These steak secrets guarantee a juicy, flavorful meal every time.

By Real Simple Editors
Updated June 04, 2020
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Ordering a perfectly cooked steak at a restaurant? Easy. But learning how to cook steak at home is another matter altogether. Fortunately, learning how to cook steak for your homemade steak dinner doesn’t take a culinary genius. You can keep things simple and still make a delicious steak at home, whether you prefer the oven, stovetop, or grill, with these simple tips and pointers for cooking steak.

After you have your cut of choice, you only need a few ingredients to cook steak. You can always add steak sauces, rubs, and wet or dry brine, but if you want a basic steak, this is your guide. (And if you’re really ready to take things up a notch, you can always use a cast-iron skillet to make a pan-seared steak at home.)

How to cook steak

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1 Start with a thawed steak.

(Here’s how to defrost steak if needed.) Take the steak out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature. It will brown better and cook faster and more evenly. Plus, a rare steak won’t end up cold in the center.

2 Fully preheat the grill, skillet, or broiler to the desired temperature.

This will help you get a better sear, which locks in juices.

3 Pat the steak dry with a paper towel before cooking (another way to ensure a good sear).

4 Wait to season the steak until just before you cook it.

If you season ahead of time, the salt will draw out some juices. Use generous amounts of kosher salt and cracked (or butcher’s grind) black pepper to get the most flavorful crust.

5 Cook your steak on both sides.

Do your best to flip the steak only once and cook until you reach your desired level of doneness. Rare steaks should be at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit; medium steaks should be around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and well-done steaks should be close to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. (For more details, check our steak temperature guide.) Note that the USDA recommends cooking whole cuts of beef to a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal safety.

Figuring out how long to cook steak depends on your cooking temperature, desired level of doneness, and the thickness of the cut. Most recommendations say to cook steak for a minimum of five minutes (flipping halfway through) for a rare steak; add cook time to each side for larger steaks or steaks that are more fully cooked through. The safest course of action is to use an instant read thermometer, too, so you don’t have to rely entirely on cook time.

6 Let the cooked steak rest.

Steak that rests before being cut is able to better retain its juices. The USDA has also added a three-minute rest time for all meats as part of its food safety cooking recommendations, so once your steak is removed from the pan, grill, or oven, let it rest for at least three minutes.

7 Garnish with fresh thyme and flaky sea salt.