Preparing a perfect steak is an art, yet it can be one of the most difficult things to get right as there are so many variables. There's not a lot of room for error with quality meat cuts being so expensive. Improper cooking can ruin an otherwise delicious slab of beef. Some of the best tips for cooking steak are selecting the right cuts of meat, buying well-marbled meat, using a meat thermometer to check when it is done, and letting it rest after cooking.
The first thing to do before cooking steak is to select the right size and quality cuts. Steaks that are an inch or two (2.5 to 5 centimeters) thick are ideal. Thinner steaks are likely to dry out; anything thicker and it can be more difficult to gauge when they are done. It is also good to select cuts of meat that are uniformly even throughout, otherwise the meat in the thicker parts will cook more slowly than those in the thinner areas. Choosing steaks of the same size when buying more than one ensures that that they all will cook in approximately the same amount of time.
A good understanding of meat grades will help in choosing the best-quality beef. Prime meats are more expensive than choice or select-grade meats but are also of very high quality. The most delicious side of beef is one that has streaks of fat running through it or is marbled. These specks of fat in the meat are what gives the beef its flavor, juiciness, and tenderness. Check for steaks that have the marbling distributed uniformly throughout the cut.
Also look for meat that has a slightly dark-purplish color rather than a bright red color. Meat that is really bright red is young and can be more tough. The rump section can be one of the juiciest cuts of meat. It is finely marbled and is very flavorful as a result. This meat comes from the fleshy hindquarters and contains several muscles that are used frequently. This is why it has a much firmer texture and is tastier to bite into.
Avoid prodding, flipping, and touching the meat constantly when cooking steak. Many cooks ruin the flavor and texture of the meat by consistently poking and piercing it. The steak needs to sit on the grill for a good length of time to brown well. Only use tongs or spatulas and a gentle touch to turn the meat over when cooking steak. Avoid using forks that pierce the meat or smashing it with the tongs, which allows the juices to seep out. The steak should ideally be flipped once or twice.
The best way to check if the meat is done when cooking steak is to use a meat thermometer. This checks the internal temperature of the meat and takes the guesswork out of the entire process. Its tip is usually inserted into the thickest section of the meat. It may be a good idea to remove the meat when it is a few degrees lower than the suggested finishing temperature as the meat will still cook for a few more minutes due to the internal heat.
Let the steak rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Contrary to popular thought, this resting time doesn't allow the juices to redistribute themselves. It does allow the juices to cool a little, making them thicker, which radically improves the juiciness of the steak. Smaller steaks need less time to cool than larger cuts. Covering the steak loosely with foil when resting will help it to stay warm.