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When you think of a dish you can serve anytime that guests will surely love, you can never go wrong with a steak. Whether it’s for family dinner, date night, or just for a simple get together.
Search for “how to cook steak” and you’ll come across with thousands (if not millions) of ways to cook this crowd favorite. Despite various ways to cook this dish and “experts” chiming in their pro-tips, you’ll still find some misconceptions and common myths in grilling steak.
Let’s cut through all the noise and debunk those common myths once and for all.
Myth #1: You get the best steak when cooked at room temperature
This is one of those many sensible myths that many believe. After all, when your steak is at room temperature before cooking, you won’t be wasting any thermal energy bringing your steak up to temperature. If the steak is already at room temperature, it’s sensible to assume that the heat will then go into grilling you the perfect steak.
But when it was tested by a chef and author J. Kenji Lopez-alt , this widely popular myth was not true after all. After 20 minutes of sitting at room temperature, the center of his steak had risen 1.8° F, and using a meat thermometer, he found that even after two full hours he was only 13% closer to the ideal temperature for a medium-rare steak.
Does letting your steak be at room temperature give you a better sear? No. The temperature of your steak has got nothing to do with the grilling process. It’s all about evaporating moisture, and doing it is the challenge. Kenji shares that it takes five times more energy to convert a single gram of water into steam than it does to raise the temperature of ice to boiling hot water.
When you look at it, the thermal energy needed to evaporate water in your steak whether it was cold or at room temperature doesn’t really make that much of a difference. Try patting your steak down with paper towels to get rid of excess moisture or salt your steak and let it rest so you can remove the surface temperature.
Myth #2: Steak with the bone-in tastes better
Out of all the myths in grilling steak, this may be one that can be considered as truth because this depends on your preference. This is not entirely incorrect,m but it is highly subjective.
Some people enjoy the bits of connective tissue in a bone-in steak. It is perfectly acceptable to be what some people may call a “bone-chewer”. However, some people would be horrified to eat meat from the bones.
The myth about this is the claim that it tastes better with the bones in. This is too generic to be applicable to any situation. This advice is useless because there are so many kinds of bone-in steaks from too many animals, and too many cooking methods.
If we are being charitable, we might point out that the bone acts as an insulator. It means that the meat next to it may cook slightly less. This isn’t going to make cheap steak a delicious melt-in-your mouth treat.
“Do I have to give up bone-in?
You can cook steak with the bones in if you like. Don’t be afraid if you don’t enjoy steak with the bone-in. There are still great flavor sensations to be had but remember that your meat’s flavor will vary by the breed of the animal, how it is cut, and how you cook it, not because of the bones in or out of the meat.
Myth #3: You shouldn't salt steak before it's cooked
You often hear people say to only salt the steak after it’s cooked to prevent drawing out moisture from the steak. If you want the steak tender and juicy, salting the meat before it’s cooked may not sound like a great idea.
Salt enhances the flavor and reduces surface moisture to allow better browning on the steak’s surface. Salting the meat (also known as dry brining) causes a reaction which draws out moisture from the meat in a matter of minutes. This method actually increases the moisture on the surface, making it more difficult to sear well if you don’t want to wait long enough when cooking. So what should you do?
You can still salt your steaks. But, let it rest for a longer time uncovered.
Doing this for 45 minutes to two hours, depending on the meat’s thickness, will give you well-seasoned meat that you can get a good grill without reducing its juiciness. Salt the meat before you cook it, but if the time is tight, you can just salt your steak and leave it for 5 to 10 minutes before grilling.
Myth #4: Searing your steak keeps the juices inside
This one is for everyone at the back. Searing doesn’t create a magical barrier that locks in moisture.This particular myth comes from a food chemistry book published in the 1840s and, despite being thoroughly debunked from the 1900s onward, it’s still hanging around.
In fact, the whole idea behind searing or browning meat is to remove moisture from its surface layer and allow the high temperature of your pan or grill to encourage the Maillard Reaction. This alters the sugars in your steak and gives it that distinctive and intense flavor. It shouldn’t affect how juicy your steak will be if it’s done right.
The meat seared later during the cooking process retains more water than beef seared immediately. This is why the reverse sear method is so popular for cooking steak. In grilling steak, you will not do a reverse sear. What you need to do is to make it so that your steak is cooked and brown on the outside, but is cooked all the way in (or medium-rare) and it retains its juiciness.
You are not trying to “lock in the juices”. What you want is to remove surface moisture. Try patting your steak dry with a paper towel and apply salt two hours before cooking, and get it on a cooking surface that has been heated to between 300°F to 500°F. Use a meat thermometer, preferably with a long probe, to measure the accuracy of the temperature you’re going for.
Myth #5: You can use the poke test to tell when your steak is done
Stop poking at your steak or your own meat to determine if it is cooked to your satisfaction.
It is absurd to think that you can measure temperature changes as small as 5°F by prodding something with one’s finger. Measuring the difference is like estimating your own temperature, which varies from another person’s own gauge of temperature. Just don’t do it.
“But if I don’t do this, how would I know if my steak is done?”
Checking the surface of your grilled steak as your sole basis can be tricky. The best way to make sure that it is cooked to your preference is to invest in a quality and versatile instant-read thermometer.
Having a trusted meat thermometer can benefit you not only in grilling your steak but in other meat dishes as well. With an instant-read digital thermometer, you can monitor the temperature as you grill the steak to perfection. Check out our guide in finding the right internal temperature according to the type of meat you are cooking (pork, beef, poultry, lamb, and etc.).
Also, remember to remove your steaks from the heat before they reach their desired temperature, especially if you’re aiming for medium-rare steak, to prevent it cooking all the way before it even reaches your table.
Myth #6: You should avoid flipping your steak more than once
This myth is usually available in statements:
- You can judge the quality of your steak by how it is cut and the color.
- “Never cut steak to determine how well it’s done. Otherwise, all the moisture will escape.”
And both are equally incorrect.
We mentioned that your steak will continue cooking even after it is taken off the heat. It does. The steak’s color can change. But it does not mean it is already cooked inside. That’s why in grilling, you will inevitably need to flip your steak more than once.
To truly know if your meat is cooking inside, you need to use a meat thermometer. Don’t worry, even professional chefs use it so they can ensure the food they’re making is safe to eat and is cooked according to your preference.
Myths in Grilling Meat are now debunked!
We’d love to know if you have any myths about steak cooking that we should bust, or if you’ve already busted them yourself. Share your experiences with us in the comments!
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