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by Jaclyn Jecha

Cooking at home, especially an expensive cut of meat, can be intimidating. However, with the right planning and technique, it can be a piece of cake. On the menu is filet mignon with a red wine pan sauce, mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. All three of the components take about 40 minutes of active cooking time and taste like they came from a restaurant – without the expensive price tag. Here are a few things to keep in mind when cooking a steak at home.

  • Cook high-quality meat. Valentine’s Day, or any special occasion for that matter, isn’t the time to use meat that you pull out of a pile in the back of a supermarket. Talk to the butcher. That’s what they’re there for – and they’re good at their jobs! The fastest way to ruin a good steak at home is not starting with the best ingredients you can find.

  • Let your steak come rest at room temperature before cooking. This might take up to an hour – depending on the cut. A room temperature steak allows the meat to cook evenly.

  • Dry the steak before seasoning and searing. Excess liquid is the enemy of a good sear. Pat it dry with a paper towel before seasoning.

  • Use salt and pepper. We’ve tried using dried herbs and spices with steaks, and they’ve been good. However, in our experience, nothing compares to good old kosher salt and freshly-cracked pepper. You’ll want to use more than you think.

  • Choose the right pan. Start with a good, solid pan that can easily go into the oven. We love our cast iron pan for searing. It’s heavy and distributes heat evenly.

  • Get your pan hot. Seriously. It needs to be hot.

  • Sear all sides of the meat. Commit to a few minutes on each side and don’t move it around.

  • Allow enough space between steaks. Don’t put the meat too close together. If the pan is too crowded, it could steam the meat. And, like we said above, excess liquid is the enemy of a good sear.

  • Use the oven – if necessary. Depending on the cut of meat and your desired doneness, after a good sear, it might be ready to eat. However, thicker cuts of meat (like the filet we enjoyed) require a little extra cooking time. When you achieved the desired sear, take the pan and put it right in the a preheated oven for a few minutes.

  • Let it rest! Do not cut into the meat for at least 10 minutes after it’s done cooking. Be patient! It’s worth it, we promise.

In the end, the meal was a success. It was the perfect meal for a perfect night. Together, it cost about half of what we would’ve spent in a restaurant. And, we didn’t have to deal with traffic or reservations!

Photo credit Dan Jecha