Back to basics: Steak

Back to basics: Steak

It's quick, tasty and nutritious. Sarah Swains demonstrates how to get a perfectly cooked steak, every time.

The basics

  • Buy steaks no more than two days before cooking.
  • Choose beef with a good red colour or pork with a pale pink colour.
  • After buying steaks, keep in a sealed, airtight container or on a plate covered with plastic wrap in the fridge.
  • Before cooking steak, remove from the fridge, cover, and bring to room temperature.
  • Sprinkle steak with a little pepper, marinade or rub (see below for recipes). The heat will seal in the seasoning.
  • Choose a heavy-based, non-stick pan for cooking.
  • Use tongs for easy and safe turning of steaks.
  • Rest steaks for five minutes before serving so the juices evenly distribute through the meat.

Choosing steak

  • The best cuts of steak to pan-fry or grill are sirloin, rump, scotch and fillet. The difference between them is in tenderness: themost tender meats are fillet or tenderloin – they are usually the most expensive cuts as well.
  • Sirloin or rump are good, economical options. Rump tends to be a thickly cut steak that is reasonably tender.
  • Allow 125-150g per person for steak. It will shrink slightly when cooked. This is a healthy-sized serving.
  • Trim off any visible fat on steaks. There's plenty within the meat to give flavour.
  • When selecting pork, lean leg steaks or medallions are the choicest cuts.
  • Venison and ostrich steaks are now available from the supermarket. They are a leaner meat and cost a little more than other meats.

How to cook perfect steak


  1. Spray a heavy non-stick pan or griddle with a little oil.
  2. Heat pan over a high heat until very hot.
  3. Sprinkle steaks with black pepper.
  4. Add steaks to the pan, press down lightly and then brown each side for 1-1 1/2 minutes. Turn using tongs.
  5. Cook for the required time to get your desired result: rare – 3 minutes (the meat feels spongy when pressed; medium – 4 1/2 minutes (the meat resists when pressed); well-done – 5-7 minutes (the meat feels firm when pressed). Turn steaks halfway through.


  1. Preheat the grill for 10 minutes until it is very hot.
  2. Season the steaks with black pepper.
  3. Place on a grill rack and cook under grill: rare 3 1/2 minutes; medium 5 1/2 minutes; well-done 6-8 minutes.


To create cross-hatched lines on your steak, you wll need a grill pan or griddle with a ribbed base. Choose one with handles, which is easier to use, and choose a size that is as close as possible to the heat source to prevent heat-loss and overheating the handle.

Recipe ideas

Easy marinade
Spicy rub
Tasty beef with noodles

Author: Sarah Swain

Healthy Food Guide

First published: Aug 2008

2017-04-03 16:56:25

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