Today we are talking steak. But not just any steak. We are talking restaurant quality, perfectly cooked to medium rare, steak. Yum. It’s has a wonderful melt in your mouth, doesn’t take much effort to chew, salty, beefy, flavor that cannot be imitated.
Steak is one of those food items that I avoided in the kitchen for the longest time. I always messed it up. Usually I ended up with an overcooked, dry, gray piece of shoe leather. I’ll never forget the one time I ended up burning the exterior and leaving the inside still cold – something I hope never to repeat (and know how to prevent!). On occasion, I will order steak in a restaurant, but even there it is hard to guarantee that my steak is cooked just to my liking. Maybe I’m just picky, but if that’s the case it’s even more of a reason to learn to make it myself.
So I did. I read quite a few recipes and a few chef interviews to attempt to piece together the secret behind an amazing steak. Some swear by cast iron, some by stainless steel. Some say that it’s their own special seasoning blend – which I don’t believe – and some say that it’s all about being simple. Some bake then sear, some sear then bake. Do you see a pattern here? All these sworn by secrets seemed to completely contradict each other. What’s a girl to do? Go out, buy a few steaks, and start testing the theories. The most common themes I found involved the temperature of the meat prior to cooking and using the oven – so I decided to start there.
I started with less expensive, good quality steak. I’ve tried flank steak, sirloin, flat iron and rib-eye. I grilled, I sauteed, I baked. I then grilled, sauteed, and baked some more. I learned that I like my steak best when pulled off the flame jut past 125 degrees*. As it rests the internal temperature will continue to rise about 10 degrees, so cooking it to medium rare* (135 degrees*) will result in, what I consider, an over cooked steak. After all my trials and errors, I have found a method that seems to work for me every time and I hope it will work for you too.
Before you begin, your meat needs to rest at room temperature for around 30 minutes. Remember when I said that I cooked one once where the inside was still cold and the outside was burnt? Yeah, well, I attempted to cook an almost frozen steak. If the inside is colder than the outside, the inside and outside will not cook at the same rate.
For today’s steak, I splurged on tenderloin filet, which is also known as filet mignon. I am using a cast iron skillet, but any pan that is both oven and stove top safe will be fine. Heat your oven to 250 degrees. Grease the bottom of the pan with olive oil and liberally salt and pepper both sides of the steak. Once the oven reaches 250, place the steaks in the center of the oven and set the timer for 8 minutes for thinner steaks and 10 minutes for thicker steaks. Mine were about 1″ thick and I did the first temperature check after 10 minutes. We are aiming for an internal temperature somewhere between 90 and 100 degrees. If you like your steak cooked to be medium or medium well, aim for a higher temperature coming out of the oven. I would suggest going for between 100 – 110 for medium and 105 – 115 for medium well.
While the steaks cook, it’s time to prepare the topping. I like to have all of my veggies cut up and ready to go so that the topping gets a little more time to cook down. Ideally, you want to throw all of this in the pan as soon as your steak goes in the oven. Seed and dice two roma tomatoes and half of a bell pepper – I chose orange, as I hate green bell pepper. Dice about 1/8th of a medium onion to get about 2 tablespoons. Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Add olive oil first and give it a minute to warm up. Then add the tomatoes, pepper, onion, and salt and pepper to taste. I suggest about 1/8 teaspoon of pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook the mixture down for about ten minutes. Don’t forget to stir it every few minutes, as it may begin to char a bit. Once you start to see some brown bits, drop the heat to low. Roughly chop and stir in 1/2 of an avocado. You don’t want to cream the avocado chunks, but you do want the avocado covered so that it can warm up as you sear your steaks.
Once your steaks reach the desired degree of doneness, it’s time to work on the sear. You will notice that your steak may look barely done when you pull it out of the oven. Since it was baked first, the outside of the steak should be the same degree of doneness as the inside of the steak. It will continue to cook as we sear it on the stove top. Place your steaks, in their stove top safe pan, on a burner set to medium high heat. The pan should already be hot from the oven, but it may take a moment or two before you start to hear it sizzle. When you hear that sizzle, flip them gently. The idea here is that flipping multiple times will help to create an even sear. Do not mash down or put an pressure on the tops of the steaks. You want all the juices to stay right where they are, on the inside. Flip the steaks every minute or so for about 5 minutes. Then check the temperature. As each oven and skillet varies, the time here will as well. We are looking for 125 for medium rare*, 135 for medium*, and 140 for medium well. If your steaks aren’t where they should be, flip them again and give them another minute (or more if they are way off from where you want them.) The end result should be an even crust on both sides of the steak, which will lock in the meaty goodness.
Once they are done, remove them from the pan and cover with foil. Allow them to rest for 3 – 7 minutes before you begin plating. Serving these steaks is almost as simple as making them. Pile about half of the tomato, pepper, and avocado mixture on top. Admire. Dive right in.
*Disclaimer: the USDA recommends that steak be cooked to no less than 145 degrees. Just like in a restaurant, you are assuming all risks and responsibilities for consuming under cooked meat. Please consider the quality and handling of the meat prior to cooking it. Make sure to use clean utensils, cutting boards, and knives to reduce the risk of cross contamination. Do not eat under cooked meat that has been sitting at room temperature longer than 2 hours prior to cooking. If you have a compromised immune system, do not risk it.
Baked and seared steak topped with chunky sauce of tomato, bell pepper, and avocado.
30 minPrep Time
15 minCook Time
45 minTotal Time
- 2 - 8oz steaks of your choice - Filet Mignon is pictured
- 2 - Roma tomatoes
- 1/2 of an orange bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons of diced onion
- 1/2 of an avocado
- 2 - 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- Remove steaks from fridge to rest at room temperature 30 minutes prior to cooking.
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Seed and dice tomato and pepper, dice onion.
- Oil an oven safe and stove top safe pan with 1 - 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Liberally salt and pepper each side of the steaks.
- Place steaks in pan and place pan in the center of the hot oven.
- Set the timer for 10 minutes for 1" thick steaks.
- Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat.
- Add olive oil and allow it to warm up for a minute.
- Add in tomatoes, peppers and onion, along with 1/8 teaspoon of pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
- Saute until the mixture starts to char a bit, then turn heat to low.
- Roughly chop 1/2 of an avocado and fold into the mixture.
- Allow mixture to continue to cook slowly on the lowest heat while you sear the steaks.
- When the timer goes off, check steak temperature with a meat thermometer. If it reads 90 degrees (for medium rare), remove from the oven and place the pan on a burner set to medium high heat.
- When the steaks start to sizzle, flip them.
- Flip again every minute or so until they are done.
- After about five minutes (or five flips) check the internal temperature again. Once it reaches 125 degrees, pull the steaks off of the pan.
- Cover with foil and allow to rest for 3 - 7 minutes.
- Serve each steak topped with half of the tomato, pepper, and avocado sauce.