The Thick Steak Myth J. Kenji López-Alt Says You Can Stop Believing
pieces of steak with peppercorn
Who can resist the call of a perfectly cooked steak? Whether you prefer yours rare or well done, whether you enjoy it with a simple salt and pepper seasoning or slather it in A1 Sauce, and whether you prefer a ribeye or a New York Strip, America’s love for steak runs deep. In a 2022 survey by Meats by Linz, 64% of U.S. consumers surveyed said that if they could choose their last meal, steak would be a part of it.
Cooking the perfect restaurant-quality steak may seem intimidating, and the information overload from internet experts can make the learning process even more daunting. However, everyone still claims to have a secret tip to help you get your steak just right and one of these storied tips is the importance of letting your thick steaks come to room temperature before cooking them.
But with so much steak advice from so many sources, is it possible that some of the long-held beliefs are outdated or even just plain wrong? Chef and writer J. Kenji López-Alt seems to think so, with his opinion leading to a quicker cook.
Different Processes, Same Results
two uncooked steaks
According to Steak School, some experts claim you must allow your meat to come to room temperature before cooking. Their site continues that the pre-cooking rest time prevents both an uneven cook and the risk of muscle fibers becoming tough during the cooking process.
López-Alt tested this theory by grilling one thick steak that had rested at room temperature for two hours and one that stayed in the fridge for the same time (via Serious Eats). The results turned the long-held belief on its head when López-Alt found that his steaks not only finished cooking at almost the exact same time but were also cooked evenly throughout the meat.
Cook’s Illustrated supported this understanding through their own experiment (via America’s Test Kitchen). The results showed that leaving the 1-inch thick steak out for two hours only marginally increased its internal temperature and when compared to steaks cooked straight from the fridge, the taste and texture were identical.
In the same Serious Eats article, Lopez-Alt concludes that the dryness of the steak is much more important than attempting to bring it to room temperature. He recommends drying your steak on paper towels before searing or salting it before storing it in the fridge overnight for a better sear.