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How to cook a thick cut steak (4 methods) 

Cooking a thick steak can be tough! Often times they look good on the outside but are raw in the middle, or they are so over cooked that you’re left chewing for days. Honestly, cooking the perfect steak is an art form. 

Whether you prefer a juicy medium-rare ribeye or a tender filet mignon, mastering the cooking process can elevate your steak game from good to great. In this guide, I’m going to show you how to cook a thick cut steak 4 ways and let you know which method produces the best results.

Photos for this recipe are from Erin Hungsberg (IG: erin_hungsberg)

Thin cut steak vs thick cut steak:

Anytime I’m cooking a steak, I usually get one that is at least 1 inch in thickness. There are a few reasons for this. The main one is because a thicker steak is a lot harder to overcook. 

I can take my time cooking a thick steak and get a proper crust on the outside without worrying about if I’ve overcooked the inside.  Thicker steaks, when done right, tend to be juicer and just more satisfying to cook and eat. 

Thinner steaks tend to cook very fast, and if you aren’t careful, you will overcook them. They dry out quickly and are not as juicy either. 

How to choose the best cut of steak:

Selecting the right cut of meat is the first step towards a great steak. For a thick, 1-2 inch steak, it’s essential to choose cuts that are known for their tenderness and flavor.

Good options include ribeye, filet mignon, porterhouse, and New York strip steak. These cuts have good marbling, which contributes to both tenderness and flavor, alll things to consider when cooking the perfect steak. 

My favorite cut is a thick ribeye steak. They have great flavor and fat content which keep them juicy and tender. For me, nothing is better than a perfectly cooked ribeye with a nice sear and medium rare center. 

Raw ribeye steaks

How to prepare a steak before cooking:

Bringing it to Room Temperature: 

Before cooking, it’s crucial to allow the steak to come to room temperature. This step ensures an even temperature throughout the steak, resulting in a perfectly cooked interior.

Remove the steak from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking and allow it to sit on the counter to reach room temperature. A thicker steak may need to sit out for an hour or more.

Whatever you do, do not cook your steak frozen! Thaw it out first.

Seasoning:

Proper seasoning is key to enhance the natural flavors of the steak. Begin by patting the steak dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture, which can hinder proper searing.

Once dry, season the steak generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides. There are a lot of great steak rubs out there to try as well. I love the addition of granulated garlic with mine. 

Direct Sear vs Reverse sear: 

It is crucial for someone cooking a thick steak to understand the differences in these two methods. For a thick steak, I highly recommend the reverse sear and I will detail why below. 

The direct sear process: 

  1. High Heat Cooking: Start by searing the steak directly over high heat, either on a hot skillet or grill. This step is done at the beginning to create a crust.
  2. Finish Cooking: After searing, the steak is often finished in a slightly cooler part of the grill or oven to reach the desired internal temperature.

Advantages:

  • Speed: The direct sear method is quicker since the steak is cooked at a higher temperature from start to finish.
  • Crust Formation: Starting with a high heat sear creates a great crust that many people love.

Ideal For:

  • Thinner Cuts: Works well for thinner cuts of steak (less than 1 inche) that can cook through quickly without overcooking the exterior.
  • Quick Meals: Ideal for when you need to cook a steak quickly and still achieve a good crust.

The reverse sear process:

  1. Slow Cooking: Start by cooking the steak at a low temperature, either in an oven or on a grill using indirect heat. The steak is cooked slowly and evenly until it reaches about 10-15 degrees below your desired final internal temperature.
  2. Searing: After the slow cook, the steak is seared in a hot skillet or on a hot grill to create a flavorful crust. This searing step is done quickly to prevent overcooking the interior.

Advantages:

  • Even Cooking: The reverse sear method ensures that the steak is cooked evenly throughout, with a consistent temperature from edge to center.
  • Enhanced Flavor: Slow cooking allows for better flavor development, and the final sear provides a delicious, caramelized crust.
  • More Control: It’s easier to achieve the perfect level of doneness because the steak is gradually brought up to temperature.

Ideal For:

  • Thicker Cuts: Best suited for thick cuts of steak (1 inch or thicker) as it ensures the interior is cooked to perfection without overcooking the exterior.
  • Juicy Steaks: Helps retain moisture, resulting in a juicier steak.

How to cook a thick cut steak (4 methods).

For determining the best way to cook a thick cut steak, I had 3 goals in mind: taste, tenderness, and ease of use. The 4 methods I used to cook my steaks were on the grill with a direct sear, on the grill with a reverse sear, Sous Vide, and pan seared. Each method produces a different result. 

Steak 4 ways

All of the steaks used were about the same weight and thickness. They were all prepared the same. The only change were the methods in which I cooked them. The four methods are detailed below for you. 

1. On the grill with a direct sear. 

Begin with a light coating of olive oil rubbed onto the steak as a binder and season generously with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder on all sides.

Heat your grill to medium high heat and sear on both sides, flipping back and forth until a nice crust is formed. Personally, I think on a charcoal grill is the best way to cook a steak, but a gas grill or pellet grill works just fine. 

Searing a steak

Once the crust has formed on both sides of the steak, place steak over indirect heat (off and away from the heat) and finish cooking until the internal temperature of the steak reaches your preferred temperature. I like 130 degrees for medium rare. 

Remove the steak from the grill and rest with 1 tablespoon of butter on the steak and aluminum foil loosely tented on top.  (Rest for 15 minutes before slicing.) 

Grill seared steak

The result is a well-flavored steak.  The tenderness is a little firmer than what I prefer. The doneness inside is not quite even from edge to edge, but it is still delicious! 

2. On the Grill with a Reverse Sear. 

Begin with a light coating of olive oil onto the steak as a binder and season generously with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder on all sides.

Place your steak over indirect heat, allowing it to cook slowly until the internal temperature of the steak reaches about 115 degrees internal. 

Then, remove the steak from the grill, raise the temperature of the grill for searing, and sear to finish at around 130 degrees. 

Steak on the grill

Remove the steak from the grill and rest with 1 tablespoon of butter on the steak and foil loosely tented on top.  (Rest for 15 minutes before slicing.) 

Reverse seared steak

The result is a nicely flavored steak, even better than the direct seared on the grill. This one is also more juicy and tender with an even edge to edge doneness on the inside. The results were excellent.

3. Sous Vide steak.

Begin with a light coating of olive oil onto the steak as a binder and season generously with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder on all sides. Place your steak in a vacuum sealed bag and souse vide at 135 degrees for 2.5-3 hours. 

Sous vide a thick cut steak

Remove steak from the bag, pat it dry with paper towel, re-season steak and pan sear in a cast iron pan over high heat until a nice crust is formed. 

Pan searing a thick cut steak

There is no need to rest a sous vide steak,  it is ready to slice immediately and enjoy.  

The result is a tasty steak. It is very tender and the texture a little different than anything I’m used to in a pan or off the grill.

Sous vide a thick cut steak

I also like the fact that I could just set the temp and time and walk away until I was ready to sear and finish the steak. This method is very convenient and does not sacrifice on flavor.

4. Pan Seared steak. 

Begin with a light coating of olive oil onto the steak as a binder and season generously with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder on all sides.

In a cast iron pan on high heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to coat the bottom and sear steak until a nice crust is formed on both sides.  

Searing a thick cut steak in a pan

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and place steak on a wire cooking rack with pan underneath to catch drippings. Then place into the oven to finish cooking until the internal temperature of the steak reaches 130 degrees.

Thick cut steak in an oven

It should take about 15-20 minutes or longer. Just check every so often with a thermometer as every piece of meat is slightly different. 

Remove the steak from the oven and rest with 1 tablespoon of butter on the steak and foil loosely tented on top.  (Rest for 15 minutes before slicing.) 

Pan seared steak

This method produces a good steak but definitely not the best steak.  It is not as flavorful as off the grill or sous vide. This steak is also not as tender and the interior doneness is more difficult to control. 

My favorite method for cooking a thick cut steak.

In my opinion, the best way to cook a thick cut steak is with the reverse sear method on the grill. You achieve a nice even doneness from edge to edge.  Also, the steak tends to be juicer and more flavorful. 

The sous vide is a nice option too if you have a fancy gadget at home to do it. It’s pretty much fool proof and my second favorite way to cook a steak. 

Ribeye steak

Otherwise, if you don’t have a grill,  the pan sear and then into the oven will do. The flavor won’t be quite the same as the grilled ones, but you can still have good results.

Just make sure to get a nice sear on the steak and then be careful not to overcook it while it finishes in the oven.

Determining Doneness on a steak:

To ensure your steak is cooked to perfection, it’s essential to use an instant-read meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the steak to obtain an accurate reading of its internal temperature.

Here are the recommended internal temperature ranges for various levels of doneness: For more information on this topic you can go here:

  • Rare: 125°F (52°C)
  • Medium Rare: 135°F (57°C)
  • Medium: 145°F (63°C)
  • Medium Well: 155°F (68°C)
  • Well Done: 160°F (71°C)

Resting the Steak:

Once the steak reaches your desired level of doneness, remove it from the heat and transfer it to a clean cutting board. Allow the steak to rest for approximately 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.

On a thick 2 inch steak, resting for 15-20 minutes is ideal. This crucial step allows the juices within the steak to redistribute, resulting in a juicy, tender final product. 

Rememeber there is also carry over cooking after removing your steak from the heat source. Most steaks will continue to cook 5-10 degrees more while they rest. Make sure to compensate for that. 

Serving Suggestions:

  • Pair your perfectly cooked steak with your favorite sides and sauces to create a memorable dining experience. Classic sides include mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, and a bold steak sauce or compound butter.
  • Consider complementing your steak with a glass of red wine or a refreshing beer, chosen to enhance the flavors of the meat and elevate your overall dining experience.
Thick Steak dinner

Top Tips for Success:

  • Invest in a high-quality digital meat thermometer to ensure accurate temperature readings.
  • Allow the steak to rest before slicing to retain its juices and maximize flavor.
  • Experiment with different cuts of steak and cooking methods to discover your personal favorites.
  • Adjust cooking times based on the thickness of the steak and your desired level of doneness.
  • Remember to account for residual heat, as the steak will continue to cook slightly even after being removed from the heat source.

Wrapping up: 

Cooking a thick cut, 2-inch steak to perfection is a game-changer that takes some skill but is totally worth it. Follow these steps and crank up the heat to get a juicy, flavorful steak that’ll wow everyone.

Play around with different cuts, seasonings, and techniques to find your favorite combo. With a bit of patience, practice, and love for good food, you’ll nail the perfect steak every time. Happy grilling, and enjoy the delicious rewards!

Steak recipes you should try!

Grilled ribeye steak with cowboy butter

Coffee crusted ribeye with corn salsa

Grilled steak pinwheels with prosciutto and pesto

Grilled flank steak with chimichurri

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How to cook a thick cut steak (4 methods) 

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Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 thick steak of your choice 
  • 12 tablespoons of olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder blend 
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

Instructions

Grill seared

  1. Begin with a light coating of olive oil rubbed onto the steak as a binder, then season generously on each side with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder.
  2. Heat your grill to medium high and sear the steak on both sides, flipping back and forth until a nice crust has formed. 
  3. Once you get your desired crust, place the steak over indirect heat (off to one side) and finish cooking the steak until the internal temperature of the steak reaches your preferred temperatures. I like 130°F for medium rare. 
  4. When the steak reaches your desired temperature, remove the steak from the grill and place 1 tablespoon of butter on top of the steak and tent some foil on top of it. Allow the steak to rest for up to 15 minutes before slicing across the grain. Finish with a little more salt after you have sliced, if needed. 

Grill reverse seared

  1. Begin with a light coating of olive oil rubbed onto the steak as a binder, then season generously on each side with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder.
  2. Place your steak over indirect heat and cook the steak until it reaches 115°F. Then heat your grill to high and sear the steak on both sides over direct heat until you have reached your desired temperature and have a nice crust. I like 130°F for medium rare. 
  3. When the steak reaches your desired temperature, remove the steak from the grill and place 1 tablespoon of butter on top of the steak and tent some foil on top of it. Allow the steak to rest for up to 15 minutes before slicing across the grain.  Finish with a little more salt after you have sliced, if needed. 

Sous vide 

  1. Begin with a light coating of olive oil rubbed onto the steak as a binder, then season generously on each side with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder.
  2. Place your steak in a vacuum sealed bag and sous vide at 135 degrees for 2.5-3 hours. Remove the steak from the bag, pat it dry with a paper towel and re-season the steak. 
  3. Add some olive oil into a cast iron pan over medium high heat (make sure the pan is hot!) and sear the steak on both sides until a nice crust is formed. 
  4. There is no need to rest a sous vide steak. It is ready to slice into immediately. Finish with a little more salt after you have sliced, if needed. 

Pan Seared 

  1. Begin with a light coating of olive oil rubbed onto the steak as a binder, then season generously on each side with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder.
  2. In a cast iron pan on high heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sear your steak until a nice crust is formed on both sides. 
  3. Place the steak on a wire cooking rack with a pan underneath to catch drippings. Then place into a 400°F oven to finish cooking until the internal temperature of the steak reaches 130°F degrees (for medium rare).
  4. When the steak reaches your desired temperature, remove it from the oven and place 1 tablespoon of butter on top of the steak and tent some foil on top of it. Allow the steak to rest for up to 15 minutes before slicing across the grain. Finish with a little more salt after you have sliced, if needed. 
  • Author: Jordan Hanger

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