Cooking the Perfect Steak
What does it take to cook the perfect steak? Well, I've made quite a few steaks in the past year, and I think I have a pretty good method.
The #1 thing is utilizing a method some have called "dry brining". This basically involves salting your steak (or using your favorite seasoning with salt in it), and putting it in your fridge on a wire rack over a sheet pan. Usually a quarter sheet pan is enough for most steaks- if you're doing more you may want something bigger. These rack/sheet pan combos have become very popular so there's lot on Amazon, and they're useful for making bacon and chicken wings as well, so I think it's a strong investment.
You see, "dry brining" works so well for steaks because the salt dissolves in the surface water of the meat, then the salty water gets reabsorbed into your steak! So you get a juicier steak, every time.
Secondly, when you stick it in the fridge for long enough, the surface of your meat will dry out, both from the water being reabsorbed and the circulation of air. A dry surface for your steak is highly desirable because the drier it is, the better the crust. If there's water on your steak, then when you put it in a pan, the water has to evaporate first before the maillard reaction can occur, and that reaction gives the dark brown delicious crust to contrast with the beautiful, tender, medium rare (or rare, or even medium) interior.
Once your steak has spent a few salty hours in the fridge, I like to utilize the reverse searing method (though I also like the "just keep flipping" method when cooking, reverse searing is a little bit more exact). To reverse sear, you put your steak (still on the wire tray!) into a 250F oven until the steak reaches 10-15 degrees below your target temperature. For ribeyes, I like 135F, for NY strips I like more around 125F, so I'd pull at ~120F or ~110F respectively.
Depending on the thickness of your steak, this usually takes anywhere from 30-60 minutes. You can monitor the temperature with an active probe (e.g. meater or thermoworks smoke), or just check it every 15 minutes with an instant read thermometer.
When you're getting close to being done, get out your pan. I like cast iron, but stainless steel will work. I would recommend against non-stick, because we want the pan to be hot. Like 600-700 degrees F hot. Get your vent fan running and open a window if you need to, or if you have a grill, open all the vents and get the coals hot. Put a little vegetable oil in the pan, something with a high smoke point, but we're getting this pan so hot, it'll still likely smoke, especially when the steak hits it.
You won't need long- 45 to 60 seconds per side of the steak. Flip once. If you want to butter baste it, kill the heat and toss your butter and herbs in, then spoon over. Or, make your own compound butter and when you're done with the second side, move your steak to a cutting board to rest and put a few knobs of your butter on it. Rest for about 10 minutes tops, then enjoy.