I was frustrated, both with the waste of money and with the growling in my under-fed stomach. Finally the secrets to cooking a great steak at home were revealed when I read the excellent The New Steak cookbook by Cree Lefavour.
I still haven't mastered my charcoal Weber grill, but that is a long-term project. When it comes to pan-frying a steak, though, the three tips that have made the biggest difference:
- Take your steak out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature on the counter (1 hour or so). You can speed up the process a bit by resting them on a conductive surface like a thick copper skillet.
- Use the biggest, heaviest skillet you can find - a big, ugly, relatively inexpensive cast iron skillet is my weapon of choice. Put it on the stovetop (no oil at this point), turn the burner up to high, open all your windows and go do something else for 10-15 minutes - preparing side dishes or salad is a good option.
- Once the steak is cooked to your liking (3 minutes per side for thin steaks like flank or skirt), put the steak and skillet directly into a 170 degree oven for 5 minutes. This lets the meat rest and locks in all of its flavorful juices. Even if you are really hungry, don't skip this step - it makes all the difference.
It's personal preference as what sort of cut and provenance you prefer. I'm a healthy foodie, so it is always organic, grass-fed lean cuts for me - Whole Foods has a wonderful selection to choose from.
Choose a gutsy red with lots of tannins - a French Cotes-du-Rhone or Spanish tempranillo is a good value choice - and you are all set for a great meal!