Over the past two years I have spent a lot of time working on weeknight meals. Meals that are not too time-consuming to put together, or too messy to clean up. Meals that I enjoy eating and love making. There is plenty of chicken, always a salad, and likely some pasta in our weekly rotation of dinners, but without a doubt, one of our favorite meals is this steak. It feels like a treat, but is not too fussy to be made after a long day of work. I like to think I have perfected it over time, and now I finally get to share it with you.
First things first, technically this is not the first time I am sharing this steak. Last spring, I made this skirt steak with lemon pistachio gremolata. It is beyond delicious, but I feel like the gremolata can be a little distracting, and since so many people ask me for my “perfect steak” recipe, I decided to put the simplest version down here, with a totally optional fancy, compound butter.
We begin with the steak itself.
For quite a while now, my favorite cuts have been ribeye and t-bone, but neither of those cuts are terribly affordable, so for the weeknights I turn to my newest favorite: skirt steak.
I feel like I say this all of the time, but it is all in the cooking. Skirt steak really does not feel like a step down from those more expensive cuts when cooked to perfection. In fact, I made a couple of these steaks for our Christmas party and people could not believe that it was a skirt steak. Really, a bit of extra care and finesse transforms an eight dollar steak into something pretty spectacular.
Choose a skirt steak with heavy marbling and a decent layer of fat on the bottom side. This is where all of our flavor lies.
As soon as you remove your steak from the refrigerator, pat it dry on both sides with a paper towel and sprinkle both sides with a liberal dose of salt and a bit of freshly ground black pepper.
Once the steak has been seasoned, it goes directly into a hotter-than-hot skillet prepared with a bit of olive oil.
The goal here is to sear the steak, hence the screaming hot pan. We want a heavy, mouth-watering crust on each side, but we are not really trying to cook the steak through here.
The time will vary a bit due to the thickness of your steak, but forming a good crust should not take more than 3-4 minutes on each side.
As soon as you have achieved a prime sear on your steak, remove the skillet from the burner, top with a pat of butter, and transfer the steak to the oven, which you will have preheated to 400 degrees F.
This is a step you simply cannot skip. A bit of quality time in the oven will do several things. First, this is where the steak will finish cooking. A perfect steak, in my mind, reads at 135 degrees. This will give you a fairly rare steak, but you can adjust the cooking time/temperature based on personal tastes. Mr. Pedantic likes his closer to 145.
Second, the time in the oven will allow all of the fat and connective tissue to relax a bit. In the hot pan, the steak cooks rapidly, causing these elements to seize up, but does not allow them enough time to melt. In the oven, the steady heat will allow both to settle down and the fat will begin to melt, creating the dreamiest, most tender, flavorful steak.
Third, this step gives us a chance to blanket our steak in melted butter, which is always a fine idea.
After the steak has had a few minutes in the oven, it is transferred to a cutting board to rest for a few minutes.
If you do not allow your steak to rest, all of the wonderful, flavorful juices will be wasted on your cutting board and countertops.
It is important to slice the steak against the grain for tenderness. Find the “lines” or grain running through the steak and turn your knife against those lines, slicing diagonally, and cutting into thin strips.
I like to return the steak to the pan after it has been sliced and toss it around in the rendered juices a bit. This just adds another level of flavor.
Make up a light, green salad and perhaps some of these oven fries, and dinner is served! Monday night just got a little more exciting.
Perfect-Every-Time Skirt Steak
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1-1.5 lbs skirt steak, well marbled
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or roasted garlic truffle butter (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Prepare roasted garlic truffle butter, if using. (Recipe follows.)
Drizzle olive oil into a large, oven-safe frying pan and place over medium high heat. While the oil heats, prepare the steak.
Use a paper towel to pat the steak dry and season both sides with salt (3/4 teaspoon on each side), and freshly ground black pepper.
Once the oil is shimmering, use a long pair of tongs to lay the steak in the hot pan. If your oil is hot enough, it should sizzle and pop loudly.
Sear for 2-4 minutes, until you have a heavy, golden crust on the bottom of your steak, then flip, and repeat on the opposite side.
After both sides have a good sear on them, remove the pan from the heat and use an instant-read thermometer to take the temperature. The temperature should read somewhere between 120-128 degrees F.
Place 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, or roasted garlic butter, on top of the steak and place the pan on the middle rack of your oven.
Bake for 3-5 minutes; until the temperature reaches 135-140 degrees F.
Transfer the steak to a cutting board and allow to rest for 8 minutes. After the steak has rested, use a very sharp knife to cut the steak into strips, being sure to cut against the grain.
Cook’s Note: It is important to slice the steak against the grain for tenderness. Find the “lines” or grain running through the steak and turn your knife against those lines, slicing diagonally; cut into thin strips.
Return the sliced steak to the pan and use a pair of tongs to toss the strips in the rendered juices.
Serve immediately. Enjoy!
Roasted Garlic Truffle Butter
makes 1/2 cup
Cook’s Note: This will make more butter than you need for a single steak. Wrap any leftover butter in parchment paper and freeze for 1-2 months, or spread atop toasted, crusty bread - one of our favorite accompaniments to this steak.
6 medium garlic cloves
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon black truffle oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place garlic and olive oil in a small baking dish and roast for 15 minutes; until the garlic is browned and soft.
Allow to cool until just warm.
Place butter, garlic cloves in olive oil, and truffle oil in the work bowl of your food processor and pulse for 1-2 minutes; until fluffy and well combined.
Transfer to a small dish, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.