The 8 cardinal rules for cooking steak

By Melissa Scheepers, 24 August 2017

It’s brown and perfectly seared, tender and dripping with delectable juices: cooking the perfect steak is an ultimate life skill. Follow these 8 cardinal rules of preparing and cooking the ultimate steak, plus find 14 of our favourite recipes for you raise the steaks any day of the week.

Cooking the perfect steak is easy – really! All you need is some good seasoning, a great cut of meat, perfect timing and a blazing hot pan.

How to cook the perfect steak

  • Always, always, bring your steak to room temperature. Ensuring that the steak is the same temperature throughout helps it to cook evenly.
  • Don’t oil the pan. Rather, oil the meat and use sunflower oil instead of olive oil, as it tolerates a higher temperature. Plus, the dry heat creates a perfect crust.
  • For the perfect sear, ensure that the pan is very hot. Preheat your pan for about five minutes and, for even better results, use a cast-iron skillet.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan with too many steaks. This will create steam and, quite frankly, no-one thinks steamed steak is a good idea.
  • Only turn the steak once, when the edges are seared that magnificent golden brown.
  • Rest is best! Pour yourself a glass of wine and leave your cooked steak to rest, undisturbed, for at least 10 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute and makes for a juicy steak.
  • For an extra juicy steak, rub your steak with a little butter before slicing.
  • Slice your steak against the grain; this contributes to its tender texture.


Sure, marinating requires a little forward planning, but it’s a great technique for tougher cuts such as rib and loin. For maximum flavour, allow the meat to marinate overnight. This allows the flavours to penetrate deeply for maximum punch.

If you prefer a lighter flavour or are short on time, simply marinate your steak for a shorter period of time – even 30 minutes will do the trick. Add a little acidity using your favourite vinegar, lemon or yoghurt in the marinade to tenderise your steak even more.

Try: the only marinade recipe you’ll ever need.


Tender cuts (such as fillet) don’t need much work: simply season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, or use fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, fennel or coriander. Crush them in a pestle and mortar first for maximum flavour.

Read more about the wet vs dry rub debate here.


Rare: for dark red meat with some juices flowing, cook your steak for two-and-a-half minutes on each side.
Medium rare: for pink meat with pink juices, cook your steak for three-and-a-half minutes on each side.
Medium steaks: for pale pink meat, cook for four-and-a-half minutes on each side.
Well done steak: for slightly pink to white meat, cook your steak for at least five minutes on each side.


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How do you enjoy your steak? Tell us in the comments below.

Discover more sensational steak recipes here.

Melissa Scheepers

Article by Melissa Scheepers

Woolworths TASTE’s online content producer has faced constant temptation since joining the team last year. When she’s not thinking about her next meal (it’s usually a variation of a cheese toastie), she’s researching the best cooking methods for her next article.
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