The Science Behind Cooking the Perfect Steak

The Science Behind Cooking the Perfect Steak
Image: Supplied

Cooking a steak perfectly is an art form. It may seem simple, but cooking a quality steak involves a lot of moving parts from your cut of meat, to your type of barbeque, to the preparation steps you choose to follow.

To help guide your way out of a beefy mess, we consulted Josh Dixon an ambassador for Traeger Grills and an expert in all things steak for some tips on getting your meat just right.

How to cook the perfect steak

Pick out the right steak cut

First, you’re going to need a good cut of meat. Dixon recommends buying your steaks on the morning of the day you’re planning to eat them, for optimal freshness.

He also said not to be afraid of a bit of extra fat:

“The white flecks of fat within are called ‘marbling’ and should be sought after when looking for a tasty steak. This will dissolve when exposed to heat and leave you with added moisture on the inside. But don’t be fooled; the colour of your steak won’t impact the taste. Searching around for that cherry-red meat instead of a lighter pink will do nothing but waste precious grilling time!”

Preparation is key

When it comes to preparation, Dixon likens it to exercise. You shouldn’t run without stretching first and nor should you cook your steak without preparing it.

To prepare your steak, Dixon says you should let it adjust to room temperature before adding your seasoning. You can also prepare it the night before if you want the flavouring to marinate even longer.

“When it comes to seasoning, add as little or as much as you want. All you have to do is ensure you are rubbing and massaging this into the steak for the most flavour. Simply shaking seasoning on top of your meat means it won’t absorb as many of the spicy or salty notes.”

When it comes to choosing your sauce or seasoning, you can really go any way you like.

cook bbq steak perfect
Image: Supplied

Time to grill

Let’s get to the really important stuff, cooking. This is where the real science comes in.

“When cooking a steak, you’re doing two things. The first is searing the surface, while the second is heating the inside temperature – which you want to keep much cooler. It’s important to always keep an eye on what you’re doing to maintain that perfect balance,” he said.

Before cooking, Dixon recommends investing in a digital meat thermometer so you can track the internal temp of your steak.

“The temperature you’re cooking at is crucial, as it sets off the Maillard Reaction. This is a chemical reaction between sugars and amino acids when the meat sizzles at around 150 degrees Celcius, creating hundreds of flavour compounds and aromas. Basically, the Maillard Reaction is what browns the meat, initiates that delicious smell, and makes your mouth water.”

Dixon’s favourite method of cooking is the smoke bath and the reverse sear, which he explained in full:

“Set your grill to 100 degrees Celsius (use the super smoke function if your grill has this feature) and cook the meat until an internal temperature of 50 degrees Celsius. Remove and turn your grill up to 230 degrees Celsius, letting it heat for 10-15 minutes, and then searing both sides of the steak until its internal temperature is to your liking,” he explained.

When it comes to figuring out that perfect internal steak temperature, here’s a foolproof guide:

  • Rare = 50-55°C internally with a red centre
  • Medium-rare = 55-60°C internally with some pink in the centre
  • Medium-well = 60-70°C internally with a light pink centre
  • Well-done = 70-75°C with a predominantly brown centre

Dixon says the key thing to remember is that internal temperature matters over time. If you do need to step away from your cooking, Traeger makes a WiFi BBQ that allows you to control the temperature remotely.

Let the steak rest after cooking

Your steak has been working hard so you need to give it time to rest after cooking. According to Dixon, there’s a logic behind this method.

“It’s important to rest your meat after cooking as heat draws the water away from the proteins,” he said.

“Allowing your steak to sit for 10 to 15 minutes means that your meat has time to reabsorb these delicious juices. I recommend loosely wrapping it in aluminium foil to really trap in all the flavour before serving up.”

There you have it, all the steps to making a perfect steak on your barbeque or grill at home.

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