How to cook steak

Everyone should know how to cook steak like a pro. Bring the restaurant home and make it happen with our guide

How to cook steak
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A good steak is hard to beat for many of us. Delicious beef served as rare or well done as you like it makes a fabulously tasty meal for you, the family, or confirmed carnivore guests. 

Whether you simply accompany it with classics like mushrooms, tomatoes, chunky chips, give it a French accent with thin frites or dauphinoise potatoes, add a delicious sauce, or treat yourself to an array of side dishes like onion rings, watercress, or coleslaw – when cooked well – steak is sure to please.

To get the best results, choosing the right cut of meat is crucial, as is knowing how to cook steak correctly. Want to find out how? Read on. Then, head over to our food hub page for recipes, food prep hacks and more.

What cuts of steak are there?

There’s plenty of choice when you’re in the supermarket or butcher’s, and what you pick will strike a balance between texture, flavour and cost.

  • Fillet steak is a more costly cut. Buy it if you want maximum tenderness from your steak and no fat – but it lacks the flavour of alternatives.
  • Rump steak is a favourite of steak fans. It will have you chewing more than fillet, but it’s full of taste. You’ll still be able to savour its flavour even when it’s served with a sauce.
  • Sirloin steak is marbled with fat that makes it delicious. It’s juicy and tender although, like rump, less tender than fillet.
  • Rib-eye steak is another tender choice of cut. It’s well marbled with fat, which makes it a flavour-packed option.
  • Skirt or bavette is marbled with fat. Flavourful, it has a distinctive soft texture. It can be an economical choice, too.
  • Porterhouse – or T-bone – steak is partly sirloin and partly fillet, so cooking can be a challenge as it won’t happen at the same rate.
  • Braising steak probably isn’t what you’re after if you want to rustle up a steak dinner. Instead, choose it for pies, casseroles and curries. It’ll work a treat in the slow cooker.

How should I cook the cut of steak I’ve chosen?

The various cuts of steak demand different cooking times and techniques, to get the best from them.

Fillet steak

Fillet steak can be rubbed with a little oil, then placed in a pre-heated skillet or pan, and cooked over a high heat. As a guide, and depending on the thickness, think two and a half minutes each side for rare, three and a half minutes for medium rare, four and a half minutes for medium, and five and a half minutes if your preference is for well done.

Rump steak

Rump steak can be cooked solely in the pan or finished in the oven. Add a very little oil, then pre-heat oil and pan so it’s very hot. If you’re using the first method, it’ll take around five minutes each side for medium rare. Alternatively, give each side three minutes in the pan, then put it on a baking tray in a hot oven for around 10 to 15 minutes.

Sirloin steak

Sirloin steak should be cooked in a little oil in the pan. Heat oil and pan until hot. For rare steaks, and depending on the thickness, think around one and a half minutes each side for rare, two minutes for medium rare, three minutes for medium, and around four minutes or a little more for well done.

Rib-eye steak

Rib-eye steak can be cooked in a little oil in the pan. Heat both, then turn the heat down just a bit, and add a little butter, then the steaks, and cook for around two minutes each side for rare, half a minute to one minute or so longer each side for medium rare, and four to five minutes per side for well done.

Skirt or bavette

Skirt or bavette should be cooked in a pan in a little oil over a medium high heat for around two to three minutes each side for rare, or a little longer according to taste.

Porterhouse or T-bone steak

Porterhouse or T-bone steak can be cooked in a little oil in a hot pan. Depending on its thickness, it’ll take around four to five minutes on each side for medium rare, and you can add to the cooking time according to preference.

What else do I need to know for the perfect steak?

  • Bring the meat to room temperature – around an hour – before you cook it.
  • For best results, use a frying pan with a thick base, a cast-iron skillet, or for restaurant-style marks, a griddle pan. The pan should be very hot before you start cooking.
  • Salt and pepper are the classic seasonings for steak, and will leave the flavour of the meat itself as the star of the show. Many experts prefer to use salt in advance – it won’t draw moisture from the meat. Add pepper just before you start cooking.
  • It’s probably best to experiment when it comes to the cooking fat to discover which suits your taste. You can opt for a flavourless oil – that’s vegetable for sunflower, for example – though some professional cooks prefer olive oil, while others like butter.  
  • After cooking, leave the meat to rest for around five to 10 minutes before you serve.

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