If you’ve ever messed up a steak, and boy, have I messed up a few in the past, you know how frustrating it can be.  Over the past 10 years, I have learned that there are 3 very common mistakes:

  • Temperature 
  • Seasoning 
  • Combustion type 

I’ve got your back with some tips on how to avoid the three biggest steak-cooking mistakes. Whether you’re grilling on an Argentine parrilla or searing in a pan, these tips will help you nail that perfect steak every time. Let’s go!

3 Ways to Ruin a Steak

Mistake 1: Temperature & Overcooking the Steak

Overcooking a steak is one of the quickest ways to turn great meat into a tough, dry, and flavorless disaster. This typically happens because of high heat or leaving the steak on the grill or pan for too long, causing it to lose its natural juices and tenderness. Most importantly, it accelerates the breakdown or denaturation of proteins, causing the meat to be cooked. When you “overdo” this process, the meat naturally becomes course, brittle, and very untender.

In other words, when you overcook a steak, it turns into a dry, chewy mess, and no one wants that. All that extra cooking zaps the moisture right out of it and kills the beef’s natural flavors, making your meal a lot less enjoyable.

So, let’s figure out how to avoid overcooking the steak by managing the temperature better.

How to Avoid It

Temperature probably lies at the heart of the issue. A stable, consistent temperature and the right timing are essential for steak grilling success.

  • Use a Meat Thermometer: One of the best ways to avoid overcooking is to use a meat thermometer so you can pull it off the heat at just the right time.
  • Resting the Steak: After you’ve cooked your steak, let it rest for about 5-10 minutes. This little break allows the juices to settle back into the meat, making each bite more flavorful and juicy when you finally dig in.
  • Understand Doneness Levels: Knowing the right temperatures for different levels of doneness is key. Here’s a quick cheat sheet for you:
  • Rare: 120-125°F (49-52°C)
  • Medium-Rare: 130-135°F (54-57°C)
  • Medium: 140-145°F (60-63°C)
  • Well-Done: 160°F+ (71°C+)
Ways to Ruin a Steak (And How to Avoid Them)

Mistake 2: Not Seasoning Properly or “Over Seasoning”

Alright, let’s talk seasoning. The lack of it can leave your steak tasting bland and boring, especially if it doesn’t have much marbling or fat, and nobody wants that. One classic Argentine way to season meat is with salmuera. It’s a simple brine made from water, salt, and sometimes a bit of garlic and herbs. It keeps the meat’s surface moist and adds a subtle layer of flavor without overpowering the beef.

When it comes to seasoning, sometimes less is more. A generous sprinkle of salt and a good crack of black pepper is all you need to bring out the steak’s natural flavors. You don’t need to go overboard with fancy spices.

Also, in Argentina, seasoning is often kept simple because steaks are served with salsas like salsa criolla or chimichurri, which are packed with fresh ingredients and herbs.

Mistake 3: Wrong Cooking Method

Choosing the wrong cooking method can really mess up your steak, leaving you with uneven cooking, poor texture, or burnt bits. 

Grilling on a Parrilla

Grilling on a parrilla is an Argentine classic. It’s a bit different from your standard barbecue grill. The parrilla is all about that wood-fired or charcoal heat, giving the meat a delicious smoky flavor. Here’s how to nail it:

  • Preheat the Parrilla: Make sure your parrilla is nice and hot before you throw the steak on. You want those grates to be searing hot to get a good crust on your meat.
  • Control the Heat: On a parrilla, you can control the heat by moving the coals around or adjusting the height of the grill grates so your steak cooks evenly.
  • Cook with Patience: Don’t rush it. Let the steak cook slowly over medium heat. This method gives you a beautifully charred outside and a juicy, tender inside.
Ways to Ruin a Steak

Other Cooking Methods

  • Broiling is another solid option, especially if you want that charred flavor but don’t have a grill. Place your steak on a broiler pan, set it close to the heat source, and cook it quickly, flipping halfway through.
  • Sous Vide is a fantastic method. Seal your steak in a vacuum bag and cook it in a water bath at your desired temperature. After that, give it a quick sear in a hot pan or on a grill for that perfect crust.
  • Pan-Searing uses a cast-iron skillet for best results. Get it really hot before adding your steak. Sear each side for a few minutes until you get a nice crust, then finish in the oven if needed.

Extra tips

Before you even start cooking, choosing the right cut of meat is essential for a great steak. Look for cuts with good marbling, as the fat interspersed within the meat adds flavor and helps keep the steak moist during cooking. Some popular cuts include ribeye, t-bone, and filet mignon.

Bringing the Steak to Room Temperature

For an evenly cooked steak, bring your meat out of the refrigerator a little early. Cooking a steak straight from the fridge can lead to uneven cooking, with the exterior done long before the interior reaches the desired temperature. Letting the steak sit at room temperature for about 30-60 minutes helps it cook more evenly and results in a better texture and flavor.

Let the steak aerate 30-60 minutes before cooking, take it out of the bag or packaging, and let the steak rest and absorb oxygen. 

Whether you’re grilling on a parrilla, searing in a pan, or trying sous vide, you’ll be nailing steak perfection in no time. Just remember to keep it simple, be patient, and let those flavors shine!

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