How to Cook the Perfect Steak, Every Time
For spot-on results, grab these easy steak recipes and cooking tips and your trusty Yummly Smart Thermometer
Healthier, better-tasting meals are easier than you think with help from Yummly! Try it free now.
Grilled Black Pepper Strip Steaks with Red Onions. Photograph by Olga Ivanova. Article and recipes by David Bonom.
I love steak, especially beefy, meaty steaks — the real deal. Ribeye, New York strip, filet mignon, sirloin. There are others, no less delicious, but these are some of the thicker cuts that can be tricky to cook to the right degree of doneness.
I’ve been a professional recipe developer and chef for many years, and even with all of my experience, I would still get nervous when I had to cook steak for a guest, because you only get one shot to hit the right doneness. Sometimes, by the time the outside of a thick steak was as browned as it should be, the inside was still cool to the touch and seriously undercooked. Or the opposite, where I cooked it too long until the outside bordered on scorched and the inside was grey and dry.
For many years I tried the touch test. You tap the burning hot steak with your fingers, and compare it to a spot on your hand to allegedly indicate the degree of doneness. I think this worked for me once. I’ve cut into steaks (not great for presentation), and even used timing guides that I found online. Not one of those methods was reliable enough to allay my fears. Truth is, I was a food professional developing a steak-cooking phobia.
I found the answer — take the steak’s temperature. A meat thermometer is the key to perfect steak, and learning to use one took away all of my anxiety about overcooking or undercooking the meat.
My technique for these thicker-cut steaks really changed when I discovered the Yummly Smart Thermometer. The wireless meat thermometer takes away guesswork to give you perfect results every time. The best part is you simply insert the thermometer into your steak, set the app, walk away, and relax — it’s that easy. And we happen to have six simple and delicious beef steak recipes, using four different cuts of steak, for you to try it with.
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How to cook steak with the Yummly Smart Thermometer
Using the Yummly thermometer couldn’t be easier — or more foolproof! Unlike other apps that presume everyone wants to eat their steak the same way, the Yummly app lets you choose the exact level of doneness you like. Then the Yummly app tells you just how long to cook your steak to reach that doneness. For those of us who like to be in total control (hello, me!), you can also use the thermometer in manual mode.
The bluetooth feature means you can leave the kitchen or grill and check on your dinner with your smart phone. The app notifies you if there’s something you need to do like flip the meat. It tracks the meat’s internal temperature, and if the cooking temperature has gotten too hot or cold. Finally, it tells you when it’s time to take the steaks off the heat.
To be sure that your thermometer is properly measuring the steak’s temperature, be sure to follow the insertion guide on the Yummly app. In the app, tap on “beef,” and then “steak,” and look at the illustration to insert the stainless-steel probe into the thickest part of the meat (not hitting a bone or fat pocket). The probe should be completely covered, with only the black ceramic base visible. You’ll quickly see how easy it really is.
Insert the Yummly thermometer into steak all the way to the black cap. Photo by Brittany Conerly.
So get some gardening done, or hang out with friends and family on the patio, all with the confidence that your steak will come out perfectly cooked!
Steak temperature chart
Since cook time for steak depends on the heat you’re using and the thickness of the meat, you'll want to go by the internal temperature of the meat rather than a specific time. For perfect steakhouse results, be sure to preheat your pan, oven, or grill. Let steaks rest on a cutting board after cooking so the juices go back into the meat. The temperature will rise about 5°F during the rest, and the Yummly Thermometer takes that into account.
Well done: 155°F or higher
How to cook a New York strip steak
It used to be that it took a lot of trial and error to cook a strip steak to the right degree of doneness. When you use a meat thermometer you get it right from your very first attempt.
What is a New York steak?
The NY strip steak is cut from just below the backbone from an area between the rib and sirloin called the short loin. This steak is known by many names, including Kansas City strip steak, shell steak, strip steak, and top loin steak.
• Flavor: The New York strip is valued first and foremost for its deep, rich flavor. Think bold and beefy (but less robust than a ribeye).
• Texture: Though strip steaks are on the leaner side, this is a fairly tender cut, with enough marbling to give the meat a nice richness.
• Benefits: A strip steak doesn’t need a lot of fuss, other than proper seasoning (we’re talking salt and pepper) and the right level of heat.
Best ways to cook a New York strip steak
The strip cooks quickly but unfortunately can overcook and become dry and tough just as quickly. The best way to avoid this is to use a thermometer and not cook the steak past medium doneness (unless you are like my brother who likes dry, tough steak). My favorite way to cook a strip is on the grill on direct high heat (450° to 550°F), but broiling and pan-searing work equally well.
• Doneness: Ideally, cooking a strip steak from rare to medium will give you the most tender and juicy results.
My recipe for grilled steak with red onions is simple to execute and the perfect example of how to get the most out of this cut. You’ll rub the steaks with some olive oil, season steaks with kosher salt and cracked black pepper, then grill them over high heat. The outside gets a nice slight char in spots from the high heat and remains tender and juicy on the inside. And yes, the Yummly Smart Thermometer makes it really easy.
If that wasn’t tempting enough, try my next recipe for the grill. Cooking in a cast-iron skillet adds a level of flavor because you get excellent browning. The other great thing about this recipe is that it is a one-pan meal — everything cooks in the same cast-iron pan (with no tomatoes or onions falling through the grates) so there is just one pan to wash after dinner.
How to cook a ribeye steak
In my mind, the ribeye is a very forgiving steak. The marbling and texture give you some leeway so that if you slightly overcook the steak it isn’t ruined. However, it is very easy to get it right, and I’d much rather serve a perfectly cooked steak.
What is a ribeye steak?
The ribeye is a little-used muscle situated under the front section of the backbone. Its lack of use makes for a very tender, well-marbled steak with pockets of fat that melt when cooked, and lend a rich buttery-ness to its full flavor.
• Flavor: The ribeye is beloved for its tenderness and richness. Unlike the strip or filet mignon, this little-used muscle is well marbled with pockets of fat that give it a buttery richness and a robust beefy flavor.
• Texture: This steak is rich and tender even when cooked to medium.
• Benefits: A ribeye, like the strip, doesn’t need much other than proper seasoning and the right level of heat. It is hard to overcook to the point of ruin and the marbling acts as a self baste as the steak cooks.
The best ways to cook a ribeye
The best cooking methods for ribeye steak are grilling (but beware of flareups from the fat!), pan-searing, skillet to oven, and broiling. That rich marbling keeps the steak moist, even if you accidentally overcook it a bit.
• Doneness: Cooking a ribeye from rare to medium will put it at its peak flavor and give you the most tender and juicy results.
My recipe for this gorgeous ribeye is a classic example of treating the ribeye with the ultimate reverence. The steak is the star here. It’s finished with a simple pan sauce made by deglazing the skillet with some wine and Dijon mustard and adding the finishing touch of fresh herbs and butter.
My next recipe is another statement in simplicity. Grilling with salt and pepper lets the beefiness of the ribeye shine through. The easy compound butter adds an extra layer of flavor and richness to knock this one out of the park. For me, cooking steak is all about respecting my ingredients and using seasoning to enhance and not cover up the meat’s flavor.
How to cook a filet mignon
When people think of a fancy steak dinner they are usually referring to a filet mignon. There is a mystique about this cut that comes from its tenderness. While not the most flavorful of beef steaks, filet mignon is by far the most tender, and “like butter,” it goes a long way.
What is a filet mignon?
The filet could be considered the king of steaks. Filet mignon, also called tenderloin steak, comes from the short loin — a muscle that is little used, which is why the steak is so tender. It’s considered a somewhat leaner cut.
• Flavor: The filet mignon is beloved for its tenderness. The trade-off is that while it is has a nice beef flavor it does not have the robust beefy/meaty flavor of a ribeye, strip, or sirloin.
• Texture: This cut is revered for its tenderness and buttery texture.
• Benefits: Filet mignon cooks fairly quickly. Because it is so lean, it can dry out if overcooked, so pay attention to those Yummly Smart Thermometer notifications to ensure a perfectly cooked, juicy steak!
The best ways to cook a filet mignon
You can grill, broil, oven-roast, and pan-sear filet mignon with great results.
• Doneness: Ideally, cooking a filet mignon from rare to medium will put it at its peak tenderness and flavor. Anything past medium will result in a dry, tough texture.
One of my favorite methods for cooking filet mignon is actually a combination of two techniques. Start by searing the steaks in a hot pan, which gives them a beautiful browned exterior. Then transfer the pan-seared steaks to the oven to finish cooking with more gentle heat. The result is a tender, juicy steak with a flavorful brown crust.
My recipe for Pan-Seared Filet Mignon with Sherry Mushroom Sauce uses this double method — and while the steaks finish cooking in the oven, you make the delectable (and easy) sauce on the stove. The result is an elegant and outrageously delicious steak dinner that will get raves!
How to cook a sirloin steak
When people think of steak they often overlook the very flavorful sirloin steak. It doesn’t have the sex appeal of filet mignon, the richness of a ribeye, or the cachet of a strip steak. What it does have is value. Sirloin is a much more reasonably priced cut of meat than the other three steaks we’ve talked about, and with that value comes great flavor.
What is a sirloin steak?
The sirloin is cut from a working muscle group. Muscles that work hard have less fat, or marbling. The sirloin steak is very flavorful, but the lack of marbling makes it chewier. However, when cooked with care — and the use of your Yummly Smart Thermometer — a sirloin cooked to medium-rare is a great balance of savory meatiness and appealing texture.
• Flavor: Sirloin is robustly beefy but with a less rich taste than a strip or ribeye.
• Texture: The sirloin has a chewier texture than some steaks, but when cooked to the right degree of doneness, the chewiness and tenderness strike a good compromise.
• Benefits: Sirloin steaks cook fairly quickly and love high-heat cooking methods. They also benefit from marinating, which helps break down the tough fibers while adding flavor. The muscle structure actually allows more of the marinade to penetrate the meat than most other steak cuts.
The best ways to cook a sirloin steak
Sirloin steaks love high-heat cooking methods like grilling, broiling, and pan-searing. Start by marinating your sirloin steak, letting it stand at room temperature for up to 45 minutes or in the fridge for up to 3 hours. I prefer the room temp method, because steaks at room temperature (rather than cold) cook more quickly and evenly.
• Doneness: Cooking a sirloin steak to medium-rare will bring out its peak flavor and achieve a balance of chewiness and tenderness. Anything past medium-rare will result in a dry, tough texture.
My marinated, pan-seared steak recipe is the perfect example of how to get the most out of a sirloin. For best texture, look for a steak that’s about 1 inch thick. Simply marinate it with some vinegar and herbs to pick up great flavor nuances. Give the steak a sear on the stovetop to ensure a great browned crust and juicy center. Boiling the marinade at the end gives you a delicious pan sauce to spoon over the sliced steak.
More about meat
Keep honing your meat-cooking skills in these next articles.