If you have gotten as far as choosing your cut of steak but wandered up and down the aisles of your local supermarket only to find yourself spoiled for choice when it comes to different oils, you should find value in some of the information below.
The best oils for cooking steak are known to be avocado, extra virgin olive, peanut, grapeseed, and vegetable oil. The most important aspect of a good oil is that it has a high smoke point. This enables you to sear the steak at a high temperature. Otherwise, the steak taste can end up tasting burnt or bitter.
A good cut of steak can be ruined if cooked incorrectly, and discerning steak eaters will not compromise at any stage of the cooking process. Selecting the best oil to cook your steak is one factor that will determine the final result.
Why Is Smoke Point So Important When Cooking Steak?
You’ll hear the words smoke point bandied about often when discussing cooking oils. This is one of the most important considerations when choosing an oil for steak, and not because it’s going to give your steak a delightful smoky taste—quite the opposite, in fact.
The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which it begins to smoke. This is important because smoking oil will make your meat taste burnt.
What Is the Best Oil for Steak?
You don’t want to go out spending top dollar on good steak only to have it taste quite similar to the chips you have on the side.
When it comes down to it, there are a few good candidates for the best oil for steak. It helps to know what qualities you are looking for in the first place—some qualities in oils are more desirable than others for cooking steak.
The best oils for cooking steak are avocado, extra virgin olive, peanut, grapeseed, and vegetable oil. The most crucial quality is a high smoke point, which enables you to sear the steak at a high temperature. If the oil starts smoking, it will make the steak taste burnt or bitter.
Refined avocado oil has a very high smoke point, but that’s not all that matters. There are other oils with slightly lower smoke points that also impart a mild flavor that avocado oil cannot.
1. Refined Avocado Oil
Many people consider refined avocado oil the gold standard when it comes to cooking steak. It is prized for its high smoke point of around 500°F (260°C) and neutral flavor.
For the hottest sear, you want the highest smoke point. In this sense, there is no substitute for refined avocado oil. This will allow you to cook rare steaks with that savory flavor created by the hot sear.
2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A Mediterranean staple all on its own, olive oil is prized for its culinary value throughout the world.
Extra virgin olive oil is widely available and is a great choice for cooking steak thanks to its high smoke point of 390°F (190°C). The caveat is that it carries a slightly herbal flavor that might not suit every palate.
Extra virgin olive oil is popular for its versatility and is a must-have item in any kitchen, but not everyone likes the olive flavor it leaves in steaks. If you are a steak purist, you’re better off trying a more natural-tasting oil.
3. Peanut Oil
With a smoking point of 450°F (232°C), peanut oil is another great choice for cooking steak. Despite its strong peanut aroma, its flavor is very mild and shouldn’t interfere with the savoriness of your cut. It’s also one of the healthiest oils out there.
The main disadvantage of peanut oil is that it isn’t as available or affordable as other types of oil. Still, if you can, it’s worth checking it out.
4. Grapeseed Oil
If you live in a part of the world that has proximity to vineyards, you are likely to find that grapeseed oil is readily available.
Grapeseed oil has a smoke point of 390°F (190°C) and has a reasonably natural flavor. You may notice a slight bitterness compared to other oils.
If you aren’t keen on the more pronounced taste of olive oil, grapeseed oil is a great alternative.
5. Vegetable Oil
Ideally, the oil you choose for your steak will have a neutral or mild flavor that will not interfere with the natural taste of the meat.
Vegetable oil has a high smoke point of 400°F (200°C), making it a good alternative where avocado oil is unavailable or undesirable.
Can You Cook Steak Without Oil?
There are so many variables with steak that one begins questioning whether the burning question of which oil to use even matters in the first place.
You can cook steak without oil. A marbled cut of steak will usually release enough of its own fats that oil becomes optional. You can also forego oil if you’re cooking your steak over a grill.
Can You Cook Steak With Butter Instead of Oil?
Butter is a wonderful thing. It can make even a plain piece of bread enjoyable and is an essential ingredient in many recipes. It’s also used for frying things, but what about steak?
You shouldn’t cook steak with butter instead of oil. Butter has a low smoke point and will burn before it reaches the temperature needed for searing the steak. However, butter can be used for basting once the temperature is reduced.
Some people add butter to everything, and for a good reason. It’s delicious! Just don’t try to fry your steak in it.
Which Cut of Steak Is the Best?
Steak comes in so many forms that it can be difficult to choose the right cut.
There is no single best cut of steak. They all have their merits. Fillet steak is often prized as the softest cut, but many steak eaters prefer rump or sirloin.
Don’t get too caught up in the technicalities. The best cut of steak is ultimately the one you enjoy the most. You can ruin the finest cut of meat with poor cooking technique and make a poor cut taste good by cooking it right.
How to Cook the Perfect Steak
Cooking is a science as much as it is an art. Even something as simple as cooking a single piece of meat comes with several considerations, from selecting the right combination of spices for the perfect flavor to knowing exactly the right moment to turn and plate it. Getting the pan hot enough to sear the meat without causing the oil to smoke requires finesse and a keen eye.
To cook the perfect steak, prepare it with salt, pepper, and some oil. Heat up the skillet. Once it’s hot enough, sear the steak, lower the heat to medium, and flip it. Cook for as long as you like, but plate it a bit before it reaches your preferred degree of doneness. Let it rest for 2 minutes.
The trouble of selecting the perfect oil will all be for naught if you make any mistakes while cooking. You can’t afford to have any distractions—a steak can be ruined in the seconds you spend going back into the pantry for the one thing you forgot.
1. Prepare the Steak
Getting the tastiest steak is all about preparing it right. There is no hard and fast rule on preparing your steak, but some guidelines might help if you are uncertain:
Take your steak out of the fridge a little before cooking time. Rub it generously with salt, black pepper, and some oil.
If you would like to add other spices or flavors to your steak, you have the option of rubbing them in here or adding them later during the cooking process. Oil is applied at this point to prevent excessive oil splashing back at you when you put it in the pan.
2. Heat the Skillet
You’ll want to ensure your skillet is thoroughly heated before starting to cook. If it’s not hot enough, it won’t seal the meat, and all the juices will cook out of your steak. This will ruin the finest cut—even if you use the perfect oil.
Heat a drop of oil in your pan and observe as it heats. When the drop begins to smoke gently, the pan is hot enough. Heat the pan incrementally and give it time to settle to avoid overheating the oil.
You have to act quickly here. Place the steak in the pan and let it sear, then flip it and turn the stove down to medium heat. The residual heat from the sear should seal the other side of your meat, and it will continue to cook as the pan cools.
3. Sear the Steak
The first moments your steak touches your skillet are the most critical. If it isn’t hot enough, you won’t get those delicious caramelized flavors. It will also cook too slowly, resulting in either an under or overcooked steak.
The steak will initially stick to the pan when you sear it, but don’t try to move or flip it at first. Give it time to sear thoroughly. You might worry you are burning it, but your sense of smell should tell you if this is the case.
After a few moments, peek at the underside of your steak to see if it has seared to your liking. You might want to give it a few more moments. You can start tapping off on the heat and flip it once you are ready.
4. Cook the Steak
It’s impossible to nail this down to a specific length of time to cook your steak—this is where the art comes in. There are many variables that are going to have an effect on how long your steak will take to cook.
Err on the side of caution when cooking steak. You can always throw it back in the pan for a few minutes if you want to cook it more. Keep in mind that steak keeps cooking for a while after you remove it from the heat.
Essentially, you will want to “undercook” your steak to a degree, giving it space to cook further while it is resting. Timing is everything with steak.
You will have to be the judge here. Cooking time will depend on the cut of your steak, how thick your steak is, and how hot your pan is, among other things. The type of oil you use has little bearing on the quality of your steak so long as it meets the high smoke point and neutral taste requirements.
Degrees of Doneness
Ask any steakhouse, and they will tell you how fussy people are about how well their steak is cooked. Some beefeaters think a steak is ruined if it spends more than a few seconds on the grill, while others want their meat cooked right through to the chagrin of others at the table.
The initial searing technique remains the same no matter how “done” you want your steak. What changes is how long you leave the steak in the pan after searing.
An important thing to note about steak is that it tends to continue cooking after you remove it from the heat. This probably explains why that steak looked perfect when you took it off the grill, only to find the soft pink center cooked away while it rested.
5. Rest Your Steak
You might want to get right down to business and dig into that juicy cut, but if you’re going to get the most out of it, give it a minute or 2 to rest after cooking before serving.
Resting your steak allows the hot juices trapped by the sear to permeate the meat. If you cut it too early, the juice will escape, and your steak will not be as enjoyable as it could have been.
Allowing your steak to rest will give the meat time to soften after cooking. Use this time to plate anything else you are serving with your meat and set the table—it will be worth the wait!
Helpful Cooking Oil Articles
There is no single best oil for cooking steak. Refined avocado oil has the highest smoke point of commonly available cooking oils, but there are other oils like grapeseed and olive that can add a subtle new flavor dimension to your steak.
In the end, it’s all about how you cook your steak. Don’t fret over the oil—just choose one with a high enough smoke point, and focus on your cooking technique.
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
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Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.