Steak, though a grill favorite, can be cooked in several other ways. It can be pan-fried, braised, broiled, baked, etc. Selecting the proper method for cooking steak depends on its tenderness. There are dry heat methods and moist methods. Dry heat methods are generally applied for more tender steaks such as filet mignon and sirloin, while moist heat methods are more suited to tougher cuts of beef. The water helps in tenderizing the steak.
The tenderness of cooked steak is influenced by how much it is ‘done’. Depending on the time for which the steak is cooked, it may be raw, very rare, rare, medium rare, medium, medium well-done and well-done. Rare steaks are exposed to the flame for a very short time. They still maintain their rawness and are very pink in color. Rarely done steaks maintain their original beefy flavors, but they are not very healthy as they still contain micro-organisms. As the cooking time increases, the pinkness of steak gets converted to brownness and its juiciness also reduces. Well-done steaks are brown throughout and also tough to chew. For ordinary palates, medium rare steaks are the best bets.
The best way to cook a steak is definitely grilling it. Everything matters while grilling a steak – the tenderness of steak, the marinade, the quality of the coal and lighter fluid and even the concentration of the person cooking. Most steaks require about 8-10 minutes on the barbeque. The time will depend on the degree of doneness required.
Tender cuts can also be broiled. Broiling is done in the oven with no liquids used. It gives a different flavor from grilling as in an oven the heat surrounds the meat from all sides. Less tender cuts can also be broiled provided they are marinated earlier.
Thin and tender cuts of steak such as the sirloin, T-bone and rib-eye taste very well when they are pan-fried. Steaks are fried in an open pan placed over a flame. No oil is added. The steaks cook in their own fats.
If the cut of beef is bigger, then it is ideal for roasting. Roasting is also a dry heat cooking method that uses no liquid and no cover. Tender cuts roast better and they are to be sliced before serving.
Tough cuts of beef such as chuck, round, flank, briskets and blade are usually braised. Braising is a moist-heat cooking method done with a little amount of liquid in an oven with a closed lid. It is a slow process as it slowly allows the meat to tenderize.
Another method for tough cuts is stewing. Beef is completely covered in water and cooked slowly over a medium flame. Stewing is not a very popular method for steaks; but if the cut is large enough and tough, then it better be put into the stew pot.
In all the methods of cooking steak, the degree of doneness is measured by using a meat thermometer. However, by practice, one can also judge the doneness by merely touching the steak externally.