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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cooking the Perfect Steak

We rarely eat red meat, so when we do, we make sure it is high-quality and delicious. My favorite cut is filet mignon…when cooked correctly, it is just so darn tender and tasty. When Nate’s mom was here last November, she made us a fantastic dinner, which included some filet. While we were debating about how to cook our beautiful hunks of meat, she mentioned that she and my father-in-law had used a technique from America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s IllustratedΒ that worked beautifully. We dug around the Internet, found the recipe and…

cooked steak on a white plate

piece of sliced cook steak on a plateSorry for the not-so-pretty photos. Truth is I wanted to eat the steak more than I wanted to photograph it! πŸ˜‰

…PEOPLE. This is the perfect way to cook steak. Seriously. Perfect. It comes out medium-rare and is so juicy and tender. For those of you scared of red/pink in your meat, please believe me when I tell you medium-rare is the way to eat your steak. REALLY. The flavor and texture are so much better than medium or well-done, but it’s still hot and cooked through just enough. The first time I ate a medium-rareΒ steak was at Donovan’s Steak House and I have never eaten it another way since. It’s the only way to go!

So, back to the Cook’s Illustrated technique…you salt and pepper the steak and then bake it in the oven BEFORE searing it on the stove. The reasoning is that your steak will cook evenly throughout and that the final sear will give the steak a nice, caramelized crust. We found another blogger who had used this recipe and he said that it’s beenΒ consistentΒ every time. I love reliable recipes like that!

Cooking the Perfect Steak
Method & recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, but I’ve written it out here in my own words, so if something goes wrong blame me.
Recipe type: Main Dish, Beef
  • 2 boneless strip steaks 1½β€Β³ – 1¾β€Β³ thick, about 1 pound each (filet mignon or ribeye may be substituted)
  • Salt & Pepper (I like to use coarse versions of both)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil (2 tablespoons for filet mignon)
  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F and place rack in the center of the oven.
  2. Cut steaks vertically in half so you have four 8-ounce steaks. Let rest outside of the fridge for about 15 minutes. Dry off steaks with a paper towel then pat liberally with salt and pepper. Place steaks on a wire rack on top of a rimmed cookie sheet so steaks are not resting directly on the pan. Insert an instant-read, oven-safe thermometer into one of the steaks, then put steaks in the oven until the internal temperature of the steak reaches 90 – 95 degrees for medium rare (20-25 mins) or 100 to 105 degrees for medium (25-30 mins). GO WITH MEDIUM RARE! πŸ˜‰
  3. Heat oil in a heavy bottom skillet over medium-high heat on your stove. We used one of my copper-core heavy bottom frying pans – I think a cast-iron skillet would be ideal, but mine is buried in storage somewhere. When oil starts to smoke, sear the steak in the pan ~ 2 minutes per side. Sear the edges as well, ~ 1 minute per edge.
  4. Place steaks back on rack on cookie sheet, tent with foil and let rest ~ 10 minutes. Eat!




  1. 1
    Alison Poirier

    We need to have you over for steak. Matt’s favorite is fillet too and he cooks it perfect every time, but on the grill. Both the girls eat an adult sized portion. We just had it this weekend and man it was good!

  2. 2

    Yum, steak. Of course in Europe that would be way overdone πŸ™‚ We had them nearly crawling off the plate in an amazing restaurant in Switzerland, and the french guys said they were still too cooked. Never heard of this way – my parents would always broil them in the oven, sounds good, though.

  3. 3

    I’m usually disappointed on how my steaks end up, so I’m definitely going to try this. Thanks for the tip!

  4. This goes against everything I’ve ever heard about searing, but it sounds AWESOME. And I love America’s Test Kitchen. So I am definitely trying this. πŸ™‚

    • Jane Maynard

      totally goes against everything we’ve ever heard about searing is right! I read another article on their site where they seared before and after baking and weighed the steaks and there was no difference in terms of moisture loss, so they claimed the “sear first to keep the juices in” is a old wive’s tale. gotta love ATK πŸ™‚

  5. 5

    I have a friend who has a phd in meat science (and yes she went to work for a petfood company with that degree but I digress…) She says that if people ate their steaks, and could not see them, that EVERYONE would eat their steaks rare!!! So much more flavor and tenderness. I still need medium rare but I’m thinkin she is probably right….

  6. I ususally just broil or just pan sear, this method is very interesting, must try next time I crave a steak.

  7. Oh I LOVE steak. Since we have nice weather pretty much all year, we grill all the time, but this is great for those times when….the tank runs out πŸ™‚ oh yes that happens even when you have two tanks trust me.

  8. This is so interesting! We don’t eat a lot of expensive red meat (we eat a lot of ground beef or roast) but when we do I’m so nervous I’m going to mess it up and waste all that money. I can’t wait to try this next time we’re in the mood for steak.

  9. Wow this is awesome! Thanks so much for posting! I pinned it on pinterest to come back to later! this is a keeper!

  10. 10

    The absolute BEST thing you can do for ANY steak is to cook it at room temperature. It’s the holy grail variable of steak cooking.

  11. 11

    I haven’t eaten meat in years (except for that bratwurst at october fest last year πŸ™‚ ) and this post just makes me want to get a medium rare steak. enjoy!

  12. 12

    We tried this for our Valentine’s Day dinner last night … Unbelievably amazing. We’ll never go back to grilling filet mignon. (I say that like we have it all the time — ha! The one time a year it graces our plates, rather.)

    • Jane Maynard

      I am so glad you commented…because I”m glad it was amazing AND…people keep commenting and pinning saying “this is a great idea for when I can’t use the grill” but like you said, I’ll never use the grill again! this just comes out SO WELL. anyway, glad I could convert you! πŸ˜‰ happy valentine’s day!

  13. 13

    Hillary posted about her success with this recipe on facebook, so I made it this weekend for a belated birthday dinner for my husband. You’re both right, the filets were a perfect medium rare with that awesome caramelized outside – I’m also fully converted and won’t go back to grilling!

  14. 14
    Nickie S.

    This totally did the trick. Even though the cut of steak was on the cheaper side, it made for a delicious dinner! Thank you!

  15. 15

    OMG – that was totally incredible. We are people that for the past 25 years believed the only way to cook was on our gas Weber. But admittedly were never totally happy with how the filets came out. So I tried your method tonight and I have to say I was skeptical. First of all, baking and not grilling? And second, searing after cooking went against everything I had previously learned. But we followed your directions. For two 8oz. filets it took about 25 minutes to get to 91 degrees. Then I seared on both sides for two minutes each in a cast iron skillet. I wanted to use butter but instead I followed your directions and used vegetable oil. I seared the (sort of) three sides for about a minute a piece. It was absolutely the best steak I have ever, ever had! We had been considering going to Capital Grille tonight. I am so glad we decided not to as this total meal cost as much as one steak there ($45) and was so, so, so much better. You made our weekend. Of course it’s important to start with a good steak and in our area there is nothing better than Butcher Boy, but the steak alone is not enough. It took your recipe to bring it to perfection. Thank you so much!

    • Sorry – I meant to say I seared the (sort of) three edges for about a minute a piece after searing both sides for two minutes each. The crust was superb! Thanks!

    • Jane Maynard

      marc, I am SO glad you commented! I hope everyone who reads this post and is skeptical like you were will read your comment. I was skeptical myself when my MIL first told me this technique, but you’re right, it’s seriously PERFECT. anyway, your comment made me smile and I’m so glad it worked well for you, too! thank you!

  16. 16

    I am making this recipe for the third time. I avoided steak in the past because I could never cook it properly, but this recipe is the way to go! Love it!

  17. 17

    I have to comment on this again. As Kristen above, we just made this for the third time. It is SO amazing. I had no idea steak could be this perfect at home. The grill just can’t compete.

  18. 18

    Amazing… Absolutely stellar

  19. 19
    Amy Schleider

    This is my second time to enjoy this method of preparing a gorgeous piece of beef tenderloin (about 1 1/2 to 2″ thick) I use a de buyer pan on the cook top and it is absolutely fantastic. Bravo for making this so easy on a cold winters night in Columbia MO

    btw that crowd you have there is absolutely adorable

    • Jane Maynard

      amy, I am so happy it has been consistent for you – and you’re right, perfect for the dead of winter! πŸ™‚

      and thanks! πŸ˜‰

  20. 20

    saw this on ATK about a year or two ago, was glad to find it, was always intrigued by the technique, BUT, living in KC MO I have always loved the taste charcoal imparts to a steak, so I was wondering, why would it not work to start your steak in the prescribed manner in the oven, then finish it on the Weber grill for a couple minutes as opposed to in a cast iron skillet? just sayin. Would love some feedback, would you email me if you post a response? thanks

  21. 21

    Waldo, if you’re still wondering–yes, you can certainly finish this or any steak on a Weber, but you need to be careful. The grill is likely to be MUCH hotter (450+ degrees) than even a cast iron pan. But it can be done, and I have. Ok. First get the coals ready so they are *in the grill* as you put the steak into the oven. When you remove the steak, the grill coals should’ve burned down some and ideally will be a little cooler. If you have a Thermopen (if not, get one…very expensive but easily the best kitchen money I ever spent), use it to test the grill’s radiant temperature. You want it to be around 350 or so. Now sear the steak…if it’s hotter than that, I’d cut sear time to 90 seconds on each side, 45-50 seconds each edge (don’t forget the edges). Keep a beer or water handy to douse any flareups.
    Remember, the most important grill tool is a WATCH. Time it exactly and you will be very happy, especially if you just dropped $40 on good meat.
    This will err on the rare side, as one should πŸ™‚ but that’s safer, as you can always give it a minute more if necessary. But it should be perfect as is.
    And make a quick note like an email to yourself about the time it took. Webers are awesome, but vary tremendously based on humidity, outside temperature, and wind. Good luck.

  22. 22

    I’ve always done it the reverse method, sear then oven. This was just interesting enough to give it a shot tonight.

    Used two bone in NY strips, brought to room temperature for about 25 minutes while the oven was heating up. Brushed lightly with grapeseed oil (high smoke point) then applied coarse cracked salt and liberally with coarse cracked pepper. In to the oven until they reached 90 degrees. Had a cast iron pan on the stove on medium high waiting for the steaks. Dropped the steaks in the cast iron and immediately added a nob of butter and some rosemary sprigs. Brushed the steaks with the rosemary and spooned the butter over the steaks as they cooked for two minutes a side. After the two minute searing, I pulled and tented the steaks for about 10 minutes.

    I’ve made some good steaks before but timing has been a bit of an issue for me. This method made it foolproof. The steaks had a ton of flavor and the temperature was perfect. My wife said “this is how we make steaks now.”

    I can’t wait for warmer weather to try and take them from oven to lump charcoal for the last few minutes. Thank you so much. This was a winner!

    • I am SO happy that you tried the method! everyone I know has done it the reverse and when I describe this they look at me like I have lobsters crawling out of my ears. πŸ˜‰ it is just so much more reliable! anyway, so glad you commented and I’m very happy it worked for you!

  23. 23

    This is foolproof! We love it. Tonight did a thick porterhouse and it was fabulous. Finished in cast iron pan because our grill still has a mountain of snow on it, but often finish the steak on a hot grill.

  24. 24

    Thanks for publishing this. I had heard an interview with the folks from Cooks Illustrated and wrote this down but lost it!! Just finished making for my husband with a ribeye. I picked up the steak from my butcher about 2 hours before cooking it (happens to be the best butcher outside of NYC), so it sat on the counter and got to room temp. Because he likes his steak rare, I put in the oven for only 10 minutes. My thermometer is untrustworthy so I just guessed at how long I should keep in there, but it turned out to be the perfect amount of time. The only thing I did differently was add a pat of butter to the cast iron frying pan. My husband’s review: EXQUISITE!!

    • so glad you could track the recipe down here – it really is the best way to cook steak! I think your modification sounds marvelous, by the way! yum!

  25. 25

    America’s Test Kitchen has studied how to cook steak to get the charcoal sear and flavor, and the result is published in the current issue of Cook’s Illustrated. Briefly, they cooked it first in the oven, skewered the steaks with 2 skewers, and placed the steaks over the charcoal which was still in the chimney. Brilliant. They even tested various chimneys. (They liked the 7 inch diameter Weber chimney.) Everyone should subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated. Now if they would only make their web site user friendly.

    • thank you so much for sharing this!!!

      and, yes, if everyone read Cook’s Illustrated everyone would be able to cook – something our society needs more of!

      and, yes, 100% agreed about the website!

  26. 26

    ATK video of the “Chimmeny” method (available for free til Dec 2015):

  27. 27

    This steak was the best I have had from an oven. I marinated it in balsamic and olive I and the cook times were perfectly accurate. thanks!

  28. This is a great method and easy. I like to call it 5 minute steak. We marinated a few NY steaks over night. We tried two steaks broiled and two in a cast iron skillet. The skillet to oven method produced a perfect medium rare steak with nice seared crispy exterior. The appearance of the broiled steaks were boring. Thanks for sharing the recipe. thanks.

  29. 29
    David Kirwood

    I live in Nepal and it is impossible to get a decent steak as the only beef here is from India where it seems they wait until the cows die of old age before they butcher them, the “tender loin” is so tough. The closest thing to the taste of steak that I can get here is ostrich meat so I tried your recipe on ostrich meat. It worked quite well. The only variation to the preparation was I used black pepper instead of normal pepper. Now if I can do it anyone can as I am definitely not a chef nor am I a half decent cook.

  30. 30

    This is the only way we want our steaks now! It’s gotten to the point where we don’t even order steak out because mine are just as good, if not better than the restaurants! Everyone I tell about this seems skeptical but I’ve made these a couple times for friends on NYE (used a griddle for the searing multiple steaks) and they’re all believers now!

  31. 31

    Thank you for providing this recipe, I recently saw it on an ATK rerun and couldn’t remember everything, and of course I hadn’t written anything down. I made eight filet mignon steaks last night for a family dinner with my grown son’s and their wives, and they came out PERFECT! I was a little worried when they came out of the oven because they looked so weird, but after searing on my stovetop grill pan they had beautiful grill marks and the inside was cooked to an even perfection. I will be using this method every time I make filet mignon.

  32. 32

    Thank you so much. Absolute perfection.

  33. 33

    Ever since reading about this in Cook’s Illustrated a few years ago this is the only way I cook my steaks anymore. It is amazing how well it works. Perfect crust, no tough grey layer, just freakin awesome! Thanks for posting this, I couldn’t find my Cooks Illustrated magazine and their website requires you to sign up to view the recipe.

    • You’re welcome! I am so glad I posted this, too…it really is the best way and I come back to this post every time we make steak! πŸ˜‰ Happy cooking!

  34. 34

    Can you use this method with thicker filets? The ones I have from Costco are pretty thick-maybe 3 inches.

    • My apologies for the delayed response. Somehow I missed your comment.

      Yes, ABSOLUTELY you can use thicker cuts the technique will work beautifully. The cooking times will adjust, but the temperatures are the same.


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