...In my opinion.
...Without a grill.
...In a tiny kitchen.
I've learned in my year or so of really eating red meat that people's opinions about it vary drastically. Burgers are the subject of serious thought and debate, roast beef can be completely polarizing (and completely delicious) and as far as the perfect steak goes, well, it can go any which way depending on the person. Cut, thickness, grill or no grill, marinated or just salt and pepper--these "perfect" recipes abound.
For my money, though, I've found that the way I like my steak is in the form of a thick filet, started on a screaming-hot cast iron skillet and finished in the oven. With butter. I don't use it often, but with steak, butter is a must.
My perfect steak starts with bringing the steak to room temperature. The research I've found on the Internet, and through my steak-eating friends, says that this helps the steak cook evenly. Anyway, it seems to work for me. After about an hour on the counter, I was ready to cook. I brought out my trusty, heavy, cast iron skillet and melted about half a stick of butter with some olive oil to bring the smoke point up so the butter didn't burn.
I seasoned both sides of the steaks liberally with salt and pepper, but especially with the salt. Once the butter was melted and the skillet was super hot, I added the steaks. At this point you want to hear sizzling, and lots of it. That means it's searing, which means it's locking in all of those juices.
After a couple of minutes, I flipped them and let them sear on the other side.
Meanwhile, my oven was preheating to 400 degrees. Once the steak had been seared on all sides and had formed a nice, dark crust, I added a pat of butter to the top of each one and put the whole thing in the oven for about 7-10 minutes, depending on how rare you like your steak or how hot your oven gets.
When they were done, I transferred the steaks to a plate and covered with foil to let them rest. This redistributes the juices so when you cut into them they don't go all over the plate.
While the steaks were resting, I finished my sides. I made roasted broccoli with lemon and Parmesan...
...and of course, mashed potatoes. I don't have a potato masher, but my whisk seems to work fine. Innovation!
This being a Valentine's dinner, we also had some appetizers: cream cheese with hot pepper jelly and crackers, and fresh mozzarella with pepperoni.
But the real star was the steak.
It had a nice crust on the outside that was well seasoned and, considering the amount of salt I used, not at all salty. The sear on the stove, finish in the oven method makes for a perfectly cooked steak, which for me is medium rare.
This method of cooking steak is also pretty easy. With the right tools, a great cut of meat, and plenty of butter, you can make a steakhouse quality steak in about 30 minutes.
If you have strong feelings about what constitutes a perfect steak, I'd love to hear them. But if you're still searching for a way to make quality steak at home, try this method. Add some potatoes and a vegetable and you've got a delicious, and impressive, meal in under an hour!
Here's the recipe!
The Perfect Steak
- 2 beef tenderloin (filet mignon) steaks cut about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt
- Black pepper
- 1/2 a stick of butter, plus two tablespoons
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- About an hour before your estimated cooking time, take the steaks out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature on the counter. About 15 minutes before cooking, liberally season with salt and pepper, but especially with salt--about 1/2 a teaspoon of salt on each side of each steak.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large, heavy, cast iron skillet, melt the butter and olive oil over high heat. When the butter and oil is melted and shimmering, add the steaks. You should hear a loud sizzle. Let sear on each side for about 3-4 minutes, until a dark crust forms on each side.
- Top each steak with about a tablespoon of butter and transfer the whole skillet to the oven. Let cook in the oven for at least 6 minutes. I probably left mine in there closer to 8 minutes because my oven is weird. Check for desired temperature by pressing on the middle of the steaks with tongs. The steak should not feel to soft, and should give about the same amount that the palm part of your thumb does. Is that confusing? Here, look at this.
- When the steaks are done, transfer them to a plate and cover with foil. Let them rest for at least 10 minutes, which will let the juices have time to redistribute throughout the steak.
- Serve with desired sides and steak sauce, if you must.