The question of “How to cook a steak?” has as many answers as steak eaters. There are so many ways to get to a very good steak. Some methods are very tough to replicate in a home kitchen and some methods (like sous-vide steak) require a lot of time and fancy equipment. But, most home cooks can make a very delicious steak using their oven paired with a hot skillet!
This method may seem counterintuitive as you always hear that you are supposed to cook steaks over high heat, but using your oven is a way to ensure that the steak is evenly heated and then you can finish the steak in a hot skillet to get that signature crust on it!
Let’s dive in and learn how to make a really delicious steak at home using your oven!
A Steak Disadvantage
The home cook is at a disadvantage when it comes to cooking steak. Restaurants have tons of tricks to give steak a great taste. They let it age (which can be reproduced at home, but is tricky) and they have high heat devices which are tough to impossible to replicate.
But that does not mean one cannot make a good steak at home. In fact, I argue that I can make a near-restaurant quality steak on the stovetop paired with a standard oven on low heat, only being beat out by probably the top steakhouses.
What steaks work well for this oven method?
There are a few things I want to address before we jump into the cooking.
First, when I say steak in this post, I’m taking about a steak at least 1/2 inch thick and with good marbling. The process I’m using in this post would do nothing on a skirt steak (one that is very thin) or any lean cut. By steak, I mean a ribeye, T-bone, or something of that nature.
For the photos in this post, I used a ribeye steak which is always a good bet.
Second, fat is the key in this cooking method. You would not want to cook Filet Mignon like this. It is too lean. When I say that the steak should have good marbling, I mean that it should have veins of fat within the tissue.
Now, you may already know this, but this is not an economical meal. If you are going to get a real steak like a good ribeye, it’s going to cost some dollars. The good news is that it is so tasty, that I never need a full steak to get full. Could I eat a full 1 pound steak? Probably. But Betsy and I usually split one and it makes for a perfect meal.
Cooking a Steak in the Oven: Low Heat First
The first key to cooking a good steak in your kitchen is to relax the steak. If you were to feel a steak right out of the refrigerator, it’ll be firm to the touch. That’s because all of that marbling in the meat is solid. We want this fat to relax a little bit. There are a few ways to do this.
The problem with cooking a steak right out of the fridge is that it will cook very unevenly. Many steakhouses fix this problem by letting the steaks rest for 30-45 minutes before searing them off.
This oven method speeds that up and is more practical for home cooks.
Preheat your oven to a very low heat setting. I usually use 200˚F. Meanwhile you can prepare your steak. I like to add some butter to mine along with a clove of crushed garlic and some fresh rosemary. You don’t HAVE to do any of that, but it’s a nice touch.
This oven method mimicks what a steak house will do. They will let a steak sit for 15-20 minutes by the stove before cooking it. The difference being that in an industrial kitchen, it is much hotter than your room temperature house.
A low setting (200 degrees F. or lower) oven approximates this setting.
I used a thermometer to make sure my steak didn’t over-cook, but you don’t have to be this finicky.
I’d recommend placing the steak in the oven for around 15 minutes and flipping it once after about 10 minutes. Don’t forget about it as it will start to shoot up in temperature. For a medium-rare steak, you definitely don’t want to let it get above 100˚F in the oven.
When you pull your steak out, you will notice immediately that it is much more tender. It’s almost like your steak has had a few cocktails. It’s just having a good time.
Compare the below photo to the one above to see how just a few minutes in a low heat oven (like 200 or under) can really start to melt those veins of fat.
How to season a steak
The next step is to season this guy. I’m a complete purist when it comes to this. If you have a quality cut of meat, all it needs is salt and pepper. Feel free to give it a liberal amount of both, but I have no desire to put anything else on it.
You can season your steak pretty aggressively as some will fall off in the skillet.
Finishing your steak in a hot skillet
Your steak is now seasoned and relaxed. It’s time to do our best to give it that characteristic steakhouse char on the outside. The way to do this is blazing heat. If you don’t have an industrial-strength salamander (who does?), there is no better way to do this than a cast iron skillet.
Put it over high heat with a tablespoon of high-heat oil (like avocado oil or canola oil) and let it get almost smoking hot over medium-high heat.
Then toss in your steak. If you are cooking more than one, be sure not to crowd them. If you crowd them then the heat will not transfer well and you will end up with a strange gray hunk of meat.
Once your steak is in the pan, don’t touch it. Seriously don’t touch it. It will smoke and steam and hiss and be generally unhappy about the situation. That’s fine. Just let it complain, but don’t touch it!
When to turn it is when experience comes in a bit. For a perfect medium rare steak that is a bit under 1 inch thick (like mine in this post), I do about 4 minutes on the first side. When in doubt, I always shoot low as I despise overcooked steak.
When I flip my steak, I like to add some butter to the skillet along with the rosemary and garlic from before and baste the steak as it sears for a few minutes. Note that if you add this butter and herbs right at the beginning they will just burn.
Another 2-3 minutes on the second side and your steak should be ready to go.
How to tell when your steak is done
The best answer for this is to use an instant read thermometer. For medium rare you’ll want to pull the steak around 130-135˚F and let it start to rest. For medium, shoot for 140-145˚F.
If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, just know that the timing I listed in the post will get you pretty close to medium rare assuming you have a steak around 3/4-inch thick.
You can also use the touch test, which is far from scientific, but does work.
By touching the steak, you can tell a general level of doneness.
If you push your thumb and your fingers together lightly, the section of muscle right below the thumb feels almost identical to a steak at different levels of doneness.
This is because as it cooks, the proteins in the meat tighten and the fat melts away. If you poke a well done steak it will feel like a flexed bicep.
Resting the steak
After you pull this off the heat, let it rest for five minutes before slicing and serving it. This will let the juices redistribute through the meat.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, there are a lot of ways to cook steak. This is one of them that I think is very accessible to most people and results in a perfectly cooked steak time and time again.
Leftover steak is rare at the Crunch Time Kitchen house, but if you do have some leftover steak it’s great cold on sandwiches or salads (like this steak salad) or you can reheat it in a skillet with a little oil. I don’t love microwaved steak, but you can do it in a pinch.
Perfect Steak (Oven Method)
- 1 1-pound steak, rib-eye or similar, at least 3/4-inch thick
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, (optional)
- 1 tablespoon high-heat oil, like canola or avocado
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 200˚F. Place steak in an oven-safe dish and top with 1 tablespoon of butter, crushed garlic, and rosemary (optional).
- Place steak in oven and let come up to temperature for 8-9 minutes. Then flip the steak and return to oven for 4-5 minutes. If you happen to have a thermometer it should register around 90-100˚F.
- Preheat a sturdy skillet over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of neutral oil.
- Season steak with salt and pepper well on both sides.
- Once the oil is hot, add steak and sear on the first side for 3-4 minutes. Let it cook undisturbed to get a good sear on it.
- Flip the steak and add another tablespoon of butter, plus the rosemary and garlic and as the butter melts, baste the steak for 3-4 minutes or until it hits an internal temperature of around 135˚F. (for medium rare).
- Remove steak and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice into serving slices and pour melted butter and juices from skillet over the steak.
- Serve immediately.