The Minimalist's Tips for Perfect Steak

No need to go out for a perfectly cooked steak. Mark Bittman, aka the Minimalist, shares his tips for achieving steakhouse-quality perfection in your own kitchen.

Don't Overcook Your Steak

If you like a steak with crust -- and who doesn't -- it is best to start with a dry exterior. You can get one by putting the steak on a rack set over a pan in the refrigerator, uncovered. Leave it there, turning it once a day or so, for a couple of days. I like this method, which might be described as passive-aggressive: you don't have to do much, and it's very effective. (Alternatively, pat it dry with paper towels before grilling.)

For fast, even cooking, it also helps to have the steak at room temperature before grilling. If you're using a rub, put it on at the last minute. As for timing, you can't cook by a clock, but most 1-inch-thick steaks started at room temperature will brown in 3 to 4 minutes a side and be cooked to medium-rare after 7 or 8 minutes.

For greater precision, you have 3 options, in order of preference:

You can gain experience and cook by touch and sight.

You can use an instant-read thermometer: 125 degrees F is rare, 130 degrees F is medium-rare.

You can cut into the meat and check. This is inelegant, but not all that bad. Meat is not a balloon that pops when cut into; you may lose a little juice, but it's better to cut into a steak, which causes minor damage, than to overcook it, which destroys it.

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