As far as I’m concerned, cooking a steak should be part of the high school exit exam. Once you’ve demonstrated you know who won the Civil War and that fractions are like normal numbers, just smaller and weird looking, you should be required to turn and burn a perfect medium-rare rib-eye. Then, and only then, will you be ready for the real world.
There are main two camps when it comes to perfect steak cooking technique (minus the reverse sear method and sous vide, those are a little too far out there for us to get into here). On the one side, you got Bobby Flay, the bad boy of BBQ, throwing ancho and espresso rubs on porterhouses, cooking over an open charcoal flame with nothing but his grill intuition, a giant pitcher of charred blood orange sangria, and some heat resistant tongs. He’s a wild card.
Then there’s Alton Brown, the mad scientist who uses carefully calibrated tools, a University of Georgia dramatic arts degree, a cast iron skillet, and stovetop to his steak-cooking advantage. His technique is the most consistent route (minus the theatrics). So, unless you’re at a tailgate, he’s your steak muse for the day.
90 percent of this may or may not be paraphrased from an episode of Good Eats that I watched when I was 12 years old, but you don’t mess with time-honored success.
First, preheat your oven to 500 degrees, then run out and get yourself a steak. I went with a New York strip. Personally, I don’t think you need to let your steak come up to room temperature before cooking—that makes it harder to get a nice, seared crust and a rare interior—but you just do you on this. You’re going to use a meat thermometer, so it’s not a big deal either way.
Season that steak with good kosher salt and fresh-cracked black pepper, coat it ever-so-lightly with vegetable oil, then heat a cast iron pan on high for at least five minutes. If you don’t have a cast iron pan—which you really, really should—use your most heat resistant non-non-stick pan. You want to visibly see smoke before touching beef to metal.
Sear the steak for exactly two minutes on one side, then flip and sear the other side for 90 seconds. Place one tablespoon of butter on top of the steak before throwing it in your now 500-degree oven for anywhere between two and five minutes, depending on thickness.
Instead of relying on guesswork and intuition—we can’t all be Bobby Flay—invest $8.99 in a solid, instant-read meat thermometer. That way, you can take the steak out at various intervals in the oven, test the temperature, and use that to guide you. I tried to go for 135 degrees, smack in the middle of medium rare, and ended up at about 137. There’s always next time.
Let the meat rest for at least five minutes—10 is overkill in my opinion—then slice it up, and go to town. You earned this steak, dammit.
Photos by Photos by: Josh Scherer