The Secret To Cooking A Perfect Steak In The Oven

The perfect steak combines a flavorful, seared crust with a tender center that is cooked evenly — so the last bite is as good as the first. How do you get that aggressive sear and that consistent interior in the same steak? The secret is to pan fry the steak first, then finish it off in the oven (via Chicago Steak Company).

This steak is cooked at high temperatures, so it's vital to choose a cut that won't dry out. It should be at least 1 inch thick with good marbling. Ribeye, strip steak, or top sirloin will work. Experts disagree on how to prepare a steak, so we offer a roundup of the best advice while dispelling some myths with actual science.

We run into a common steak myth right at the start. Chicago Steak Company and others, including The Kitchn and Delish, tell you to take your steak out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature. They reason that the steak will cook more evenly and develop a better crust, presumably because it will go on the heat closer to its final temperature. However, according to the experts at The Food Lab from Serious Eats, this is not true. They cooked two cuts side-by-side, one straight from the fridge and the other after it got a full two hours of warmup, and found that the steaks turned out the same. 

For the perfect steak, know when to add salt and butter

An even sear relies more on blotting the steak dry with paper towels than on the meat's starting temperature, according to The Food Lab. Some cooks will even set the steak uncovered in the refrigerator for a night or two, to really dry the surface of the meat. Before firing up the steak, we need to consider seasoning. Veteran chefs disagree over when to salt your steak, or whether to salt it at all (via Gentleman's Journal). Here, we rely again on The Food Lab because they conducted another experiment. For best results, rub generous amounts of salt on both sides of your steak at least 40 minutes before cooking — or the night before, if possible.

After much debate, we're finally ready to cook. Going forward, we still combine the best advice from multiple sources while mostly following the steps given by the Chicago Steak Company. First, sear the steak, two minutes per side, in a hot, oiled pan — cast-iron or something else that can go in the oven. Don't use butter while you sear because it burns at a lower temperature. 

Once your sear is complete, add a pat of butter on top of the steak — it's good for flavor and texture and should definitely be added at this later stage. 

The perfect steak with a twist: The reverse sear

Place the pan in an oven preheated to 400 degrees. With a meat thermometer as your guide, cook to the desired temperature — from rare (120 degrees Fahrenheit) to well (160). At this point, the steak is cooked but not done. Let it rest for about seven minutes on a clean cutting board. This allows the juices to redistribute evenly (via The Kitchn).

No one can claim the definitive answer on how to cook the perfect steak in the oven. Another school of thought would have you reverse the process — oven first, then sear. With this method, the steak is warmed slowly in an oven set somewhere between 200 and 275 degrees (via The Food Lab). If you're on a quest for the best tenderness and the crispiest crust, then the reverse sear might be your idea of perfect. But if time is an important factor, you'll want to sear first. That method takes only 15 minutes, including the meat's rest time. The reverse sear takes most of an hour. 

Either way, if you follow the advice backed by science, you should be pleased with the results.