I encourage anyone who loves beef to have at least one 'go-to' steak cooking method in their arsenal. Here is my method to achieving that melt-in-your-mouth goodness that songs and sonnets are written about.
Cooking steak can be intimidating for many people, for some reason. Let's face it, it can be embarrassing at times. Picture this; you've invited over your current love interest for a charming dinner for two and are intent on cooking the perfect steak. You've got the table set, candles lit, everything is as it should be but somehow the steak turned out far less than impressive. Sure, it's edible but it is not the show-stopper you were dreaming about. What went wrong?
"Let's break this down"
I believe the reason cooking steak is intimidating is that there are so many different methods to do it and several factors involved to consider. There are various cuts of meat of varying thickness and marbling, furthermore, people prefer a various range of 'doneness'. All this can complicate the mind but simply, know your meat and know your guest(s).
For this method, I'll be focusing on a good size tenderloin of beef, pan-seared, and oven-finished. If you are cooking to impress that special person, spring for a decent cut of meat. Tenderloin or filet mignon is a good place to start for dinner for two evenings. They are thick enough (around 2 inches) but they don't overwhelm like a huge T-bone. The goal is not to gorge yourself, as much as I love a delicious T-bone. Something so huge can make one lethargic afterward and if you plan on an evening of romance, that's not going to make for a good time. So, remember KISS, keep it simple stupid.
Cooking Times & Doneness
Beef is safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. I like a good medium-rare steak with a warm-red center. Steak should never be cold in the center nor should it be over-cooked into a dried piece of leather. With that in mind, here is a simple 'go to' chart with temperature and oven times.
Rare - 120 F to 125 F - 4 minutes
Medium Rare - 125 F to 130 F - 5 to 6 minutes
Medium - 135 F to 140 F - 6 to 7 minutes
Medium Well - 145 F to 150 F - 8 to 9 minutes
Well Done - 160 F - 10 minutes
Let's Get Started
You are going to want a skillet that you can use on the stove-top as well as the oven. A cast-iron skillet is perfect for this and I highly recommend getting one if you don't already have one. We have our steaks, now, what do we want to go with it? An excellent choice is a baked potato and maybe some sauteed onions & mushrooms. If you have bell peppers on hand, that'd be great too.
First, we want to get the potatoes in the oven. They take a lot longer to cook so we'll need to put them in beforehand. Any potato will suffice; however, russets have a leg-up in my opinion.
Preheat your oven to 415 F and while the oven heats, scrub them up but leave the peel. Take a fork and stab them all around, we don't want them exploding on us. Then wrap them generously in aluminum foil. Place them in the oven and cook them for 35 minutes with one on each side of the rack to make room for the on-coming skillet. One thing I like to do beforehand when using cast iron is season the skillet first with Crisco and place it in the oven for about 20 minutes. This way, you'll have a nice hot skillet to work with.
Now for the onion
"What the heck"?
When I opened my onion bin, it seems the onions have taken on a life of their own. I guess I'll be doing some impromptu planting in the near future. In the meantime, I managed to find a nice red onion that hasn't decided to sprout. Wash, peel, and slice it up on a plate for now.
It's all about timing. I like my steaks medium rare and the potatoes will cook for about 1 hour and 10 minutes. So, the total time for the steaks will be 11 minutes, 2 to sear (both sides), and 7 minutes in the oven. Keep this in mind as you put this meal together.
After 35 minutes, it's time to take the potatoes out of the oven for phase 2.
Open up the foil and carefully set the potato on a plate. Keep it upright on the same side as it was in the oven. Now add some butter, salt, and pepper to the bottom of the foil and place the potato back inside (don't turn it yet). Add butter around on all sides with salt & pepper. Now, turn your potato and add butter, salt, and pepper to the top. Repeat this for both potatoes. This way, they will be nice and buttery and they will hold the salt & pepper. Carefully wrap them back up in the foil and place them back in the oven for 35 more minutes.
Now for the meat
Beef doesn't need a lot of help, which is why I never marinate my steaks. Butter, salt, and pepper are really all you need. I also use thyme and rosemary for a little extra flare. With the steaks at room temperature, pat on your seasonings. Take your skillet from the oven and place it on a stove eye and turn it to high heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter. When that melts, add the steaks and sear them for 2 minutes on each side. Use tongs or a spatula to turn them. You don't want to pierce them, that will let the tasty juices out.
It's all about trust
After they have seared, place the skillet in the oven to finish them off. Refer to the chart for cooking times according to the 'doneness' you prefer. For me, it's 7 minutes. Trust the time and keep a check on it. Once the time has elapsed, remove the skillet and place the steaks on a plate to rest. Lightly cover with foil. Don't clean the skillet.
Let's finish this
Now for the onions. Return the skillet to the stove eye on medium-high heat, add the onions to the skillet amongst all those juices and tasty bits, add a tablespoon of butter.
Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary.
Stir them around a bit until they caramelize and then add some mushrooms to the mix. Lightly season them as well. Add in the juices that have accumulated on the plate of steaks. Check those potatoes, after 35 minutes, pull them from the oven, and its' time to set your plates and pour a couple of glasses of cabernet sauvignon.
Mouth-Watering Heaven on a Plate
I'm telling you what's the truth, this is one of the best steaks I have cooked. The photos really don't do it justice. It was so tender and juicy, I hardly needed to chew it.
I hope you find this method a useful tool to add to your arsenal. Steak doesn't need to be complicated. Enjoy your date and thanks for reading. Have a blessed day!