You see it mentioned in every steak recipe: Use seasoning on your steak before you cook it. Usually, that seasoning is kosher salt and black pepper, but some recipes call for a steak rub, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, thyme, and other herbs and spices.
But does a delicious steak require a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and salt to turn out amazing? We say “Yes!” and we think you’ll agree if you experiment with a seasoned steak versus a non-seasoned steak. Here’s everything you need to know about steak seasoning and how to season steak properly.
What’s the Benefit of Steak Seasoning?
Steak seasoning refers to any herbs, spices, or spice blend mixtures you use on your steak to boost its flavor profile. Although many people season their steaks before cooking them, they may not know the benefits behind steak seasoning.
One of the obvious benefits is that steak seasoning gives steak a flavor boost that enhances its natural flavors. Sure, you love the flavor of steak on its own. But when you add some sea salt and ground black pepper to your steak before cooking it, you bring out even more of that savory flavor you love.
Seasoning a steak has another not-so-obvious benefit: it can tenderize the meat. Any good steak recipe will call for salt, and that’s because salt draws out moisture in the steak. This process, known as dry brining, creates a brine that, when the steak cooks, gets reabsorbed back into the meat to tenderize it. There’s a lot of science that goes on behind the scenes to make your filet mignon or sirloin steak delicious!
How to Make Steak Seasoning
If you run out of your favorite spice blend or Montreal steak seasoning, you can create your own spice blend for steaks at home with a stocked spice rack. Here’s a quick and simple recipe to make your own yummy mixture to season steak with:
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons minced onion
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon tarragon
- 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
Combine all ingredients well. Brush olive oil all over the steak, then sprinkle the blend on both sides to season steak.
An even easier way to make steak seasoning is…to not make it at all! Instead, grab some Chicago Steak Seasoning the next time you’re placing your online order from Chicago Steak Company. It includes salt, garlic, paprika, and a blend of other spices to make a perfectly seasoned steak, every single time.
Can I Use Just Salt and Pepper to Season Steak?
Absolutely! In fact, this is what many people — even top chefs — sometimes choose to do with steak. A steak seasoning isn’t always necessary, but it’s one way to switch up the flavor of steak a bit.
The most important tip to keep in mind is to use salt. Even if you don’t want to add anything else to your steak, still use salt. It’ll help break down the meat fibers to make a more tender steak while giving the beef extra flavor.
How to Season Steak the Right Way
Ready to make the perfect steak with just the right amount of steak seasoning? Here are some tips to help you:
- Avoid using table salt to season. Instead, choose a Kosher salt with thick granules, which will help you really get the salt flavor in every bite.
- To help your seasonings adhere to the steak’s surface, you can brush all sides with a small amount of olive oil first.
- Season steak generously, especially with thicker steaks. You’ll want to have the flavor in every bite, and since only the outside gets seasoned, it needs to be enough to achieve that flavor.
- Season your steak just before cooking or about 30-40 minutes before cooking — not in between — to assist the science that happens when you cook a steak with salt (more on that in a moment).
When to Season Steak Heavily and When to Cut It Back
You might notice that most steak recipes have one thing in common: they tell you to season steak generously. But you might wonder just how generous you need to be to avoid overseasoning your steak. It’s a common conundrum, but we’re here to help.
Generally, the amount of steak seasoning you need depends on how thick your steak is. The seasoning sits only on the outer side of the steak, so the middle of the steak doesn’t get seasoned. Therefore, thicker steaks require more seasoning to ensure that you get a flavorful bite, whereas thinner steaks don’t need as much because you won’t be eating as large of an unseasoned portion in each bite.
So, strip steak, filet mignon, ribeye, and other thick steaks typically call for a generous amount of seasoning. But flank steak and flat iron — popular thinner steaks — may not need as much to achieve the same taste result.
Adding Salt Right Before Grilling Steak vs Seasoning Several Minutes Prior to Grilling
When you’re making grilled steak, should you salt and season the steak right before placing it on the grill or allow the seasoning to sit on the steak for 15 to 30 minutes? We get this question a lot and it’s a highly debated one in the steak world.
First, a little background on the science of salting a steak:
- You salt the steak.
- The salt begins to draw moisture out of the steak.
- The mixture of salt and moisture creates a brine.
- After a while, the meat reabsorbs that brine, pulling the moisture back into the steak.
The whole process from salting to reabsorption takes around 40-45 minutes. And you want the steak to pull that moisture back in before cooking so it’s not dried out. Therefore, the optimal amount of time to give your steak after seasoning and before cooking it on the grill is 40-45 minutes. Many recipes do call for about 15-30 minutes to help you save some time. And you still can get a juicy steak by doing this. But if you want the best results, wait the full time.
Alternatively, if you’re pressed on time, you can season immediately before grilling steak. The salt won’t have time to pull out steak juices, so all the natural juices will stay inside while you grill. Just be sure to get a sear quickly to help hold them in.
Ever wonder how the best way to season those succulent USDA Prime Steaks you just bought? Chef Bind shows us how to season the Perfect Steak:
Video Transcript: How to Perfectly Season Your Steak
So here we are, learn how to make the perfect steak. We are now going to season our steak properly, and the crucial point of that is to season your steak at the proper time right before you are going to put them on the grill. So we want to make sure that you are seasoning steaks correctly, sprinkling on both sides evenly as to make sure to coat your steak perfectly. The reasoning of putting your seasoning right before you put on the grill is to make sure the salt does not melt and draw blood out of your steak, making it a little bit drier, and you have just purchased a beautiful steak from Chicago Steak Company, so you deserve the best. Enjoy your meal by adding some our seasoning for steaks to your masterpiece.
Seasoning Steak FAQs
There are many spices available for seasoning a steak, with salt and pepper topping the list. However, other spices, like thyme, rosemary, garlic powder, and minced onion, are also good options to enhance your steak’s flavor. Or, use a one-and-done approach with Chicago Steak Seasoning. When considering what to season a steak with, use the less-is-more approach. Adding too much seasoning can overpower the steak’s natural flavors.
The best way to season steak is to add a generous amount of salt to both sides about 45 minutes before cooking. Then, just before cooking, add your other spices, like black pepper and garlic powder, ensuring that you cover both sides of the steak.
The first step in learning how to season a steak is preparing it with a brine. To do this, salt the steak 45 minutes before cooking. Then, leave the steak at room temperature, allowing the salt to bring juices to the surface to help it crisp while searing. The salt also eventually draws itself and those juices back into the steak for added flavor and moisture. After brining and just before cooking, you can add additional spices to the meat.
Evenly sprinkle salt on both sides of the meat, allowing the meat to rest at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before cooking. Then, just before cooking, add other seasonings to each side, like black pepper and minced onion.