Cooking the Perfect Piece of Meat – Steak 101

The Basics Before the Recipe

Eating a perfect steak is something that many dream about (if you’re hungry, this might be realistic). So, how can we get you there? Well, the first few things that you need to understand with cooking red meat is temperature. While yes, heat on your pan, what type of oil you use, seasoning, etc. is all important; These things can vary with how you want to cook, but one thing remains steady – Temperature.

Below I’ll share a little write-up on temps and then my favorite way to cook a steak. If you care to read more about different cuts of meat, I’ll share that AFTER the recipe. I know, I know, why don’t I share the life story first and post the recipe at the very bottom? Well, that’s just not how we roll here.

Red Meat Temperatures

Below is a simple image from Omaha Steaks that shows what the coloration of each variation of a cooked steak. While hitting the mark on your steak is tough without an actual meat thermometer, with practice anything is possible. I would highly recommend even a cheap meat thermometer to ensure you aren’t overcooking (or undercooking for those who prefer their meat a little more done).

  • Rare: 120 degrees Fahrenheit- known for its cool to warm red center
  • Medium Rare – 130 degrees Fahrenheit- known for a warm red center and my favorite temperature
  • Medium – 140 degrees Fahrenheit – hot pink center, where the steak is starting to get a little more firm
  • Medium Well – 150 degrees Fahrenheit – a slight bit of pink but mostly brown center with a more firm texture
  • Well Done – 160-165 degrees Fahrenheit – NO pink left, very firm texture and typically quite dry (Not recommended)
From: Omaha Steaks

Pan Seared Steak

My preferred way to cook a steak that will blow the minds of the guests in your house is to use a cast iron pan. If you are unfamiliar with cast iron cookware, check out my post on cast iron cookware here.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 Ribeye (I prefer mine a little thicker so that I can get a nice crust on the outside without overcooking)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil (or Avocado Oil)
  • Cracked Black Pepper
  • Cracked Sea Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons of Butter (I like Amish Butter or Vital Farms)
  • Fresh Thyme (the best herb)
  • Fresh Garlic cloves (let’s be real, everyone knows you are going to use more than 1-2 cloves and that’s okay)

Steps for that Perfect Steak

  • Heat your Cast Iron pan on low to medium heat until you can feel that heat spreading evenly around the pan
  • Add your Olive Oil or Avocado Oil to the pan
  • Pat your steak slightly dry (if you want, I don’t always) and then crack that pepper and salt on all sides of the steak. By all sides, I mean it! Cover that bad boy on the top, bottom AND sides if possible, you want to seal that flavor in while we cook
  • Next, add your steak to the pan, and DO NOT touch it (You should hear a nice sizzle sound, if not take the steak out of the pan. That means your oil was NOT hot enough)
  • After a few minutes you’ll begin to see the steak start building a crust on the bottom. Using tongs, flip that steak over and leave it be for a few more minutes, and then using tongs, sear the sides of the steak as best you can.
  • This is where I would add a meat thermometer to keep track of temperature as searing both sides could get your steak to a rare temp very fast depending on the thickness of the meat.
  • Add your butter, thyme and fresh garlic to the pan, and using a large spoon, begin to baste the butter over the steak.
  • By now, your steak may be approaching a rare or medium rare temperature. One important thing to understand is that your steak will continue to cook when removed from the pan, and probably raise by 3-5 degrees over the next 5-10 minutes.
  • Once your steak is at a temperature you are happy with, remove it to a plate or cutting board and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • Slice and Enjoy!

Different Cuts of Meat

We all know what a cow is, and how large those animals are. In some cultures they eat from “head to toe” meaning, not a scrap will be left off of that animal once it’s slaughtered (minus the insides). Below I’ll run through a few of the most popular cuts of meat, and maybe a few that many aren’t familiar with.

Side Note: All of the images I use below are from butchers or meat markets that you can search and buy directly from! I know some of these cuts are pricy, but just look at how great they look!

The Ribeye

The ribeye is one of my favorite cuts of meat, and has such a great variety of flavor depending on how you cook it. By referencing the diagram above, this cut is from the RIB. Many may see “Rib” and think of some BBQ ribs, or a prime rib, and in some cases that is the same piece of meat. Ribeyes usually come boneless, but you can also find them bone-in or even in some cases with a long bone attached, where they’d be referred to as a Tomahawk Ribeye. This cut of meat is known for it’s fat content and when cooked properly, this will melt in your mouth.

From: Nebraska Star Beef

NY Strip Steak

The NY Strip Steak is known for its long piece of fat that typically runs along one edge of the meat. While this steak isn’t always the most tender, it does carry a bold flavor and offers a nice bite. A quality NY Strip will leave your mouth watering and wanting more.

From: Meat House Market

Filet Mignon a.k.a. Tenderloin

The Filet Mignon is the thinner cut taken from the mid back of the cow. This cut is known to be one of the most, if not the most tender cut of meat on the whole cow. A properly cooked filet can be cut with just a fork, and the flavor capabilities will rock your world.

From: Lobel’s

Sirloin Steak

A Sirloin Steak is something that most households are pretty familiar with. Whether you bought a top sirloin, or just a regular sirloin steak, there are endless options. The Top Sirloin is a smaller cut that is typically more prized for grilling as it is pretty lean and very affordable. The bottom sirloin is a larger cut of meat that is usually marked at the store as just “Sirloin Steak”.

Prepared Food Photos


To sum this meaty post up in a sentence or two; Buy what you can afford and learn how to cook it in a way that you enjoy. Cooking is an expression of flavor that you enjoy, and it can be done in countless different ways.

I’d like to thank those of you who’ve made it this far and note that this post is not all-inclusive and there are dozens if not hundreds of other cuts of meat, and ways to cook meat out there. I’ll probably make a few more posts about steak over the coming weeks, but for now please reach out if you have any questions or suggestions! Thanks for reading!


  1. Great post! Super informative!