneness.

The easiest way to use this steak cooking method, taught at culinary school, is to start with steaks cut 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick and brought to room temperature. Season the steaks as desired and melt equal amount of butter and oil in a large skillet set over high heat.

Very Rare (Bleu)

Sear the steaks for 1 minute on each side for very rare meat. The meat will feel very soft and pliable to the touch. When cut, the dark red color of the steak will be nearly unchanged from that of raw meat. This style of steak doneness is very popular in France.

Rare (Saignant)

Sear the steaks for 2 minutes on each side for rare meat. The meat will feel soft to the touch. When cut, the color of the steak will be dark, bright red. This style of steak doneness is also very popular in France, especially when served sliced on salads.

Medium (a Point)

Sear the steaks for 3 minutes on each side for medium meat. The meat will feel slightly tender to the touch. When cut, the color of the steak will be gray fading into juicy red meat in the center.

Well Done (Bien Cuit)

For well-done steak, sear each side for 1 minute and then finish the steak in a 325F oven for 12 to 15 minutes. The meat will feel firm to the touch. When cut, the steak will be cooked throughout, with clear juices and no pink meat.

This steak cooking method can similarly be used on a very hot grill with the same times and doneness cues. Learning how to cook a steak by observing timing, texture, and appearance will yield a thick, juicy, restaurant-worthy steak every time.

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