Cooking steak in oven at medium heat helps to keep steak more tender than it would have been if cooked with high heat, but less tender, when compared to low heat method (check out my experiment). Why does that happen? The simple answer is that moisture stays inside.
Here is a longer version with all the explanations.
Medium heat cooking, what steaks can be used for it? Well, you can spare the most tender cuts (e.g. rib eye steak) for high heat cooking method. Now is the time for tougher and cheaper meat.
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Of course you can still use steaks from sirloin, short loin and tenderloin (like I did in my experiment below), but as I’ve mentioned earlier, they will be fine at high heat. You may also try flank steak! Just remember not to cook it beyond medium-rare or it will be too dry (see our steak doneness temperature ranges).
Now is the time for my experiment…and the guidelines!
Experiment: Cooking Filet Mignon at Medium Heat in the Oven (160C/320F)
Some people start with preparing steak in oven first and only then put it into the pan for caramelization (which occurs at ~180C/360F).
Others do the other way around. I tried both. Well, in my humble opinion, the “oven-first” method works better.
0. Preheat. That’s obvious. I started with preheating the oven. The aim is 160C/320F.
1. Oven. The steak goes in now! This was a basic experiment, so no marinade this time (but we do have marinade recipes). As for salt and pepper – wait till the next stage.
When you compare this picture with the one from high heat cooking, you will see the difference in the quantity of water leaving the steak. It is much less here, but more than at low heat method. Result: more tender meat.
2. Rest. Give it five minutes to rest. I explain why in the final step and for now remember…
To take it out 3-5 degrees before it’s ready – the inside heat will catch up.
I was aiming for medium-rare, so 48C (119F) was what I needed. I took it out at 45C. While the steak was resting, the temperature inside rose to 48C – bingo!
3. Browning. Now, to get the browning we love, heat up the skillet so it starts smoking, season and sear the already-rested steak for ~25 seconds on each side to get the caramel.
By the way, don’t forget to pat dry the steak before searing it. Dry surface caramelizes much better.
4. Rest again. Why are we doing it all the time? Well, because it helps to keep all the moisture inside. Once the steak is hot, the pores in meat are wide-open and any physical disturbance (such as cutting) will help the juices to drain away…noooo!
See this steak and all the juices around it? I sacrificed one piece and cut it right after it left the skillet to illustrate my point. Please, rest your food – I’m not doing it again!
I hope this insight was helpful and your results will greatly improve. Have something to ask or comment on? Please do so below.
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