Grilling steak is practically a rite of summer, but it isn't always the easiest thing to do, especially when everyone is asking you for a different doneness. If you're not an expert, it can be daunting and stressful to make sure everyone is happy with their steak . And let's admit that most of us have made some mistakes when cooking steak -- sometimes it's kind of raw and other times it's as well done as the sole of your shoe. In the slideshow below we try to diagnose your problems and provide you with helpful guidelines whether you're pan-searing, grilling or broiling your steaks.
Symptom: My Steak Sticks To The Pan/Grill
Not waiting for your steak to properly sear before flipping it is a common mistake that many people make. But try not to be so eager because you run the risk of the steak sticking and tearing if you lift it too soon. <strong>Remedy</strong>: Sear the steak until the meat is completely sealed -- an easy way to tell is when the sizzling sound quiets down. When it's seared and sealed, then you can flip it. <strong>Additional Tip</strong>: It's also a good idea to rub the steak with oil before searing it to prevent any sticking and get a better sear. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/4491536812/" target="_hplink">Pink Sherbet Photography, Flickr</a>.
Symptom: My Steak Is Flavorless
Did you season it properly? Seasoning at the right time is key. If you season too far in advance, the steak will turn tough since salt draws out the natural juices. <strong>Remedy</strong>: You have two options: Season your steak with salt and pepper just before cooking it. Or, if you prefer, salt it as it comes off the heat. If you choose to do so, sprinkle it with salt right after it's cooked and let it rest -- the salt will dissolve into the steak during resting. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/adiereed/4913785383/" target="_hplink">adie reed, Flickr</a>.
Symptom: My Steak Isn't Charred Enough
Not having your grill or pan hot enough will steam your steak instead of searing it, leaving the steak with a pale exterior with not nearly enough flavor. <strong>Remedy</strong>: You need to have a screaming hot grill, pan or broiler before you put your steak on the heat. If you see smoke, you're doing it right. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnjoh/5186602883/" target="_hplink">star5112, Flickr</a>.
Symptom: I Can Never Get My Steak Perfectly Medium-Rare
Medium-rare is typically the preferred doneness for steak -- it's also the best doneness for many steaks that would otherwise be too tough if cooked for longer (flank, skirt, hanger). <strong>Remedy</strong>: The best way to tell medium-rare doneness is to press the steak with your finger. The steak should sort of act like a good pillow -- you should be able to make an indentation that bounces back to shape. If it's too mushy, it's still rare. If it doesn't make an indentation, then it's cooking toward well done.
Symptom: My Steak Is Raw Inside
Cooking a cold steak might be your problem -- the cold meat seizes, making it look like it's done sooner than it is, but it actually will take longer to cook, resulting in a tough steak. <strong>Remedy</strong>: It's very important to allow your steak to come to room temperature before cooking it -- skipping this step may result in a steak that is much less than rare on the inside. <strong>Additional Tip</strong>: If the steak was previously frozen, make sure it's properly defrosted before letting it come to room temperature and cooking it.
Symptom: My Steak Is Never The Right Doneness
You can't always rely on guesstimation for determining the doneness of a steak. Sometimes you need a tool to help. <strong>Remedy</strong>: Though the finger test works very well, you will only be absolutely sure if you use a meat thermometer. Here are the temperature guides: Rare: 120 - 125 degrees F Medium-Rare: 130 - 135 degrees F Medium: 140 - 145 degrees F Medium-Well: 155 - 160 degrees F Well: 165 - 180 degrees F <strong>Additional Tip</strong>: Never cut into a steak while it's still cooking -- it will lose most of its delicious juices.
Symptom: My Steak Is Bleeding Too Much After Cooking
You didn't let the steak rest long enough. Many people make this mistake because they're too hungry and anxious. But this leads to the steak losing too much of its moisture, which leads to dry meat. <strong>Remedy</strong>: <a href="http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/12/how-to-have-juicy-meats-steaks-the-food-lab-the-importance-of-resting-grilling.html" target="_hplink">Be patient and let the steak rest it's proper amount of time (about 10 minutes) before cutting in</a>. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/alexportillo/5713042511/" target="_hplink">alexportillo, Flickr</a>.
Symptom: My Steak Is Burned On The Outside
It's easy to burn a steak when you're not watching it, but sometimes it can also be due to the fact that the steak itself is too fatty, which causes flare ups on the grill. <strong>Remedy</strong>: It's a good idea to trim some excess fat from your steaks, but don't trim too much because then you're sacrificing flavor. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jundai/385286948/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">bateskobashigawa, Flickr</a>.
Symptom: My Steak Is Taking Too Long To Cook
It's all about a balance between thinness/thickness and cooking temperature. <strong>Remedy</strong>: Most steaks (between 1 and 1 1/2 inches thick) will cook perfectly at medium-high to high heat. Thicker steaks will require a longer cook time, which means you should stay away from cooking them at an absolute high heat that will only sear the exterior and leave the interior raw. <strong>Additional Tip</strong>: It's also best to stay away from cooking steaks that are thinner than 1 inch, because more than likely you will end up with a very tough steak. Here's a guide on <a href="http://barbecuetricks.com/tips-for-grilling-steaks-on-a-gas-grill/" target="_hplink">how long (in total time) to cook a steak by thickness</a>: <strong>1" Thick Steaks</strong> Rare 8-10 minutes Medium 12-14 minutes Well 16-20 minutes <strong>1 1/2" Thick Steaks</strong> Rare 10-16 minutes Medium 16-20 minutes Well 22-26 minutes <strong>2" Thick Steaks</strong> Rare 12-16 minutes Medium 18-22 minutes Well 24-28 minutes
Symptom: My Steak Is Tough
One of the biggest mistakes people make with cooking steak, especially on the grill, is flipping and moving it too often. People think that getting the perfect criss-cross grill marks is the most important -- but it's not more important than a perfectly cooked steak. <strong>Remedy</strong>: When you put down the steak, don't move it until it's seared. The more you move a steak, the more risk you're taking in getting a tough, overcooked steak. <strong>Additional Tip</strong>: Make sure to cut a steak against the gran -- not with the grain. Cutting against the grain makes it easier to chew. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/transworld/3307409174/" target="_hplink">Tran's World Productions, Flickr</a>.
WATCH: How To Cook A Perfect Steak
Learn an easy hand trick on how to tell a steak's doneness.