Food & Drink

Meat experts weigh in on the best ways to cook a steak

cooked steak
Dan Gentile

There's more than one way to skin a cat, but that's gross: Cats are totally reasonable pets, and steak is more delicious anyway. Plus, there are lots more ways to cook a steak! You're probably familiar with grilling, as is most of the American populace, but there are a few other ways that you can cook your big hunk of beef that might be even better... somehow. Here to teach you more about them (and, well, grilling) are Clifford Crooks and Tony DiSalvo, executive chefs at ESquared Hospitality (owner of New York's BLT Steak and BLT Prime) and Cast at the Viceroy Santa Monica in Cali, respectively.

Grilling

What it is: Cooking the steak from underneath, using a grill (duh)
What you’ll need: A grill (charcoal, gas, electric, or wood-burning) and tongs
How to do it: Your grill’s gotta be super hot before you put your steak on it, and “when you place your steak on the grill, it’s important that you don’t move it around,” says Tony. Then, cook it to a medium rare or medium, and let it rest, like you had to do with your Dad after that road trip.

Pros: Imparts a smoky, charred flavor; grill lines look cool. It gives you an excuse to go outside (you look pale).
Cons: Requires a bit of setup and management. "For even heat distribution, you really have to manage the burn, kind of like a fireplace,” says Clifford.
What cut to use: Pretty much any, but Tony suggests “a good ribeye, since it has a nice combination of fat and tenderness.”

Pan-Searing

What it is: Superheating the steak by using a stove-top pan and oil
What you’ll need: A cast-iron skillet (a regular skillet will do in a pinch), oil (“a neutral oil with a high smoking point” like canola, grapeseed, or safflower, says Tony), and tongs
How to do it: Heat the oil in the skillet. Season your meat with salt and pepper at least 10 minutes before cooking, and then place that sucker in the hot skillet and leave it for a while, flipping once and briefly standing it on its sides to sear them as well. “Baste with garlic, thyme, and butter to finish,” says Clifford.

Pros: You can do it indoors if it’s raining. Searing in oil creates a Maillard reaction that caramelizes the meat.
Cons: Not really that many: it’s “probably the easiest method,” according to Clifford.
What cut to use: Pretty much any

Broiling

What it is: Cooking the steak from above (or all around), usually using an oven
What you’ll need: An oven and a cast-iron skillet to place in said oven
How to do it: You’ve gotta do a quick-sear on the meat first, on a stovetop in a piping hot cast-iron skillet. Then, transfer the cast-iron skillet to the top rack of the oven with the broiler preheated. “Since you’re working with high, direct heat, cooking time will vary,” says Tony. Make sure to flip to get all the steak’s surfaces.

Pros: The intense heat allows for good, even caramelization.
Cons: A very high temperature is needed, which might be too much for some home ovens.
What cut to use: “I’d recommend that you keep fats to a minimum and use leaner meats brushed with olive oil,” like a New York strip, suggests Tony.

Sous-Vide

What it is: Cooking meat in an airtight plastic bag at a constant temperature... in a water bath
What you’ll need: A sous-vide machine (immersion circulator), some vacuum bags, a thermometer, and a heatable water bath (not the one you just got out of)
How to do it: Seal your steak in an airtight bag with a marinade and poach it in the water at around 127 degrees. “An hour seems to be the right amount of time for an 8oz steak,” says Tony. Then, when it’s done, throw it in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. You’ll still need to sear or grill the steak before serving, but for a much shorter amount of time (around three minutes per side).

Pros: “Perfect for pre-party planning... because it’s hard to mess up,” says Tony. “Cooking the meat slower and for a longer period of time really breaks down the meat and allows the muscle fibers to relax, for greater tenderness,” says Clifford.
Cons: Who the hell owns an immersion circulator?!
What cut to use: Stay away from fatty cuts: Tony recommends a tenderloin.

Basically, learn to pan-sear, dudes.

Adam Lapetina is a food/drink staff writer at Thrillist, and thinks that "meat expert" is a pretty awesome title. Read his musings on Twitter at @adamlapetina.