If Your Steak Didn't Develop A Good Crust, You Bought The Wrong Size

If you're lucky, you've eaten a perfectly-cooked steak: seared to perfection with a crisp exterior yielding to a voluptuous middle. Whether this feat is accomplished on the grill or in a trusted iron skillet is not important. The thickness of the cut is foundational, and given the cost of a good skirt steak — let alone a porterhouse — these are good things to keep in mind before going shopping. What you need to look for is a very thick cut of steak that will deliver both a crisp crust and a tender interior.

Because cooking the ideal steak involves high heat, the thickness of the cut makes a crucial difference between one that is perfectly seared but not overcooked to leather.  No matter which steak is on your menu, buy a thick cut — one that is large enough to even share. Unlike thinner pieces of steak that risk being overcooked, flash-searing thicker cuts of meat makes for a delicious, dark crust by caramelizing the sugars inherent in the meat and tightening up the proteins on the exterior.

Thicker is better

It may seem counterintuitive, but the thickest cuts of steak are the easiest to cook medium rare while still having a perfect crust. A thickness of at least 1 ½ inches is recommended — preferably two — because the sear needs to take place over the highest possible heat, regardless of when that occurs in the cooking process.

It's not absolutely necessary to sear the steak immediately. Contrary to popular opinion, forming a crust quickly does not "seal in the juices." It might provide caramelized goodness, but it actually reduces the water content of the meat. Naturally, this concentrates the flavor — especially if the steak has been well salted prior to cooking in order to break down muscle fibers and bring out moisture. 

The fat content of the steak will also determine its cooking time. Leaner cuts of meat like tenderloin are not as insulated by marbling as a ribeye, and therefore more prone to turning out overdone unless suitably thick. With this basic steak tip in mind, the triumph of your next home-cooked date-night dinner is assured.