Being able to cook the perfect steak is one of life’s great skills. Once you’ve cracked the technique, you’ll never have to think twice about organising a dinner party, impressing guests or treating yourself to an indulgent Friday night dinner ever again.
Steak is a really simple dish, which means when you do it well it can be amazing, but equally it can be very disappointing if you don’t get it right. Thermapen recently invited me along to a steak workshop at Edinburgh New Town Cookery School so I could brush up on my skills and learn some top tips about how to cook the perfect steak.
Choosing and preparing the perfect steak
To begin with, you want to start off by choosing a delicious, good quality steak. I’d recommend visiting your local butcher as their steaks tend to be much more flavoursome than supermarket steaks (plus your butcher will be able to answer any questions you have).
If you’re in Scotland, keep an eye out for butchers who are members of the Scottish Craft Butchers association so you know you’re getting top quality produce and expert advice. Make sure the beef has been aged properly (apparently 24 days is the prime hanging time!), and don’t be afraid to ask your butcher about the provenance of the meat.
Next, it’s time to choose the cut of steak you want. Again, a good butcher will be able to advise you on which cut is best depending on how you’re cooking it. My favourite cut of steak for cooking at home is sirloin, as it’s a great all-rounder. It should have a thick piece of fat around the outside and a decent amount of marbling – this will ensure the steak stays juicy and flavoursome after cooking.
Rump steak is ideal for frying or griddling, fillet steak is perfect for a melt-in-the-mouth treat, and rib eye is great if you’re after a tasty, tender cut.
Before you begin cooking, take your steaks out of the fridge and allow them to come to room temperate. You can add a rub or marinade if you like, but for a classic dish of steak, chips and salad, I like to leave the steak plain with just a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the seasoning just before cooking to avoid drawing out too much moisture from the meat.
Getting the perfect temperature
The Thermapen is a specially designed food thermometer, which is perfect for measuring the temperature of steak. You can also use the temperature probe for cooking other types of meat (and other things like making jam!), but it’s particularly useful for making sure you don’t overcook your steak. As a general rule, the internal temperature of your steak should be:
- 52°C for rare
- 56°C for medium-rare
- 62°C for medium
- 68°C for medium-well
- 71°C for well done
The Thermapen is really easy to use – just stick the probe into the middle of the steak and wait for the temperature reading on the screen. I usually take my steak off a couple of degrees below the desired temperature, as it will continue rising in temperature ever so slightly as it rests.
Speaking of resting, it’s really important to rest your steak after cooking it. Once it’s ready, wrap it up in some kitchen foil and leave it to rest for approximately 1/3rd of the cooking time. This allows the juices to relax back into the meat, ensuring the steak retains its delicious flavour and texture.
Preparing your sides
Steak is really versatile and can be served with just about every accompaniment or cuisine under the sun, but I think it’s best to keep it simple with salad, crispy potato wedges and a tasty sauce or dressing.
At the moment, I’m loving chimichurri sauce with steak as it’s easy to make and tastes really fresh. It can also be made in advance, which is ideal so you don’t have to be stirring lots of pans at the same time as trying to cook the perfect steak.
I’ve included my recipe below for sirloin steak with spicy potato wedges, chimichurri sauce and salad.
The perfect steak recipe (serves 2)
- 2 sirloin steaks
- 4-5 potatoes
- Chilli flakes
- Salt & pepper
- Olive oil
- Handful of coriander
- Handful of parsley
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 shallot
- 1 red chilli
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- Salad leaves & accompaniments
- Pre-heat your oven to 200°C and remove your steaks from the fridge to come to room temperature.
- Chop your potatoes into small wedges. Add to a pan of simmering salted water, and par-boil the potatoes for approximately 5-7 minutes.
- Toss the potatoes with olive oil, chilli flakes, salt and pepper, then spread out on a baking tray. Place in the oven and cook for approximately 35-40 minutes or until golden and crispy (turn occasionally).
- Prepare the chimichurri sauce by finely chopping the coriander, parsley, garlic cloves, shallot and red chilli. Add to a bowl with 2 tbsp white wine vinegar, 4tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt. Mix well and set aside until ready to serve.
- Prepare your salad by adding lettuce leaves to a bowl, along with any cucumber, tomato, spring onion or other salad accompaniments. Just before serving, dress with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Once your potato wedges are around 10 minutes away from being ready, start preparing your steaks. Heat a frying pan (or griddle pan) over a high heat until it is smoking hot.
- Drizzle a little olive oil, salt and pepper on the steaks, and then add them to the pan. Only cook a maximum of two steaks in the pan at one to make sure the pan doesn’t lose its temperature.
- For a medium-rare steak, cook for approximately 2 minutes per side, and check the internal temperature using a Thermapen.
- Remove the steaks from the pan and wrap in kitchen foil to rest for a couple of minutes.
- Serve the steaks along with the potato wedges, chimichurri sauce and salad.
Have you got any top tips for cooking the perfect steak?