Steak has been one of the world’s most popular foods for many years, but no two steaks are ever quite the same! Part of what makes steaks so special is their variety. You can order different cuts from various breeds of cow and have your steak prepared in all kinds of different ways as wel from ‘rare’ to ‘well done’.
In fact, when it comes to ordering a steak in a good restaurant, there’s a whole bunch of terms and phrases that you need to know if you want to have the tastiest possible experience. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the many different ways you can cook, prepare, or order a steak!
Roasting is a popular method for preparing larger pieces of meat that can then be sliced up into multiple steaks. Cooking times and temperatures always vary a little depending on the size, shape, and cut of the meat you’re working with, but if you want a roasted rare steak, it’s time to stop cooking when the meat thermometer reads 125°F (52°C).
Next, we come to medium rare, which is just slightly more cooked than a rare steak, resulting in a strong pink color and soft interior, but slightly firmer exterior. The temperature on the meat thermometer for a medium rare steak should read 135°F (57°C).
Medium, as the name suggests, is the happy halfway point between a rare steak and a well done steak. It tends to be one of the most popular choices with steak lovers as you get the full flavors and tenderness of the meat, without it being classed as either undercooked or overcooked. For this one, the thermometer should register 145°F (63°C).
A steak that has been prepared to be ‘medium well’ is getting close to being quite well done and should only have the faintest hint of pinkness in the center. The meat thermometer should reach 150°F (66°C) for this steak. To use a meat thermometer, insert it through the side of the cut, avoiding any bone or fat.
A well done steak is cooked evenly all the way throuh, so you shouldn’t really see any pink when you slice through it. The internal temperature should be around 160°F (71°C). Don’t forget that the interior temperature of a steak will keep rising for a short while after you turn the heat off, so it can be wise to stop cooking when the thermometer registers around 5-10°F lower than the listed ratings.
Grilling is another popular way to prepare steaks, especially when you’re cooking them one by one. It’s a fast and efficient method, and a meat thermometer can help you get the right level of doneness without going too far. For a rare steak, aim for 125°F (52°C).
Once again, a grilled medium rare steak should be quite pink or even red in color when sliced. It’s just a little more cooked than a rare steak and should register at 135°F (57°C) on the thermometer.
A grilled medium steak should have a warm, pink interior. To cook this steak just right, don’t let it go above 145°F (63°C) on the meat thermometer.
A medium well steak, cooked on a grill, should only be faintly pink when sliced through. It’s just a little softer and slightly less cooked than a well done steak, with an interior temperature of 150°F (66°C).
A well done steak should have more or less the same coloring all the way through, without any pink or red bits in the center. This is for people who want every single bit of their meat cooked through, but if you leave it too long, you might end up with quite a dry and chewy steak. To avoid this, don’t let the interior temperature exceed 160°F (71°C).
There are also different categories of steak to take into account. A standard steak is the one you’ll typically find in a supermarket, covered in plastic wrap and available at a super low price. They don’t tend to feature much marbling and pretty much won’t taste as nice as the steaks found in decent restaurants.
A select steak is the next tier up from a standard steak. You can see a little bit of marbling in them, but not too much. Marbling is when there are little fatty deposits throughout the steak that add flavor and give it a ‘marbled’ look.
Choice steaks are almost the very best steaks around. They have a good amount of marbling throughout and are generally very tasty to eat, used in good quality restaurants. The only thing that separates them from the very best steaks (prime steaks) is the odd imperfection here and there.
Prime steaks are the best in the business. They have lots of marbling, which adds to their flavor and tenderness, and they tend to be the juiciest and most delicious options on the menu. They’re also the most expensive, so be prepared to pay a high price if you order a prime steak.
As well as the different cooking methods and cut qualities, you also need to think about the origin of your steak. Many people see terms like ‘Angus’ and ‘Wagyu’ on steakhouse menus but aren’t too sure on the details behind those words.
Angus steaks come from Scottish Angus cows. At least, they’re supposed to! Some places lie and claim they’re selling Angus meat when it actually isn’t, but if you’re eating in a good place, they should be honest about their steak origins. Angus beef is renowned for its marbling, resulting in very juicy and tender steaks.
Wagyu beef comes from Japan and is highly prized as one of the best varieties on Earth. It has amazing amounts of marbling, way higher than most other breeds, resulting in super juicy steaks and burgers. There are some Wagyu farms in America, but most places ship it in direct from Japan, resulting in very high prices.
Next up, we have Kobe beef. This also comes from Japan and is rated even higher than Wagyu, in the views of most experts and chefs. It can cost several hundred dollars per pound and there are only about a dozen restaurants in the entire United States that sell authentic Kobe beef.
Kobe steaks are always sold boneless and if you want to taste the most tender steak of your life, you should seek out a trusted eatery and order yourself some Kobe.
Aging is another big issue when it comes to steaks. This term basically refers to how the meat has been stored since the animal was actually killed. There are two main options: wet aged or dry aged.
Wet aged steak is simpler, cheaper, and more common, but can still be super tasty. It involves putting the meat in vacuum-sealed boxes for up to a month, letting the natural enzymes work their magic and bring out the full flavor of the meat.
Dry aged meat is hung up in a room and kept at around 35 degrees for a set period of time, which can be just a week or even several months. Dry aging usually results in a tastier steak when compared to wet aging.
You might also see menus boasting about ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ beef. There’s a key difference here. Natural beef doesn’t contain any hormones or antibiotics, but can still be raised and fed like regular cows. It’s a good option for those who don’t want to eat meat that has been loaded up with hormones and other undesirable elements.
An organic steak is the next step from the ‘natural’ category. Animals raised organically don’t have any hormones or antibiotics. Plus, they’re allowed to roam around outdoors and have a better quality of life, eating nothing but pure grass and grains. It’s better for the cow, and better for you too, as organic meats are often a lot tastier.
Tenderloin steaks are often the softest steaks on the menu. They’re made with a small but high quality section of the cow’s body, filled with juiciness and a really satisfying texture that goes well with sauces and butters.
Strip steaks typically feature good marbling, resulting in a rich flavor and overall juicy quality. They’re really delicious when cooked right and you might also hear them referred to as ‘New York Strip Steaks’.
T-bone steaks are a mixture of two other kinds of steak – strip and tenderloin – with a bone in between them. They basically let you enjoy two steaks in one.
Ribeye steaks are popular for their tendency to be very juicy and flavorful. They’re a little tricky to cook, but in the hands of a good chef, a piece of ribeye can be grilled to perfection. You’ll often find them featured on the menus of top class steakhouses.
Now let’s take a look at some different ways in which steaks can be cooked. There are lots of different methods for preparing a steak, and they can all influence the overall flavor, tenderness, and juiciness of the meat. Grilling is one of the most popular and simple methods around, beloved by families far and wide. All you need to do is fire up the grill, season your steaks, and toss them on the heat for a few minutes.
Frying a steak in a pan produces a pretty similar result to grilling. It only takes a few minutes and you don’t need to be outside or have a sunny day to make it happen. Simple iron pans or large skillets can be used in this method, with either oil or butter used to prevent the steak from burning.
The butter method is basically just pan frying, but with a whole lot of butter and lower heat. This results in a steak that is cooked more slowly, giving it time to for the full flavors and richness of the meat to come out. It also makes it easier to cook other things alongside the steak to add flavor, like mushrooms or onions.
As the name suggests, slow cooking a steak takes a lot of time, but if you really care about flavor and texture, it might be worth the wait! Pioneered by leading chefs from around the world, this method involves taking a huge piece of meat and then scorching the outside with a blowtorch. Next, the steak is placed in an oven at 122 degrees and left for a whole day, making it deliciously tender.
A reverse seared steak combines all the advantages of oven cooking and grilling together. First, the steak is cooked in an oven for about an hour and then allowed to rest for a little while before rapidly grilled to sear the outside, trapping the juices in the middle.
Usually, people freak out if a bit of meat accidentally slips off the grill and into the coals below, but this can actually be an amazing method to cook your steak! Each steak will only need less than a minute per side with this method, resulting in a super charred, fiery steak sensation quite unlike anything else.
For something totally different, the sous vide method is an interesting way to cook your steak too. This is when the meat is placed in an airtight bag and then cooked slowly in a bath of hot water. It can take a few hours to get the right finish, depending on how you like your steak, but this methods helps to trap all the juices in with the meat, ensuring nothing gets lost.
Many people worry at the thought of eating raw steak, but steak tartare can be a delicious dish if you’re bold enough to give it a try. It’s very popular in France and simply involves a raw, high quality steak being chilled in a freezer and diced up before serving, typically mixed with ingredients like mustard, egg, and lemon juice for flavor.
Next, let’s take a look at some tasty ways you can enjoy steak, starting off with a classic: steak frites. Popular in France, steak frites is plainly and simply a steak served alongside fries, usually with a dipping sauce of some kind or a steak sauce poured over the top.
A terrific way to add flavor to a steak is to add in a little herb butter. This is just regular butter, mixed with herbs and seasonings like salt and pepper. A small chunk of this butter can be added to the steak during the cooking process, or placed on top and allowed to melt just before serving.
Combining the deliciousness of a steak and salad in one tasty dish! The Caprese Steak, pictured here, features a little mozzarella, some sliced tomatoes, a bit of basil, and a drizzling of dressing over the top. The dressing is made up of honey, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and herbs.
A decadent delight direct from Philadelphia, the Philly Cheesesteak is a sandwich made up of thinly sliced steak slices and melted cheese. Those amazing ingredients are then added to a hoagie roll, and other ingredients can sometimes be mixed in too. American cheese, provolone, and Cheez Whiz are most often used in a Philly Cheesesteak.
When thinking up steak meals, many people overlook the fact that steak blends beautifully with pasta. As long as they’re not too thick or chewy, finely sliced pieces of steak can work just right with some fettuccine, pictured here, or other types of pasta with various sauces.
We all know that steak isn’t the healthiest food around. It’s often quite high in fat and doctors don’t recommend eating it too often. So, to add a little more nutrition to your next steak dinner, why not place your steak on a bed of salad? This picture shows how steak can prove to be the perfect topping alongside lettuce leaves, beets, and other veggies.
If you cook a steak your favorite way and then slice it up, there’s all sorts of things you can do with it! We’ve seen steak and veggies together in salads, but this dish takes things in a different direction, putting bits of steak (along with cheese, onions, and other delicious ingredients) inside peppers and then grilling them up.