The Worst Thing You Can Do When Cooking Steak, According To Anthony Bourdain

Searing and grilling steak, if you'll pardon the pun, is a high-stakes endeavor. One wrong move and that beautiful, tender fillet you brought home from the butcher could be instantly transformed into a rubbery, gray chew toy. Sadly, scientists have yet to figure out how to turn back time and remedy an overcooked steak. But fortunately, the late, great Anthony Bourdain left behind some culinary gems and food advice, including how to avoid ruining a perfectly good steak.

At the time of Bourdain's death, chef James Syhabout reportedly said that Bourdain was "unapologetically honest" (via CNN). And when it came to doling out cooking tips, Bourdain was his usual candid and blunt self in delivering the most important rule when preparing a near-perfect steak: "Do. Not. F******. Touch. It." In a video for Tech Insider, Bourdain patiently explained (with a little bit of his trademark saltiness) that the worst mistake you can make when cooking a steak is to mess with it too much after you take it off the heat. "It should rest on the board — meaning sit there at room temperature — for five to seven minutes, at which point, stay away from it."

Anthony Bourdain said you must let your steak rest after cooking

The Spruce Eats lists "You Didn't Rest It" as one of the seven mistakes you can make when cooking a steak, echoing Bourdain's five-minute rule. Allowing a steak, hot off the grill, to rest for a few minutes means giving steak cells a chance to redistribute themselves evenly throughout the meat. Slicing into your steak before those cells relax back into their preheated shape means all the juices you've trapped inside of your seared steak will now be on the outside — and all over your counter. Give it a few minutes to rest, and all that moisture will make the slices melt in your mouth, not on your cutting board.

"All the difference in the world between a good steak and a totally messed up steak is going on in that period of time that you're just doing nothing," Anthony Bourdain explains to Tech Insider. On his official site, British chef and author Jamie Oliver suggests bringing your meat to room temperature before cooking and making sure the pan or grill is screaming hot before adding the steak. So after all that babysitting, is it possible that the most important thing you can do is nothing? Per Bourdain, yes. "Don't wrap it in foil, don't cover it, don't poke it, don't prod it," Bourdain advises. "Just let it sit there. Leave it alone, and you will be rewarded."

Anthony Bourdain preferred one cut of steak above the rest

Anthony Bourdain had some other steak tips, too — although they might be considered more his personal preference than absolute commandments. Resting your steak would be the last thing you need to do before slicing into it and enjoying it. But the very first thing you need to do is to select a good cut. 

It doesn't take a chef to know that not all parts of the cow are created equal. A lot of amateur cooks consider filet mignon to be the most desirable cut on the animal (via The Spruce Eats). Bourdain said in another video for Tech Insider that most chefs would beg to differ. "Within the industry, it is a joke," Bourdain said, giving his observations on tenderloin. The very tender, practically fat-free muscle is where filet mignon comes from. "Most chefs ... find this to be, in fact, the most boring and uninteresting piece of meat on the animal," Bourdain said. Instead, he recommended rib steaks for their "perfect mix of fat and lean." His second choice was sirloin.

Anthony Bourdain recommended charcoal-grilling or pan-searing your steak

Okay, so you have a nice, marbly ribeye, and you're repeating your new mantra: "Let it rest. Let it rest." But you also want to get your steak off to a good start. Immediately before dropping your slab of meat on the grill or pan, Anthony Bourdain recommended in yet another Tech Insider video that you apply a lot of high quality, large-grain sea salt. He only suggested one additional spice: freshly cracked black pepper. "That's my personal preference," he said.

Finally, Bourdain told us how we should cook our steak in one more video for Tech Insider. He's not really breaking new ground here, as a lot of chefs will tell you the same thing: Either charcoal-grill it at a "decent temperature" or pan-sear it with olive oil and butter, making sure to baste the steak with the butter. Once the meat has developed its char, Bourdain would have you finish cooking it in the oven, "just a little bit." Pull it out of the oven before it reaches the desired temperature because it will cook a little more during that all-important rest time afterward. "That," Bourdain said, "is the way God intended us to cook steak."