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Why Your Steak Came Out Flavorless

Keep finding yourself in a, “Hon, why is the steak so tasteless situation?” Here’s how to cook steak that’ll make your taste buds jump for joy!

Let’s talk about something we’ve all experienced at one time or another: tasteless steak.

You know what I’m talking about. The steak that, despite your best efforts, just doesn’t pack that flavorful punch you were hoping for. That leaves you wanting more—and in all the wrong ways.

Fear not, fellow carnivores. Because we’re here to help you figure out why your steak was tasteless, and how to fix it the next time you fire up the stove or light the grill. So let’s not waste any more time and get started!

What Makes Steak Flavorful

So, what’s the deal?

Why do steaks sometimes come out bland and, let’s not try to sugarcoat things, underwhelming?

The answer, my friends, is a little more complicated than you may think. And, to get to the answer, we need to invert the question and ask ourselves: What is it that makes a steak flavorful?

The Cut

It starts with your trip to the grocery store. If you’re anything like me, you love a good cut of meat. And nothing tastes quite like a juicy, thick-cut, succulent steak. But if you choose the wrong meat, it’s going to taste blah, no matter how well you prepare it.

A great steak is made from a cut with a lot of marbling. The more, the better. By “marbling,” I mean the pearly streaks of intramuscular fat that run between the muscles, just like the streaks on a marble countertop. When you cook a well-marbled steak, the marbling melts, adding tenderness and flavor.

So, what can you do to select the right cut of meat? Select thick cuts with plenty of marbling. If you live in the U.S., this means going for USDA Prime or Choice beef, and avoiding Select beef. Yes, it also means paying up. But trust me, you can literally taste the difference.

The Seasoning

The general rule is that your steak will come out tasting bland if you don’t season it. Even if you bring your best grilling or stovetop searing technique, it won’t make a difference. To make the steak taste good, you have to season it before cooking.

Most people salt the steak generously on both sides immediately before putting it on the grill or laying it in the hot pan. But you and I both know you’re not like most people. Nope. You’re somebody who’s read this article—so you know better.

If you want the best steak you could possibly have, and you do, dry-brine the steak before cooking.

How does dry-brining work? It’s simple, really. Season the steak liberally with kosher salt on both sides, then allow it to sit in the fridge for 1 hour before cooking. You can do this in the package it came in, or in a shallow bowl or rimmed baking sheet. Either way’s good.

During that time, the salt will draw the juices out of the meat, dissolve in them, and be reabsorbed by it once again. The result? Juicy, tender, delicious steak that’s so well seasoned on the inside, you can’t get enough of it.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Psst! I talk about this technique, and many more, in my latest book, Cooking Methods & Techniques: A Crash Course on How to Cook Delicious Food at Home for Beginners. Check it out only on Amazon, paperback or Kindle.

The Sear

Here’s something a lot of us home cooks get wrong about cooking steak. See, people think searing a steak locks the juices in the meat. It doesn’t. What it really does is impart the meat with hundreds of new aromas and flavors.

When you sear a steak and you do it the right way (briefly, over high heat, until a dark brown crust forms on both sides), you trigger something called the Maillard reaction. This is when the proteins in the meat get charged up with so much energy from the heat, they start to move around. Their movement becomes so crazy that they eventually bump into one another with too much force, and explode.

Tens, and sometimes hundreds, of aromatic and flavorful compounds form as a byproduct of that explosion, giving the meat that rich smell and super-savory taste we all crave in a steak.

How to Never Make Bland Steak Again

If you read this far, you know that a flavorful steak comes from a cut with good marbling, is generously seasoned before cooking—or, better yet, is dry-brined for an hour or so before cooking—and is seared until a rich, dark brown, and deeply flavorsome crust forms on the surface.

So here’s a recap of everything you need to do to never make flavorless steak again:

  1. Select a cut with good marbling, graded USDA Prime or Choice;
  2. Dry-brine the steak by salting and refrigerating it 1 hour before cooking;
  3. Give the steak a good sear so a crispy and delicious crust forms on the surface.

With these tips in mind, you should be well on your way to cooking up a delicious, flavorful steak that’ll have your taste buds bored no more.

Keep reading: How to Fix a Bland Steak

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.