Everyone loves a juicy steak. I’ll show you the easy way to cook the perfect pan fried steak – results guaranteed.
Some people feel anxious about cooking steak. Especially if they’re cooking it for someone else. What if it’s undercooked and there’s blood oozing out onto the plate? Or worse, it’s been overcooked and what should have been a juicy steak has turned into a piece of shoe leather. Very embarrassing.
We’ve all made these mistakes. When I was learning to cook, I found it hard to tell when a steak was done; there were times when it had to go back into the pan for a few minutes. The overcooked steaks couldn’t be rescued, unfortunately.
But once you’ve been shown the right way to cook steak, it suddenly becomes very easy.
A simple way of testing when your steak is cooked to your liking is to use your face as a guide. (Yes, I know that sounds weird but please bear with me.) Rare steak should feel like your cheek, soft and springy.
Medium should feel like your chin, firm but with some ‘give’ in it.
Well done should feel like your forehead, very firm but not completely solid.
If you can remember this, you won’t have any problems cooking a steak. Even if you’re cooking for the family and they all want their steak cooked differently.
So if there’s a pan with 4 steaks in it you won’t have to remember which one went in first, or which steak was supposed to be rare or medium; all you have to do is gently touch them with a finger and you will know when the steak is cooked to perfection.
Different Cuts of Steak
Here are some of the most popular cuts of steak. They vary in cost, texture and flavour and you can choose whichever cut you prefer. Or whichever one suits your budget. But how do you know which one to go for?
Fillet is the most expensive cut of steak but it’s also the most tender. It has to be cooked very carefully as it has hardly any fat, and it can dry out if cooked for too long. Fillet steak should be cooked rare or medium rare, no more than that.
If your steak is in the fridge, remove it at least 30 minutes before cooking. Bringing the meat up to room temperature will ensure that it cooks evenly. Season the steak on both sides with salt and pepper and add a little oil to a pan. A cast iron pan is best, but if you don’t have one then any sturdy frying pan will do.
When the pan is very hot, add the steak. Cook over a high heat for about a minute to get a nice brown crust on the outside. This will enhance the flavour. Turn the steak with a pair of tongs and cook the other side. Now lower the heat and continue cooking.
Timings for Steak
For fillet steaks that are about 3.5 cm thick, they will need about 2 minutes on either side. Don’t be tempted to cook them for any longer than this or they won’t be tender and juicy.
Put the steak on a plate and cover it with foil, then let it rest for 5 minutes. This is important as it allows the juices to be absorbed back into the meat and ensures a tender, juicy steak. If you don’t allow this resting period then the juices will just run out onto the plate and be wasted.
As fillet steak is very expensive, save it for a special occasion (unless you’re one of those lucky people who have an unlimited budget.)
Sirloin steak is a tender cut of beef with a good flavour. Look for marbling when buying sirloin steak; this is the white flecks of fat that are dotted all through the meat. Marbling is important for both flavour and texture. Meat with a good proportion of fat to lean will have more flavour than a lean cut.
Sirloin often has a strip of fat running along one edge. But please don’t trim it off before cooking, leave it on. If you hate eating fat then cut it off before serving. But not before cooking; fat gives flavour and succulence to the meat and without it, your steak won’t be quite as enjoyable or tasty.
People often make the mistake of buying the leanest cuts of meat, thinking it will be the most tender. The opposite is true. Fat is necessary to keep the meat moist during cooking and it really improves the flavour. This applies to both steaks and joints of beef for roasting.
To cook sirloin, follow the steps for fillet steak (above) and cook for 2.5 minutes a side for rare, 3 – 4 minutes a side for medium and 5 – 6 minutes each side for well done. As before, allow the steak to rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Sirloin is good served with a sauce such as peppercorn or red wine.
Rump is similar in flavour to sirloin but has less marbling, so it can be a bit chewy. Also, it comes from a part of the cow that has to work hard so this makes for stronger fibres in the meat. Having said that, it is a versatile cut of beef; it can be pan fried or grilled, served with a sauce or flavoured butter, or cut into strips for a stir fry, fajitas or curry.
To cook a rump steak, the timings are similar to sirloin but will need to be adjusted slightly as rump is often slightly thicker than sirloin. An extra minute on each side added to the timings for sirloin should be about right.
Ribeye is a very flavoursome cut of beef; the flavour is mainly due to the fat content. It is cut from around the rib area so it’s very tender. A ribeye steak has an ‘eye’ of fat in the middle, hence the name.
This cut should be cooked medium or medium-well to give the fat a chance to render down (melt) into the meat, resulting in a deliciously tender and tasty steak.
This cut is nice served with flavoured butter or a red wine sauce. Or just a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cooking times for a ribeye steak are 2 minutes a side for rare, 3 – 5 minutes a side for medium and 4 – 6 minutes a side for medium-well. But unless you like rare steak, I wouldn’t recommend cooking a ribeye rare. The flavour and texture won’t be the same.
This is a cut that has the best of both worlds – if you can’t decide whether to have fillet or sirloin, have a T-Bone. (Sometimes called porterhouse steak.) One half is the fillet and the other half is the sirloin. Also, as there is a bone running through the centre of the steak the meat has a special flavour and succulence.
As the old saying goes ‘the nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat.’ I’ve always found this to be true.
T-bone steaks can be quite large, but they’re not very thick, so the cooking times are about the same as for sirloin. Best cooked simply seasoned with salt and pepper and seared in a griddle pan – or even better, on a barbecue. Also, rubbing the steak all over with goose fat before cooking will result in an amazing taste and juicy texture.
I hope that this has been useful for you and that next time you cook a steak, it comes out exactly to your liking! If you have any questions, or if you’ve successfully pan fried your steak, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you.
For some delicious steak recipes see quick easy steak recipes
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