Perfect Steak & Baked Potatoes

My birthday dinner!

Cooking is one of my all-time hobbies because it gives me the opportunity to be creative while doing something necessary. I learned how to cook the perfect steak by reading cookbooks & blogs and watching famous chefs on TV and YouTube. Masterchef Australia is one of my favorite cooking shows because I love to learn about different cultures and their culinary methods.

I used this same process to perfect my Maple Pomegranate Salmon and Garlic Parsley Lamb Loin Chops, and it’s a pretty simple two-step process.

Perfect Steak: Sirloin or Filet Mignon

(Pictures coming soon) I love a tasty sirloin or filet mignon, and this method of cooking is perfectly suited for one of these cuts. Let steaks come to room temperature on a paper towel before cooking. This helps with getting the perfect sear. Season the steak with salt, pepper, and any other *dry seasonings of your choice. I have a favorite coffee rub recipe from Simply Sated. It has the perfect balance of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, coffee, and sugar to hit all the happy buttons in your mouth. For those who are skittish about a coffee rub, it adds a deep, beefy undertone rather than a coffee flavor.

*NOTE: wet rubs or any added seasonings with moisture will in effect “boil” the steak and potentially overcook it instead of giving it a nice crust.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. On the stove top, heat some olive oil in either a stainless steel pan or cast iron skillet. Be sure the pan can take heat up to 450 degrees. Use a pan that leaves enough space – about an inch or more – around each steak. When the pan is hot, sear the steak for 2 minutes and then turn, searing another two minutes. If your favorite rub has sugar in it, watch it carefully when searing it as the sugar may burn. I often only use sugar-based rubs on one side and sear that one last. Turn off the oven, and place a pat of real butter (maybe a tablespoon) in the pan and swirl. At this point, I love to add fresh parsley, capers, and sliced garlic that I’ve prepared ahead of time so the pan doesn’t cool down.

Place pan in the oven for about 4 minutes for a beautiful medium to mid-rare (pink inside), depending upon the thickness of the steak and how you like it cooked. Your oven and the pan you choose will affect your results, so once you get the knack for your particular space, it’s easy to get this right each time after. I’ve found when I use a cast iron skillet, the meat cooks faster and can be overdone if not watched carefully.

Once I pull the steak out of the oven, I finish with a squirt of lemon. Since I grow Meyer lemon trees in my home, I often have fresh Meyer lemons on hand. This lemon is a milder lemon with full flavor – my favorite – and the peel is great for grating. I’ve purchased 4 trees from Lemon Citrus Tree (two Meyer lemons, one Pink Eureka, and one Finger Lime) and have been happy with the quality, health, and shape of these trees.

Perfect Baked Potatoes

Crusty skin with salt and a fluffy interior. That is how you cook a baked potato. My dad has purchased those cellophane-wrapped baked potatoes from Piggly Wiggly, and the first thing I do is cut off the plastic. He would put his in the microwave (don’t even think about the microwave – yuck!) while I would put mine in the oven at some random temperature for some unknown time – until I thought it was done. Of course, he’d have to wait until mine was done before dinner.

But alas, I came across the way to cook the PERFECT BAKED POTATO. Splendid Table shared the results from America’s Test Kitchen, and full credit must be given to America’s Test Kitchen for discovering perfection by trying nine ways to cook baked potatoes. When I tried it, I had to agree, and I’ve been making these exactly this way since. I’m including it here because it’s the perfect pairing for the steak above.

It’s simple. Heat your oven to 450 degrees.

Dissolve 2 Tablespoons of salt into a half cup of water. I often use my Keurig to dispense 4 ounces of hot water since it will give it to me almost immediately. Wash your potato and then twirl it in the salt water bath. This seems like a really silly step, but trust me, this is one of the essential steps. You just twirl it to wet it.

Place the wet potato on a pan with a rack so that heat can get to all sides. You could put it directly on the rack in the oven, but you’ll find salty steam will drip beneath the potato while cooking.

Cook for 45 to 60 minutes for a 7-ounce to 9-ounce potato. “Senior-sized” smaller potatoes would be done in about 35 to 40 minutes. Take out of the oven and brush each potato on all sides with olive oil. Bake for an additional 10 minutes. If you’re cooking the steak above, you can pop in the steak about 5 minutes after you’ve put the potatoes back in the oven.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, cut open, and garnish with butter, cheese, or whatever you love. These make a hearty “boat” for white chicken chili, regular chili, or other gravy-based entrees.

Fluffy interior and crispy, salty skin… oh my yuummm!