Generally, the best thickness for a steak is between 1 and 2 inches, with 1.5 to 2 inches considered the ideal thickness. However, it’s important to note that these values only apply to specific cuts of steak. This is because there are cuts, such as a skirt or flank steak, that are naturally thinner due to their genetics.
Why Is the Thickness of a Steak Important?
The thickness of a steak is crucial to achieving the perfect balance between its exterior and interior. Put simply, a thin steak may cook through on the inside without achieving the desired crispy crust on the outside. On the other hand, if a steak is too thick, it may develop a heavy crust while remaining undercooked and cold inside.
That’s why standard ribeye or New York strip steaks should ideally be at least 1.5 inches thick, with 1.75 to 2 inches being the ideal thickness. At this thickness, you have the best control over the cooking process.
With a 1.5- to 2-inch thick steak, achieving the desired level of doneness is relatively easy. This thickness is also ideal if you prefer a crispy exterior with a perfectly tender and moist interior. Due to the thickness of the steak, it takes longer for the heat to reach the center of the meat. As a result, the different layers of the steak are cooked at different temperatures, resulting in a dish with complex flavor and texture profiles.
Keep in Mind That Not All Steaks Can Be Thick
I want to remind you that many cuts of beef are naturally thin due to genetics. While you may have a choice in the thickness of your ribeye or strip steak, cuts such as flat iron steak, flank steak, or skirt steak are naturally thin. Please note that the guidelines outlined in this article only apply to thick cuts like ribeye, strip, or filet mignon.
Thick vs. Thin Type of Steak
For most home chefs, thicker cuts of steak tend to be easier to cook because they are more forgiving. For example, if you leave a thin steak in the pan for a minute too long, the steak can become dry and tough. However, a thicker cut can handle a few extra minutes on the pan without losing tenderness.
Some other key differences between thick and thin steaks include:
- Cooking methods: Thick steaks are ideal for combining different cooking methods, such as quickly searing them over high heat and then finishing them slowly at a low temperature. In contrast, thin steaks are best cooked quickly over high heat to achieve a crispy crust without overcooking the interior.
- Evenness of cooking: With a thick steak, it is possible to achieve a consistent level of doneness throughout the meat, from wall to wall, especially when using cooking methods like sous vide or reverse searing. However, this is not possible with thin cuts of beef.
- Tenderness & Juiciness: Thick steaks tend to be more tender and juicy, especially if they are heavily marbled. This marbling gives them a melt-in-your-mouth texture. It can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve such results with most thin cuts.
- Marinade absorption: Thin cuts of steak absorb marinades much faster and more efficiently, making them ideal for marinating. The marinade not only helps to tenderize the meat but also gives it a unique flavor, which is why cuts such as flank or skirt steak are often marinated before cooking.
Steak Thickness FAQs
Can a steak be too thick?
A steak may be considered too thick if it is difficult to cook evenly or if it does not provide the desired culinary experience. Most steaks are between 1 and 2 inches thick, with 1.5 to 2 inches being the most commonly recommended thickness to achieve the ideal balance between the interior and exterior of the steak during cooking.
Is there an ideal thickness for every steak?
There is no ideal thickness for every steak because the thickness of a steak depends on the individual cut of beef. For instance, standard ribeye or strip steaks can be cut at various thicknesses, while flank or skirt steaks are naturally thin cuts due to their genetics.
What is the best way to cook a thick steak?
The reverse searing method is one of the best ways to cook a thick steak. This technique combines several cooking methods, such as sous-vide cooking with a cast iron skillet or an oven with a cast iron skillet, or even using a grill with both direct and indirect heat.
The concept is simple. For example, in the case of the grill, you can first sear the steak at a high temperature giving it a nice crust. Then, finish cooking it with indirect heat until the steak reaches the desired internal temperature. This technique ensures the steak is perfectly cooked, with a crispy crust and a tender and juicy interior.
What is the best way to cook a thin steak?
One of the best ways to cook a thin steak is by quickly searing it at high heat. The challenge with thin steaks is that they can easily become dry and chewy if overcooked. As a result, it’s typically best to sear them at a very high temperature to create a nice crust on the outside while retaining the desired level of doneness on the inside (such as medium or even rare).