How To Cook a Great Steak

Laurent Tourondel, executive chef and partner of BLT Restaurant Group, and Bon Appetit's Restaurateur of the Year shares his secrets for making a great steak.

Broil it, grill it, or sauté it - done right, any of these methods will yield a good steak. The most important thing is to not overcook it. For best flavor, texture, and juiciness, cook a steak rare or medium-rare.

Broiling: Cooking meat or other foods on a pan under direct heat is known as broiling. This method is especially good for steaks and other thin pieces of food because they acquire a crisp, brown crust. Most home ovens come equipped with broilers. Some can be set to low or high heat, while others have only one setting; I find the best method of regulating the cooking in a home broiler is to adjust the placement of the pan. The farther the steak is from the heat, the more slowly it will cook. For a thick steak, start cooking the meat close to the heat so that its surface is about two inches away, and leave it there until it is nicely browned on both sides. Then adjust the distance of the pan farther from the heat to finish the cooking. Thinner steaks can be cooked three inches from the heat and will probably be done by the time they have browned on both sides.

Grilling: Whether done on an indoor grill, a grill pan, or an outdoor barbecue, grilling is similar to broiling, except that the food is placed over, not under, the heat source and grilled foods acquire the characteristic striped markings from contact with the ridges of the grilling surface. The advantage of an outdoor grill is that you can use aromatic charcoal or wood chips to add a distinctive smoky flavor to foods. The same principles apply to grilling as to broiling, except that if you are cooking on a grill pan or grill where the distance from the heat is not adjustable, you can move the food to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking.

Pan Roasting: When cooking thick steaks such as filet mignon, or a chateaubriand for two, the method I prefer is pan roasting. I cook the meat in a small amount of oil or butter in a skillet, then transfer the skillet to a 375 degree F oven. This way the meat gets a good brown crust on the stovetop, and cooks evenly through in the oven.


No matter which cooking method you use, it is best to judge the cooking of meat with an instant-read thermometer. Using this type of thermometer takes away all the guesswork. Test the temperature by inserting the tip of the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat away from the bone. Leave the thermometer in until the dial stops moving, but remove it if you continue the cooking.

Handle the meat carefully with tongs. Don't pierce it with a fork as it cooks. This will allow the juices to escape.

Always let cooked meat rest for a few minutes after cooking. Cover it loosely with a foil tent to keep it warm. Resting allows the juices to settle into the meat and the temperature to even out. You will even notice a slight increase in the temperature after the meat has rested. Thicker, larger cuts of meat need a longer resting time than smaller cuts.

MEAT: Rare
FAHRENHEIT: 120° to 125°
CELSIUS: 45° to 50°

MEAT: Medium-Rare
FAHRENHEIT: 130° to 135°
CELSIUS: 55° to 60°

MEAT: Medium
FAHRENHEIT: 140° to 145°
CELSIUS: 60° to 65°

MEAT: Medium-Well
FAHRENHEIT: 150° to 155°
CELSIUS: 65° to 70°

MEAT: Well

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