GIF Tutorial: How to Cook a Steak

No more gray, lifeless meat—Atera sous chef Zach Hunter shows us how to sear and finish steak like a pro.

  • Atera sous chef Zach Hunter, ready to sear some meat. Let's go...
  • The first part you already know: Get your pan (preferably cast-iron) going over high heat, then throw in some olive oil. But here's the power move you might not be familiar with: If you're cooking a steak with fat still attached, like a New York strip or ribeye, grab the steak and press the fat into the pan until it is well coated. Particularly with quality dry-aged cuts (Atera uses American Wagyu from Morgan Ranch in Nebraska), the fat soaks up a lot of the flavor of the steak, so searing the meat in its own fat will help crank the taste up to 11. (Note: If you're cooking a steak with no fat cap, such as a filet, skip this step and simply sear in olive oil.)
  • To sear the steak, place it in your pan, then use a meat press (or an oven tray) to cover the top side of the meat. Press down lightly, as you don't want to cook too deeply into the steak.
  • After about a minute, check the caramelization of the side that's in direct contact with the pan. You want it to be browned but not charred.
  • Flip your steak and perform the same steps, cooking again for about a minute.
  • Now that's you've got a nice sear, you can finish the steak in the oven, which should be preheated to 350°F. For a nice medium-rare, cook for about 4 minutes, then flip the steak over and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  • As soon as you remove the steak from the oven, transfer it to a new surface (like your cutting board) so that it doesn't continue to cook from the residual heat of the oven tray.
  • Check the internal temperature of the meat using a
  • Finish the steak with coarse sea salt and let it rest for about 10 minutes (this part is crucial to let the juices distribute evenly). Then it's time to slice it. Hunter likes to remove the ends (eat 'em while you work, you earned it), then cut strips about an inch thick, leaving on the fat cap for extra flavor.
  • Gratuitous meat-slicing closeup!
  • If you want to pretend you work at Atera, you can garnish your steak with foraged flowers and herbs. Using tweezers, of course. Or you can just eat the damn thing while standing over the sink—your call.
  • Dinner is served.
  • Ain't she beautiful?

Photo and GIFs by Liz Barclay

Welcome back to the First We Feast GIF Tutorial series, where we ask restaurant pros to show us how step up our technique when cooking at home. This week, we tackle one of the most deceptively complex tasks in the kitchen: properly preparing a steak. Everyone’s got an opinion on the matter, and a Google search will leave you with about 3,451 ways to go about it. To set the record straight, we headed to Atera in Tribeca to get a masterclass from sous chef Zach Hunter.

For the uninitiated, Atera is not a place where you go to get a simple piece of grilled meat. Led by Portland import Matthew Lightner, the kitchen turns out one of the city’s most progressive tasting menus, deploying modernist techniques like sous-vide to create dishes like sunflower toffee manipulated to look like a peach pit, and beets blackened with hay ash to look like an ember. But Hunter couldn’t start playing with these avant-garde sleights of hand before mastering the basics. After graduating from the Arizona Culinary Institute, he worked at Wildfish Seafood Grille in Scottsdale, then worked his way through the kitchen world to end up at the celebrated Mugaritz in Errenteria, Spain. Along the way, Hunter learned some tricks that we never got the memo about, but which are completely doable in your home kitchen. Suffice to say, he knows his way around a steak.

Check out the instructions below for cooking a medium-rare New York strip, then click through the gallery above to see Hunter demonstrate each step of the process.

6 Steps to Steak Perfection

1) Preheat oven to 350°F and place a cast-iron pan or griddle on high heat.

2) Coat pan with olive oil, then press the fatty side of the steak into the pan to coat it with fat. (If it doesn’t have the fat attached, skip this step.)

3) Place the steak in the pan, then press down gently with a meat press. Wait one minute, then flip and repeat for another minute.

4) Move the steak to the oven. Cook for 4 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

5) Move steak onto a cutting board or other cool surface and let rest for about 10 minutes. Season with coarse sea salt and slice into strips about an inch wide.

6) Garnish with edible flowers and foraged herbs if you want to impress someone, or simply devour on the couch in your underpants.

(Photo: Liz Barclay)

Photo: Liz Barclay

  • emptymag


    • Guest

      Agreed. Plus, this is “The GIF tutorial” and these are all JPGs.

      • First We Feast

        @b016ac2f3252f8a5741b59eed78bc2dc:disqus did you click on the gallery at the top? they should all run as animations.

        @emptymag:disqus anything you’d rather see here?

  • zetaphi938

    Beause when I want a steak I want it to be surrounded by microgreens and flowers.

    • Chris S

      @04b53b5d6527a71a9e82f44a82b3f151:disqus that part is highly optional

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