I’ve always thought steaks are a tough thing to cook at home. We’ve all had that perfect steakhouse steak. The one that goes down as the best ever. We still remember the flavor, the tenderness, each juicy bite. Recreating that at home can seem like a daunting task. Or so I once thought. The truth is, like any task in life, great steaks at home can be achieved through education and experience.
I can help you with the education. For this recipe, we’re specifically talking about grass fed beef. A lot of people don’t realize that grass fed beef cooks differently from conventional beef. This is especially noticeable with quality cuts like sirloin, rib eyes, and tenderloins. Grass fed beef is also known to have a different flavor profile from conventional beef. Both of these details become important when cooking the perfect steak at home.
Whether grass fed or conventional, be sure to bring your steaks to room temperature before cooking.
Grass fed beef generally has less fat than a conventional cut of beef. This makes sense, really. Conventional cows in America are primarily fed corn products. They also spend most of their lives in a tightly packed feed lot, so there is little movement on their part. While conventional cows develop fat near the end of life, pastured, grass fed cows continue to move and forage for food, leading to lean muscle over fat. This difference in profile actually accounts for a difference in cooking temperatures.
In general, these are the temperatures for getting a steak just right: (Conventional range to the left, lower grass fed target to the right in red)
- Rare 125-130 F, 120 F
- Medium Rare 130-140 F, 125 F
- Medium 140-150 F, 130F
- Medium Well 150-155 F, 135F
- Well Done 160-212 F, 140F
With grass fed beef, you can see how these traditional ranges lower a bit. It is also helpful to know, that if you tent a steak and allow it to rest for ten minutes after you remove it from heat, the internal temperature of the steak will generally rise by another ten degrees. So when I am trying to achieve a medium steak, I remove it from heat at 120 F. It will then rise on its own to about 130 F, which for grass fed beef, would then be considered medium. For measuring temperature, I prefer a leave in digital thermometer which can withstand the heat of an oven or grill.
This digital thermometer allows you to set a target temperature. Since it is a leave-in thermometer, it will beep when the steak in the oven has reached the desired temperature. (The digital component itself can not go in the oven.)
The flavor profile is another thing to be aware of when cooking with grass fed beef. Again, because there is less fat, it can be hard to accomplish that steakhouse flavor that we all hold in memory. In general, fat is what brings flavor to a piece of meat. Seasoning is meant only to enhance the flavor. So if you pan sear a grass fed steak in your go-to oil, you’re actually missing a huge opportunity to add flavor. This is where you need to reach for an added source of fat. I recommend rendered lamb or duck fat, ghee, or butter. A grass fed steak void of added fat, will often be void of the rich flavor you’ve come to expect in a quality steak.
I think that when most people think of steaks at home, they also think of summer and the grill. I find, however, that I have more control on the stove and in the oven, which conveniently makes steak at home a year round affair. Years ago, the first great steak I ever made was cooked restaurant style, seared on the stove in a cast iron skillet and finished in the oven very quickly, at 500 F. That was a conventional steak. The recipe I’ve written below is very similar, except the oven temperature has been drastically reduced to account for the lower fat profile of grass fed beef. Cooking a grass fed steak at very high temperatures, very quickly, will result in a tough steak. It’s best to sear it and then go low and slow.
Liberally apply salt, pepper, and garlic. According to Gordon Ramsay, you’ll lose 30% of this as you transfer and cook the steaks.
Flip them into the skillet garlic side down so that the garlic will roast and caramelize. Loosen the steaks with your tongs to be sure they do not stick before it’s time to flip.
After searing the first side for 2-3 minutes, flip the steaks over.
One other thing to consider is the temperature of the steak before you begin cooking. Generally, leaving meat “out” makes me nervous. But in the case of steak, you want your meat to be near room temperature before you begin cooking. If you take a cold steak and slap it on a hot skillet or grill, you will shock the meat and make it tough. Remove your thawed steak from the refrigerator thirty minutes to an hour before cook time.
In regards to seasoning, I prefer a simple salt/pepper/garlic steak. That is the way I’ve written this recipe. Be bold with your salt and pepper. It doesn’t all stick. Sometime in the future, I’ll add a recipe option for you folks who prefer a marinade.
Your finished steaks should look similar to this before tenting to rest.
Now, experience you will have to develop on your own. In my own practice, I’ve never had a bad steak. Just some better than others. But when you figure out how to nail your personal preferences, you’ll be able to repeat the process again and again with skill. A quarter beeve from Spring Forest Farm will give you plenty of opportunity to hone your skill. You can expect roughly 2-3 packages of each type of steak.
Out of experience, I’ve learned to take advantage of skillet juices. I like to use a bit of red wine to deglaze the pan before adding in chopped mushrooms and sliced onions.
Enjoy the recipe. Adapt and make it your own!
Rib Eye Steaks
The truth is, like any task in life, great steaks at home can be achieved through education and experience.
– 2 steaks at least 1 in thick (I used rib eye, but you could sub NY strip, sirloin, t-bone, or tenderloin)
– sea salt (I like Celtic Sea Salt)
– cracked black peppercorn
– 4 cloves garlic, chopped
– 2 Tbsp fat (rendered lamb or duck fat, ghee, or unsalted butter)
– fresh thyme (optional…for aromatics)
– large cast iron skillet
– optional: 8oz chopped baby bella mushrooms
– optional: 1 medium sweet onion, sliced thin
– optional: 3-4 oz. red wine
- Preparing the Steaks
- Remove your thawed steaks from the refrigerator. Use a paper towel to pat the steaks dry. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the steaks. Sprinkle the chopped garlic on top of the steaks and leave them on the counter to come to room temperature (30 minutes – 1 hour).
- Preparing the Skillet
- Heat your oven to 200 F. Place your cast iron skillet in the oven to warm evenly. When you are ready to cook the steaks, remove the skillet from the oven and place on a medium high burner. Be sure that you can feel heat radiating off the surface before you add fat to the skillet.
- Searing the Steaks
- When the pan is hot (or even beginning to smoke) add your fat to the skillet. When the bottom is well coated, place your steaks garlic-side down. With a pair of tongs, jiggle the steaks to be sure they are not sticking to the skillet. Sear the first side for 2-3 minutes. Flip and sear the other side for two minutes.
- Preparing for the Oven
- Remove the steaks from heat. If you have an oven safe meat thermometer, place it into the end of one steak. Avoid fat and bone. You will not get an accurate temperature from the top. Place a few pieces of fresh thyme across the steaks.
- Finishing in the Oven
- Place the steaks (and thermometer) in the oven and finish to desired temperature. This may take 8-20 minutes. See the temperature guide (in red) above.
- Resting the Steaks
- After removing the steaks from the oven, tent the skillet loosely with foil and rest the steaks for ten minutes.
- When ready to serve, remove from the skillet and slice the steaks across the grain.
- Optional Finishing
- If you’re like me and you don’t want to leave those yummy juices in the bottom of your skillet, throw it back on a medium high burner. Add a bit of red wine and deglaze the skillet. Once you’ve cooked the alcohol down by half, add the mushrooms and onions. Saute, and then enjoy as a flavorful steak topper.
Here on SpringForestFarm.com, Jennifer Taylor Schmidt writes beef recipes for the busy,
natural homemaker. It is possible to seek optimal health with limited time and money. Join
Jennifer in future posts as she explores the possibilities found in a 1/4 and a 1/2 beeve. You
can also find her thoughts and personal health journey on RealFoodRealHealing.com.