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The hand test, explained: How to cook a steak perfectly, every time

Amber Graefen


Dec 22nd, 2017

Whether you want to surprise your family with a special meal or treat friends to a perfect dinner, you’ll never go wrong serving up a great piece of steak.

And you can do it all in three easy steps and in 45 minutes or less.

You might think preparing and cooking a succulent steak is beyond your home-cooking skills, but anyone can learn to pan-sear perfectly on a stovetop. All you need are the right ingredients, a few tips and a good clean hand to determine when your steak  is ready.

(serves 4)
2 rib-eye or New York steaks (12 ounces each and 1 inch thick)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary

The premium beef cuts to use for stovetop pan-searing are boneless steaks between 1 and 1 1/2-inches thick, such as New York or rib-eye. If you don’t see the right steak, ask the butcher to cut it.

Choose steaks with heavy marbling. The think white strips of fat within the steak melt and keep beef tender, moist and flavorful during cooking.

Remove from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Pat dry on all sides with paper towels.

Season the steaks shortly before cooking. Generously coat steak on all sides with salt.

Warm a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat for 10 minutes.

When the skillet is hot, cook the steaks on one side at a time. Turn steaks over after a minute or when the first side is crusted over and no longer sticks. Flip steaks and repeat for a total of 4 minutes.

Now add butter, garlic and herbs. Tilt pan so butter collects on one side and use a wooden spoon to baste the sizzling steak. Flip steaks after a minute and repeat.

IMPORTANT: You must thoroughly wash and dry your hands before the testing phase.

After a steak has cooked in the pan for a total of 6 minutes, test whether it’s cooked to your preference — from rare to well-done.

The old standard of slicing into steak to check means you will lose the flavorful juices you worked so hard to cook your steak in. You also run the risk of serving a dry steak.

Instead, trust your steady hand.

It might sound like a trick at first, but once you learn this real-life chef’s technique, you’ll never use a knife or thermometer again to check your steak.

Make an “OK” sign with one hand by pressing your thumb and index finger together. Then poke the fleshy part below your thumb (using your other hand, of course). Your steak should feel just as soft if you want it rare. Note: Touch your hand and then touch the steak. Don’t place your hand on the steak itself.

When you add your middle finger, it will feel like a medium-rare steak; add your ring finger and it will feel like a medium steak; and finally, add your pinkie and your thumb’s pad will feel like the same consistency of a steak that is well-done.

When your steak is cooked to perfection, place on a cutting board and begin carving. Slice the steak thinly, cutting against the grain.


One Response to The hand test, explained: How to cook a steak perfectly, every time

  1. Dee 21/01/2018 at 4:26 pm

    I have uses this technique for years and it works great! DBY.

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