The common myths about steak that are actually false

Many consider the ability to cook a tender, juicy steak the mark of a good cook. Not only is a well-cooked steak delicious, it can also be quite expensive depending on which cut you choose. Because of the high price tag on many cuts of meat, there's pressure on the home cook not to mess it up. Out of this quest to cook the perfect steak is born a myriad of steak-cooking myths, various do's and don'ts that some swear by and others raise an eyebrow at.

You may know how to cook the perfect steak, but there's still a good chance you believe at least some of the most pervasive steak-cooking myths out there. If you take these myths as fact, you could be wasting a significant amount of time in the kitchen — or you could just end up with a less-than-perfect steak. Take a look at some of the most common myths posing as legitimate wisdom when it comes to making a top-notch steak, and take your steak game to the next level.

These are the common myths about steak that are actually false.

Let your steak rest at room temperature before you cook it

The logic of this myth is sound. It comes from the idea that you want to cook your steak as evenly as possible. If the steak is cold, it will be further from its ideal temperature, meaning it will take longer for the inside of the steak to cook. While all of this is true, leaving your steak out on the counter to wait for it to reach room temperature isn't the way to go. After sitting at room temperature for 20 or 30 minutes, the difference in the temperature is not going to be significant.

Even if you realize that the inside of the steak might not get that much warmer after half an hour outside of the fridge, you may be thinking that at least the surface of the steak is warmer (read: drier), making it easier to sear. But it takes a lot of heat to get rid of that moisture. Instead, you're better off thoroughly patting your steak dry to remove any excess moisture before throwing it on the grill if you're on the quest for that mouthwatering brown sear.

The red liquid coming from your steak is blood

One aspect of eating a steak that can really turn some non-red meat-lovers off is the pinkish-red liquid that oozes out of a juicy steak. It can be unsettling, because, yes, it does kind of look like blood. In fact, we often call a very rare steak "bloody." The idea alone can turn the stomach of a less-than-adventurous eater. Any steak will leak this liquid, but the bright color is more pronounced in a rarer, redder steak.

However, you won't find blood even in the rarest of steaks. The liquid coming out of a cooked steak is actually called myoglobin, and it's a protein in animal tissue. Myoglobin serves to deliver oxygen to the muscles of an animal. Luckily for every steak-lover out there, it's safe to eat and doesn't have anything to do with blood. The myoglobin in a steak will darken as it's cooked, which is why a rare steak looks a lot "bloodier" than a more well-done steak. All that juiciness is part of what makes a well-cooked steak so enjoyable, so embrace it and soak all that juice up with a starchy side dish.

Eating a steak rare is always unsafe

We've all heard it for years: Eating meat that's "too raw" or rare is dangerous. In many cases, this is true. You certainly wouldn't want to eat chicken or turkey that's still pink in the middle for risk of getting sick. And it is important to make sure meat and animal products are heated to a certain temperature before consuming. But eating a rare steak, while it can pose some health risks, is not quite as dangerous as consuming other types and cuts of rare meat.

The majority of the bacteria that can make you sick from raw meat is on the surface of the meat itself, which is why most cooks don't want pink-in-the-middle ground beef or pork: Grinding the meat can introduce bacteria into the whole of the product. On the other hand, a steak doesn't have that problem, as most of the bacteria will remain on the surface (which will get killed when it's cooked). Using higher-quality meat also reduces the risk of contamination.

Many chefs err on the side of taste, choosing to offer rarer steaks that tend to be juicier and more tender than their medium-well or well-done cousins. But it's important to remember that it's impossible to tell if a steak (or any other kind of meat) is cooked all the way through until you get a reading of the internal temperature. Looking at the color of the meat alone is not an accurate measure of its doneness or safety.

Don't salt your steak before you cook it

If you want just about any meat to be more flavorful, it's a good idea to salt it before you start cooking it. Most people know this, yet the myth that it's bad to salt your steak before cooking is still pervasive. However, there's generally not a lot of information about exactly why steak should supposedly be salt-free before it hits the skillet or the grill.

Perhaps that's because because there's no good reason not to salt your steak. Not only does the salt bring out more flavor from the meat, but salt is also important for a process called dry brining. The salt dries out the surface of the steak, making it easier for you to achieve that perfect sear that's sure to make mouths water. Generally speaking, it's best practice to salt your steak about 40 minutes to two hours before you're ready to start cooking it. If you forget to plan ahead, you can also sprinkle some salt onto the steak right before you put it in the pan.

One mistake you don't wait to make, though? Salting your steak five to ten minutes before you start cooking. At that point, the salt will have brought the moisture to the surface of the steak, but it won't have had enough time to dry out. This will make it more difficult to get that beautiful crust all steak-lovers live for.

You shouldn't flip your steak more than once

It seems to be common knowledge in the kitchen that any good cook wouldn't dare to flip a steak more than once. On the contrary, flipping a steak multiple times can actually prevent it from drying out too much because neither side of the steak loses too much heat while the other side is cooking. There's also less of a chance that the meat will end up being overdone on one side or the other. But if that's the case, where did this myth even come from?

Perhaps it's because many cooks want that beautiful crosshatch pattern on their slab of meat, in which case, flipping only once is essential. But as chef and food celebrity Samin Nosrat notes in her Netflix special Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, those pretty crosshatches you see on steaks in TV and commercials may look good, but they actually probably don't taste as good as a steak that's been cooked more evenly. According to Nosrat, "Browning is flavor," so limiting browning to just those cross-hatched areas doesn't make much sense.

It's bad to stick a fork in your steak before you're ready to eat

This myth makes a lot of sense at first glance. The reasoning behind it is this: Sticking a fork in your steak before it's on your plate only lets the juices run out of it — juices you want to be "sealed" inside. Yes, of course, you might lose some of those juices when you stick a fork in it, but it's not going to make a difference when it comes to taste or tenderness. Want to flip your steak with a fork? It may not be conventional, but we don't judge, and it's not going to ruin your steak. (But, you know, keep the fork holes to a minimum.)

Not only is stabbing your steak with a fork before you sit down to eat not a sin, but you may even want to take it a step further. While you can never truly know if your steak is fully cooked without using a meat thermometer, checking the color of the inside of your steak by cutting it open can give you an idea of how long you need to leave it on the heat. It may not result in the prettiest, most flawless steak, but it can help amateurs get a feel for how to cook a steak specifically to their liking.

You can tell if your steak is done simply by poking it

There are so many myths about how to determine a steak's doneness. Just looking at the color can give you a sense of how done it is, but if you like your steak rare, you're going to need more than a quick color check. There's the "poke test," where you poke your steak to determine how much give it has. The firmer it is, the more done it's supposed to be, according to legend. But let's be real: This method just doesn't work.

Everyone is different, and it may feel different to poke your palm than it does for another person's. Plus, you have to consider the lack of accuracy here. Even a temperature difference of five degrees could make a big difference in the matter of food safety, and there's no way your finger has enough intuition to tell the difference. Instead, the best way to find out if your meat is cooked through is to use a meat thermometer. Instant-read thermometers are the way to go, as they're accurate and give you a reading immediately. It's a small investment that's worth it if you want to get a perfectly cooked steak every time.

A fillet is the only way to go

Everyone seems to have an opinion about the best cut of meat to get if you want a top-quality steak, but fillet is always a top choice. Some, in fact, believe it's the only kind of steak you should even bother with. But if you adopt this attitude, you're going to miss out on a lot of variety — and some amazing culinary experiences. Fillet is more tender than other cuts, which is a big bonus. But cuts like a ribeye or a sirloin are going to offer a fattier, richer taste since they have more fat marbling.

The benefits of branching out and trying different cuts of meat is manyfold. First of all, fillet is the most expensive kind of steak, so if you opt for something different from time to time, you may save some cash. And those who are trying to improve their cooking skills will benefit from working with different cuts of steak. Moral of the story? Don't limit yourself.

You should always cook your steak in butter

If you're passing up the grill for your skillet when it's time to cook your steak, you may wonder what kind of fat you should be using to sear your piece of meat. Olive oil is a popular choice here, as is butter. These options can be delicious, but they aren't the only options out there. Those who really want to give their steaks a kick of extra flavor might want to opt for an alternative: beef fat. Can't find beef fat at your local store or market? It's actually possible to render beef fat yourself, if you have the patience.

When your pan heats up, you can add a bit of beef fat to the bottom. Just keep in mind that you don't want to use too much fat at the bottom of your pan, or you may end up boiling your steak (which, gross). Instead, it's possible to simply brush beef fat directly onto your steak. And yes, that tastes just as delicious as it sounds. Looking for even more flavor? Add some herbs to the fat for a bit more depth to the dish.

Searing a steak "locks in" the juices

One very common steak myth is that it's essential to sear a steak as soon as it hits the heat to lock in all the juices that might otherwise escape. The idea behind this is that the seared side of the steak acts as a barrier, creating a barrier on the outside of the steak the juices can't get through. This is a complete myth, though, as juices can still easily escape a seared steak.

Cooks who truly want that brown, delicious crust on the surface of their steak might want to try a different method. It may sound unconventional, but heating a thick steak gently at first and then searing it can actually produce better, more delicious results. This is because the cooking element will begin to dry out the steak when it's on low heat, and it also cooks the cut of meat more evenly. By the time you're ready to sear, your steak will be ready to take on that beautiful dark brown color.

Seasonings and marinades give your steak the best flavor

Some cuts of meat absolutely love a marinade. But a steak isn't one of them. You may think that letting your steak soak in a delicious sauce or juice overnight will make it even more delicious once you finally cook it up — but that's not the case. You don't want to add any unnecessary moisture to a steak. Plus, marinades will burn in a pan that's hot enough to sear a steak. But what about pepper? Actually, Chef Michael Lomonaco, head chef at Porter House New York and Center Bar and former head chef of the World Trade Center's Windows on the World, told ABC News that pepper can become bitter when you use it before putting meat on your grill.

So, what exactly should you be using to season your steak? Just salt, plain and simple. It's best to use a coarse ground salt and apply liberally. When you have a really delicious cut of meat, that's all you need to bring out all the flavors. Unless, of course, you want to use some kind of sauce.

Never use sauce on steak

Not long ago, putting sauce on a steak wasn't the crime that it is today. Catching a glimpse of an A.1. Steak Sauce bottle at a steakhouse wasn't grounds to leave the restaurant entirely — it might even be expected. But times have changed. It's generally accepted that a good steak should under no circumstances find itself smothered with sauce, taking away from the true taste of the meat. In 2014, in fact, A.1. actually removed the word "steak" from its label, hoping that customers would pair it with other foods besides steak, rather than ditch it entirely.

Consumers have rejected traditional steak sauces for good reason. These sauces can largely mask the taste of a high-quality steak (and why eat one that's subpar, anyway?) instead of bringing out its true flavor. But that doesn't mean you should ditch the sauce entirely. An alternative to heavier sauces is a light chimichurri sauce. Chimichurri hails from Uruguay and Argentina, where a beef-heavy diet is common. Rather than covering the taste of steak, a nice, herbaceous, vinegar-y chimichurri will highlight all its strengths. Plus, you don't have to go out to buy a bottle of this stuff: It's 100 percent better when it's homemade.