There are always those rare occasions when some random cut of beef/steak will go on sale and I can actually afford to buy it. I do like that since then I can make steak and pretend like I’m actually not a poor grad student.
Steak is difficult to cook correctly and cheaper cuts of meat certainly don’t have much room for error before they become tough and chewy. No one likes tough and chewy steak. Certainly what I’ve found works best is to marinate steak before hand before cooking it. And for steaks and other red meats, I really like using balsamic vinegar as the main ingredient. Balsamic definitely lends itself well to the richness of red meats and the slight gaminess and balsamic doesn’t easily overpower the meat as it can do with white meats like chicken.
For my balsamic marinade, I start with some olive oil and fresh garlic. In addition to some balsamic vinegar, I add in some Worschestershire sauce and soy sauce. Worschestershire is great because it is a main ingredient in many steak sauces, so it lends itself nicely to bringing out some beef flavor and soy sauce just adds a little bit of depth. I don’t use a lot of soy sauce because I don’t want it to be overpowering or too salty. Finally for the herbs, because herbs are always welcome, I use a pretty classic lineup to go with balsamic: rosemary, sage, and marjoram. Those three are my go-to herbs when making anything with balsamic. I’m sure I’ve expressed before how classic balsamic and rosemary are as a flavor combination so I’ll try not to get too into that.
Then I marinate some steak. For my cuts of meat, I’m using fairly large cuts of cheap strip steak. But this is all a matter of preference for cuts (if you have one) and the affordability. Pretty much everything will cook up the same but thicker cuts will obviously need more time than these rather thin cuts. The only steak that does not lend itself well to this type of cooking is flank steak. Flank is a very particular cut of beef that I exclusively use for fajitas. One day, I will have a good flank recipe up here if I can find a cheap flank steak, I promise.
Then it’s all about the cooking. A good steak cooking method begins in a skillet and then finishes in the oven. And for that, I highly recommend a cast iron skillet. They can get good heat, even heat distribution, and can be transferred to the oven without any problem. Never use a non-stick skillet for this method. Non-stick coatings cannot hold up well under oven heat. So if you don’t have a cast iron skillet, your only other option is a stainless steel skillet with a metal handle, no plastic or it might melt in the oven.
For this kind of thickness, I sear both sides for about 3-4 minutes just to get a nice outside color. Then place a little pat of butter on it, cover it in foil and throw the skillet in a 450ºF oven for around 8-10 minutes. And then I check it to see if it’s the right doneness. And how do I do this? I don’t cut into it. It’s best to cut into steak after you’ve let it rest, otherwise it will make it incredibly tough when you want to eat it.
The above chart is the general idea of how to check the doneness of the uncut steak. This little hand trick really is the best way to do it and it’s fairly accurate and super easy. The times I presented above are for cooking a medium rare steak because that’s how I like it, but if you want it more done, just cook in the oven for longer.
After taking it out of the oven and having the desired doneness, the steak needs to rest before you cut and serve it. This allows the steak to take some of its juices back and will make it less tough and juicier as you’re eating it. Typically, I let the steak rest on a cutting board covered in foil for about 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
Balsamic Marinated Steak
Prep time: 15 minutes
Inactive: 1+ hours
Cook time: 20 minutes
- 2 strip steaks
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup balsamic
- 1 tbs worschestershire sauce
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tbs dried rosemary
- 1 tbs dried sage
- 1 tsp dried marjoram
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbs unsalted butter
- Mix garlic, olive oil, balsamic, worschestershire sauce, soy sauce, rosemary, sage, marjoram, salt, and pepper in a bowl
- Marinate steaks in mixture for at least 1 hour or overnight
- Heat oven-proof skillet over medium heat
- Preheat oven to 450ºF
- Cook steaks on both sides for ~2 minutes on each side (for medium rare/medium)
- Place 1 tbs of butter on each steak and cover with aluminum foil
- Place skillet in oven and cook for 8-10 minutes depending on desired doneness
- Remove from oven and transfer steaks to a plate or cutting board, allow to rest for 15 minutes before cutting