Cooking Steak for Apartment-Dwellers

One of my favorite things to do I’m going to have company or if I want to just have a nice evening to myself with a fine meal is cook a steak. I tend to prefer a nice New York Strip, mostly because it’s a nice big thick cut of beef and perfect for the cooking method that I’m about to describe.

Seriously – you don’t have to love meat or be a big “meat and beer” kind of guy to appreciate a good steak, and nothing impresses guests to your tiny little apartment more than serving them a hot, perfectly cooked steak with some fresh vegetables on the side. I know, I know – you’re thinking I must have some kind of grill pan or something to grill a steak and I must have a great kitchen ventilation system to get all of the smoke out. You’d be right that I do have and love my cast-iron grill pan (it stretches across two burners and gives you plenty of room to grill…except indoors) but I don’t use it for steak, and trust me – my kitchen hood is not very good.

This week we’re going to do something a little simple, but it’s going to help you a lot. If you’re anything like me, some things like cooking steak can be pretty intimidating until you have a method to do it; you think you’ll have to have a massive grill, and perfect tools, and learn tons about how much the steak gives to tell if it’s properly cooked inside without poking it to find out, and so on and so on. There is some of that, but trust me, when you finish this article, you’ll be ready to head out and cook your own steak in your own tiny apartment, without the use of a grill of any type and without burning your apartment to the ground.

The first thing you’ll need to know about before you head out to grab yourself a couple of steaks to cook for you and your guest is what the best cut of meat for your purpose is. There are tons of great guides on the web, but I really like this guide to cuts of steak because it includes photos of the meat you’ll see in the store – you can think back to the last one you ate to determine what cut it is.

Like I mentioned, I like the New York Strip – I can get it without the bone in and decently marbled and moderately fatty. It’s worth noting here that when you shop for a steak your should look with one that has decent marbling through the meat (that is, you can see distributions of fat through the meat, which makes for a juicier, tastier cut when it’s cooked.) The New York Strip is perfect for the method of cooking I’m about to describe, and it’s not so huge that it’s a ton of meat – it’s enough that you can have some veggies on the side and have a decently sized meal.

You don’t have to go with the New York Strip; I would just as quickly pick up a Ribeye for the type of cooking I’m about to describe, but probably not any cut that’s bone-in, or a massive cut like a T-Bone or Porterhouse, or something super-expensive like a Filet Mignon or Tenderloin.

As for whether you should pick up an “Angus” or “Grade A” or whatnot – I completely and totally suggest you read this Wikipedia lineup of USDA beef grades. You’ll see different stores label their meats different grades and brands of their own – I say keep an eye out for US Choice and US Prime. They’re the best and the safest, and those labels should shine through the haze of various brand names like “Rancher’s Reserve” and “Nature’s Promise,” that are more store brands and not indicative of the type of beef you’re buying.

Now then. Now you know what kind of steak to pick up and you know how to Occhiali Ray Ban outlet pick a good one (look for the label, look at the marbling of the meat, and of course, don’t blow the budget) so now you’re ready to head home and cook up your steak. Grab your fancy new cuts of meat, check out, and head out.

When you get home, the first thing you’ll want to do is preheat your oven 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and get out your favorite cast iron pan. What’s that? You don’t have a cast iron pan? You clearly didn’t read my article, Essential Kitchen Tools for Beginners, did you? Get one!

Now while your oven is preheating, make sure that steak is coming up to room temperature. If your steak is at toom temp, it’ll wind up cooking more evenly and will turn out more tender than if you toss a cold steak in a hot pan. If your steak is up to temp, wash it off with some warm water and make sure to pat it as dry as possible with paper towels. Once your steak is washed and dry again, sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and fresh cracked ground pepper. You can use sea salt or pre-ground pepper if you like, I just like the large salt chunks of kosher salt for flavoring meat, and fresh cracked pepper for that big peppery flavor.

A quick aside to the topic of marinades: you can marinate your steak if you want – I’m not one of those people who’s diametrically opposed to it. Toss your steak in a plastic baggie and cover over with a marinade, either homemade or bought from a store, whatever you want to try. I find steaks take well to simpler flavors that help the meat shine through, as opposed to bold and overwhelming marinades that are really made for meats with less intrinsic flavor like chicken or pork. So take it easy, okay? And do yourself a favor – try a steak with just salt and pepper just so you know what you’re missing.

Now then, I’m going to assume you have a cast iron pan, and you’ve got it warming up on the stove. Don’t put oil or butter in it just yet – if you put oil or butter in the pan while it’s cold, it’ll start smoking sooner because it heats up while the pan heats up. If you wait until the pan is searing lava hot, you don’t have to stop heating and Ray Ban outlet start cooking when your oil burns away – you can get an overall hotter pan.

Once your pan is so freaking hot that it itself may start smoking itself, toss in some olive oil and run it around the surface of the pan so it covers the surface. Once you have a good cover and you’re ready, grab that steak that you’ve covered all over with salt and pepper. Toss it in the pan for 2-3 minutes on the first side to get a really good sear on that side of the meat. Use a timer if you’re worried about judging the sear.

Grab your tongs (that’s right, don’t poke the meat with anything sharp!) and turn the steak over to the other side. Sear for another 2-3 minutes. After that, grab the pan with an oven mitt and toss the whole thing into your pre-heated oven for 4-6 minutes, depending on how you want your steak cooked. That time may vary a bit depending on how thick the meat is, by the way.

Now all you have to do is wait. Don’t open the oven, don’t poke the meat, leave it alone until your timer goes off. Go prep your side dishes or something.

Once that timer goes off though, pull your cast iron pan out of the oven and set it off to the side. Let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes; cover it over if you want to, but don’t worry, it’ll keep warm. While the meat is resting, you can finish up your side dishes, but make sure you let the meat rest a bit so it can reabsorb some of the juices that are flowing around inside. If you cut into it now, you’ll wind up with a steak on top of a puddle of juice.

I hear you, “but how will I know if it’s done?” Well, you could do something like poke it with your thumb and, based on the amount of give the steak has, the firmness will tell you how done it is. This guide to the finger test for doneness will help you figure out what the different feelings really mean. As for me though? I like a good medium but don’t freak if its overdone. I play with the cooking time and use trial and error more than I use the actual finger test, but it’s a good tool to keep in your arsenal.

Now then, steak’s done, sides are done, and you’re safe to plate it all up. Pair your steak with a nice wine if you’re feeling fancy or have a soda or glass of iced tea if you’re slumming it around the house. One way or the other though, you’ve got a nice steak on your hands – you’ve picked it yourself, taken it home, cooked it in your own Ray Ban outlet online kitchen, and you’ve only used the cooktop to get a nice sear on it, so your apartment shouldn’t be filled with smoke and you shouldn’t be coughing, since the oven did most of the heavy lifting.

Congratulations! It’ll take more time to master it, especially if you’re aiming for a specific doneness or are playing with different cuts and thicknesses of meat, but the important thing is that you’ve done it. Cut into that juicy steak and be proud that you did it all yourself, and you didn’t even have to grill it.

image in this post courtesy of Flickr user The Busy Brain (titled Peppercorn Beef Shoulder Filet Steak)

Author Description

Alan Henry

There are 6 comments. Add yours

  1. 3rd May 2010 | pastilla says:
    Wow; interesting method. I have not heard of doing a steak like, that, but I can immediately appreciate why it would work. Must. Try.
  2. 4th May 2010 | Alan Henry says:
    Thanks so much! The nice thing about the method is that it really doesn't take a lot of space, or a lot of equipment that you probably won't use for other cooking purposes at the same time. AND it's easy to tidy up afterward. For folks who live in apartments and condos like me who don't (or can't) have a grill, this is a great way to get a good steak without having to go to a restaurant!
  3. 9th May 2010 | Rachel says:
    Just reading this article is making me hungry...
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