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Here’s How Often to Flip a Steak

A man flipping a steak on the grillsvetlana15 /123RF

Know when to flip! We explore the finer points of when to flip a steak—and when not to.

How often you turn a steak depends on where you cook it: is it on a gas grill, a charcoal grill, a pan in the oven, under the broiler?

These scenarios make a difference when it comes to the turning technique for preparing the perfect steak.

A steak cooks best when it comes into sudden contact with a hot surface and is left to brown without interruption. Since flipping a steak can cause the temperature of your skillet, oven, or grill to drop, try to do it only once.

Some people turn their steak over every 30 seconds or so, while others do so only once or twice during cooking. For best results, turn your steak as few times as possible, and never press down on it with your spatula or that pair of tongs as it cooks.

Opening the oven or grill too often—or constantly poking and pressing on the meat—will produce worse results, not better. As soon as the steak hits the grill surface and begins to sizzle, your best course of action is to back off and let it cook without interruption.

As long as the inside of the steak reaches 145°F, the minimum internal temperature prescribed by the USDA for safe consumption of beef, pork, and lamb, you know it’s more or less done.

(When cooking steak, it is therefore recommended to use a meat thermometer.)

The Old Saying Compared to Reality

We can take the old saying “leave it alone” and understand what the old school meant by keeping the cooking temperature and not disturbing the meat.

The old saying referred mainly to the fear of cutting the meat and letting all the juices run out, especially if a grilling fork is used for that purpose. It also referred to the fact that if you open the grill’s lid or the door of the oven, the temperature inside the unit will drop.

As any professional chef will gladly explain when asked, temperature fluctuations are the enemy of even cooking. The thicker the piece of meat, the lower and slower it cooks, and the fewer temperature fluctuations it should be subjected to.

The three most popular ways to cook a steak are medium-rare, medium, and well-done. How long it cooks depends only on the thickness of the steak and the heat of the cooking surface.

Since most steaks are about 1 inch thick, we will stick to that measurement in this article. For every half-inch, you should add a minute or two of time to your kitchen timer.

Cooking Steak on the Grill

When cooking steak on the grill, you have the option of gas or charcoal grills. Since gas grills gain heat faster and less work on the prep time, cooking time limits are different. It is easier to maintain the highest heat in a gas grill over charcoal, but it is done with experience on the vents and how well you know your grill. 

Cooking on the grill, whether gas or charcoal, does something no other form of cooking does. The grill grates make the steak look presentable with the grill marks. Grill marks form during the searing process and make grilling feel like an artwork when presenting the most beautiful steak served on a hot plate.  

Grilling Steak on a Gas Grill

Since the gas grill is easier to control the temperature, the cooking time limit will be lessened. Below are the steps to follow to perfection. 

Step 1: Prep the grill and the steak

Prepare the steak by drying off the meat and bringing it to room temperature. Turn on the grill to high heat while you are prepping the steak. Season the steak with your favorite seasoning. 

Step 2: Slap the steak on the grill

Once the temperature reaches its limit, turn the burners down between medium and high and put the steaks on the grill at an angle. There is a reason explained in the next step why you should put it at an angle. 

Step 3: Turn the steak a quarter-turn

Sear the steak for two minutes and then turn the steak a quarter-turn, making the grill marks. Sear for another two minutes. 

Step 4: Turn the steak over

Step three leaves a total on the first side for four minutes. Flip over the steak and place it at an angle. Do the same thing as step three and sear for two minutes, and then turn the steak a quarter turn. Sear for two minutes.

Step 5: “How would you like your steak cooked?”

This is where you will determine how well you want the steak cooked inside. Listed below is how you fix it to your liking on how well cooked: 

  • Medium Rare: Flip over the meat and cook it for one minute on each side; 
  • Medium Well: Flip over the meat and cook it for two minutes on each side;
  • Well Done: Flip over the meat and cook it for three minutes on each side. 

Note: When you flip the meat at an angle, place the meat on the grill to avoid messing up the previous grill marks.

Grilling Steak on a Charcoal Grill

The prep time for charcoal takes a while, but the results are worth it:

  • Light the charcoal in a chimney starter;
  • Wait for 20-30 minutes until the coals have started to turn white and ashy;
  • Throw the hot coals in the pit, rake them out evenly, and cook the steak to the desired level of doneness.

The most accurate indicator of doneness is the meat’s internal temperature as measured by a meat thermometer.

Roasting Steak in the Oven

To roast a steak in the oven, remove it from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature by resting it on the counter, on a sheet pan or a plate, for about 30 minutes.

This should give you enough time to preheat the oven to a temperature of 400-450°F (lower for thicker cuts of meat that need more time to cook through, and higher for thinner cuts of meat that cook through quickly).

When the oven is hot—and it’s time to get cooking—heat a cast iron skillet or steel pan on the stove on medium for 2-3 minutes and sear the steak on both sides for 20-30 seconds per side for a crispy and flavorful crust.

Keeping the steak on the skillet, grab the skillet with a kitchen towel (to protect your hands from burns), and put it in the oven. Finish cooking the steak in the oven for 7-8 minutes per side, turning it halfway through.

Let rest for 2-3 minutes before serving and cutting the steak. Otherwise, all the juices will run out of the meat.

Broiling Steak in the Oven

Your oven’s broiler gets heated to 500-550°F, a higher temperature than for roasting or baking. For this reason, broiling is suitable only for thin cuts of meat, such as steaks up to an inch thick, or for searing thicker cuts of meat before finishing them by another cooking method, like roasting.

The technique for broiling is similar to that for roasting: preheat your broiler for up to 30 minutes, then put the steak on a broiler pan with a wire rack and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, flipping it over once mid-cooking.

As with any cooking method, rest for 2-3 minutes before serving and cutting the steak.

Remember that thick cuts of meat can never be cooked all the way through only by broiling. By the time the meat reaches the minimum temperature on the inside, it will have charred and turned crusty on the outside.

Wishing The Best

Steak is one of the best entrées ever made and is a luxurious way of eating. We hope this advice helps you make the perfect steak with excellent grill marks.

Everything will be presentable and tasty if you have followed these steps. As you can see, you can turn the steak as many times as you like, but why work harder than you have to?

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