How to cook steak

Explore our expert guide on cooking steak, covering cooking times, beef cuts, marinades, resting time advice, and the optimal pans to use, all in one convenient resource

Wondering what is the best way to cook steak? Whether your preference is a butter-soft fillet steak, flavour-packed sirloin or thriftier cut like bavette, rump or onglet, quick-cooking and constant attention should be paid when cooking your beef. With only a few minutes leeway between rare and well-done, timing is key. We’ve put together some tips to help you from start to finish on how to cook a steak.

Once you’ve mastered how to cook the perfect steak, check out our favourite steak sauce recipes for the final flourish.

Types of steak

The cut of steak you use is down to personal preference and budget. Different cuts will deliver different levels of tenderness and flavour. Our handy steak infographic shows you what to expect from each cut and gives advice on how best to cook it.

Sirloin: Considered to be a prime steak, like fillet, but with more flavour. Best served medium-rare.

T-bone: To make sure everything cooks evenly, it’s best finished in the oven. Great for sharing.

One-pan sirloin steak & creamy mushroom sauce

Bavette and flank steak: Cheap cut that’s best served no more than medium and is great for barbecuing.

Fillet: Prized as the most tender cut, it’s also the most expensive. It has little fat and is best served as rare as you like.

Rib-eye and tomahawk: There are two cuts to note: rib-eye, boneless and usually serves one, and rib on the bone, also known as côte de boeuf.

Flat-iron: This steak is cut from the shoulder blade and is of great value and neatly shaped, but it needs to be cooked no more than medium or it will be tough.

Onglet: Also called hanger steak, this rope-shaped piece of meat has lots of flavours but will be tough if cooked beyond rare.

Rump steak: The least expensive of prime steaks, it will be tough if cooked anything beyond medium.

Best pan for steak

Best pan for steak


For indoor cooking, we recommend frying your steak, although grilling is an option if preferred. A heavy-duty, thick-based frying pan achieves the best results; we particularly like the Ninja Foodi ZEROSTICK frying pan, which has a superb non-stick surface and responds well to temperature changes. You can read our full review of the Ninja Foodi ZEROSTICK frying pan.

A heavy griddle pan or cast iron skillet is another excellent choice for cooking steak. These pans retain heat well and can get very hot, ideal for achieving a charred, smoky finish. In our tests, the Le Creuset skillet pan was the top pick for beginners, featuring a comfortable handle, impressive non-stick surface, and helpful double handles. For a more affordable option, the VonShef cast iron skillet pan was our best budget choice, producing a crispy golden steak and coming pre-seasoned.

Steaks should be cooked in a spacious pan—if the pan isn’t big enough, avoid squeezing them in. Cook them one or two at a time, allowing them to rest as you cook the rest, or opt for a thicker steak and carve it into slices to serve.

How to season steak

How to cook steak


Beef purists might prefer to enjoy the rich, unadulterated flavor of a quality steak with just a sprinkling of salt and a generous twist of pepper. Contrary to popular belief, seasoning your steak with salt ahead of time doesn’t draw out moisture; instead, it allows the steak to absorb the salt and become more evenly seasoned. Salt your steak in advance—2 hours for every 1 cm of thickness. For a classic steak au poivre (peppered steak), sprinkle plenty of cracked black pepper and sea salt onto a plate, then press the meat into the seasoning just before cooking.

Some people like to enhance flavour and tenderise meat with a marinadeBalsamic vinegar will reduce down to a sweet glaze, as will a coating of honey & mustard.

See our easy steak marinade to use on a variety of cuts.

Lots of chefs add whole garlic cloves and robust herbs like thyme and rosemary to the hot fat while the steak is cooking, which adds background flavour to the steak subtly, without overpowering it.

Best cooking fat for steak

Flavourless oils like sunflower, vegetable or groundnut work best, and once the steak is searing you can add butter to the pan for flavour. A nice touch if you’re cooking a thick sirloin steak with a strip of fat on the side is to sear the fat first by holding the steak with a pair of tongs, then cooking the beef in the rendered beef fat. You’ll need to use your judgment when you heat the pan – you want the oil to split in the pan but not smoke.

How to sear steak

To achieve a flavourful, caramelised brown crust on a steak, ensure the pan and fat are hot enough. While the conventional method sears one side before cooking the other, resulting in uneven caramelization, turning the steak every minute throughout the total cooking time ensures an even crust on both sides.

How long to cook steak

How to cook steak


Our cookery team has outlined what you can expect from each category of steak:

  • Blue: Dark purple in colour and just warm, with a spongy texture and no resistance.
  • Rare: Dark red with some red juice flowing, soft and spongy with slight resistance.
  • Medium-rare: Pink with some juice, soft, spongy, and slightly springy.
  • Medium: Pale pink in the middle with minimal juice, firm and springy.
  • Well done: Only a trace of pink but not dry, spongy, soft, and slightly springy.

Consider the size and weight of your steak when calculating cooking time. If unsure, consult your butcher, who can provide expert advice on how long to cook your meat.

Fillet steak cooking times

We recommend the following cooking times for a 3.5cm thick fillet steak:

  • Blue: 1½ mins each side
  • Rare: 2¼ mins each side
  • Medium-rare: 3¼ mins each side
  • Medium: 4½ mins each side

Sirloin steak cooking times

We also recommend the following for a 2cm thick sirloin steak:

  • Blue: 1 min each side
  • Rare: 1½ mins per side
  • Medium rare: 2 mins per side
  • Medium: About 2¼ mins per side
  • Well-done steak: Cook for about 4-5 mins each side, depending on thickness.

How to cook steak

  1. Season the steak with salt up to 2 hours in advance, then with pepper just before cooking.
  2. Heat a heavy-based frying pan until very hot but not smoking, then drizzle some oil into the pan and let it heat briefly.
  3. Add the steak along with a knob of butter, garlic, and robust herbs if desired.
  4. Sear the steak evenly on each side for the recommended time, turning every minute for the best-caramelised crust.
  5. Test the steak’s doneness by pressing it with your finger; it will become firmer as it cooks, helping you gauge the desired level.
  6. Once satisfied, finish by rendering the fatty edge, holding the steak on its side with tongs for a couple of minutes to melt the fat and enhance the flavour.
  7. Let the steak rest on a board or warm plate for about 5 minutes before serving whole or sliced, with the resting juices poured over.

How to check steak is cooked

How to cook steak


Use your fingers to prod the cooked steak – when rare it will feel soft, medium-rare will be lightly bouncy, and well done will be much firmer.

Blue: 54C

Rare: 57C

Medium rare: 63C

Medium: 71C

Well done: 75C

How to rest a steak

A cooked steak should rest at room temperature for at least five minutes, ideally around half the cooking time, and will stay warm for up to 10 minutes. This resting period allows the meat fibres to reabsorb the juices, resulting in a moist and tender steak. Any resting juices should be poured over the steak before serving.

How to buy Steak

When purchasing steak, you may encounter the following terms:

  • Grass-fed beef: Cattle that graze on pasture, producing leaner meat with a richer, gamier flavour influenced by its environment. For example, Scottish grass-fed beef tastes different from Irish.
  • Marbling: The fat interlaced within a cut of meat. As it cooks, the marbled fat melts, keeping the meat moist and flavorful. Meat with significant marbling typically comes from less exercised muscles.
  • Wagyu: Refers to four breeds of Japanese cattle fed on a diet including foraged grass, rice straw, corn, barley, soybean, wheat bran, and occasionally beer or sake. Wagyu beef is known for its heavy marbling and high price.
  • Ageing: Enhances the flavour and tenderness of meat. Dry ageing involves hanging carcasses in a cool place for 30-60 days, intensifying flavour and causing shrinkage. Wet ageing involves vacuum-packing butchered meat to prevent shrinkage.

Do you have any foolproof techniques when cooking your steak? You’ll find more inspiration in our recipe collection, too.