There’s a lot of information out there about cooking steak, from the simple New York strip to the more challenging filet mignon. Most cooking instructions sound similar, even for different cuts: Let one side sear, carefully flip the steak, and continue cooking until the other side sears, and the steak cooks through.
But what happens if the second side is getting a little too crisp? Should you flip a steak more than once to get a more even cook, or should you stick to the traditional one-flip-only rule?
Depending on who you ask, the answer will vary. But we’re going to break it down for you here to help you get the perfect steak cook every time.
The Art of Cooking Steak
Look at almost any steak recipe instructions, and you’ll notice one thing most of them have in common: The recipe creator calls for only flipping your steak over one time. This has been the traditional method of cooking steak for a long time, and even TV chefs often tout it as the right method.
Usually, you’re told to let a steak sear on one side, giving it enough time for the meat also to cook through inside. Then, flip the steak over to the other side and do the same.
Why? Some experts believe that flipping a steak multiple times does not allow the internal meat to cook thoroughly, leaving it at an uneven temperature and cook. When you allow the steak to cook for a few minutes on one side before flipping it, the half that’s closer to the pan gets time to cook, too. After the flip, the other side will get to do the same.
Others also point out that flipping too often could prevent the outside from getting a proper sear and could even cause steaks to start sticking, especially on the grill. It makes sense, then, why flipping multiple times is viewed as a not-so-great tactic for steaks.
Is Flipping Steak More Than Once Bad?
While some experts stick with the one-flip method, steak lovers continue to question, “Should you only flip a steak once or should you flip a steak more than once?” And some experts believe that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing more than one flip. So, let’s dig into this debate.
We’ve covered why it makes sense only to flip a steak once. But, regardless of age-old steak tradition, some experts have more recently called out the fallacy of that argument.
Apparently, flipping your steak more than once may not be as bad as we once thought. In fact, the Serious Eats Food Lab did a full test of once-flipped steak compared to steaks with multiple flips, just to see if there were any significant differences in the cooks. It turns out that when using other proper steak-cooking methods, like cooking over high heat and ensuring that steaks are dry before searing, multiple flips did not ruin steak sears or cooks.
The tester also suggests letting steaks come up to temperature slowly before searing them, allowing them to get a thorough cook regardless of how many times you flip them.
And, there may even be additional benefits to flipping a steak more than once. Flipping multiple times could sear the meat better, lending well to its overall texture. Plus, the steak could absorb more of the natural pan juices that seep out, allowing it to remain juicier and more tender. And — drumroll, please — your steak could cook more evenly when each side is given a little time away from the heat after being flipped. The heat continues to make its way through the meat rather than scorching each side.
How to Flip a Steak Properly
Whether you want to use the classic one-flip method or the new-age multiple-flip method to cook your steak, you should still know how to do it properly. And the right way is with a pair of tongs. Avoid grabbing a fork to do the job, as it pokes into the meat and allows juices to escape. Flipping with tongs keeps all liquids intact.
If you must know how to flip a steak without tongs in a pinch, reach for a metal spatula that’s strong enough to maneuver a large steak. If needed, you can use a finger or two on the top of the steak to balance it as you flip.
Do I Need to Flip Steak on the Grill?
You might wonder if cooking steaks using different methods than pan-frying, like on the grill or in the oven, makes a difference when it comes to flipping, so we’re going to touch on that too.
If you’re cooking steak on the grill, you most definitely should flip it about halfway through the cooking process. We typically recommend flipping your steak just once on the grill because it’s not getting direct heat on one side like it would on a pan. Instead, the steak is up a few inches from the flame, allowing the heat to circulate a bit more. However, you’ll still want one flip to ensure that both sides get a sear from the flame.
Should I Flip Steak in the Oven?
Oven-cooked steak also gets a more even cook through the meat than steak cooked in a pan, so flipping it just once should suffice. This is true if you’re using the regular oven’s heat or the broiler. Flipping the steak once lets you get each side browned up and allows the heat to work its magic equally on both sides of the steak.
Should I Flip an Air-Fryer Steak?
Again, the air fryer is a one-flip-only cooking method. The majority of the heat and air from an air fryer hit the top of the basket, so you’ll see your steak getting browned up on top first. Flip the steak once when the timer runs down halfway to get a sear on the bottom and a more even cook.
Flipping Steak for the Best Cook
Despite popular belief, when you’re pan-searing a steak, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to flip it more than once. The main thing to remember is to let one side get a good sear before flipping it. Then, let that side sear, too. After that, if you’d like to flip your steak a few more times, go for it — but keep it moist by spooning some of the pan juices on top after flipping.
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