The Difference Between Broiling and Baking Steaks

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Broiling and baking are two of many possible ways to cook meat.
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You've just splurged on some juicy steaks fresh from the butcher, and you want to make sure they're cooked right. Broiling and baking are two of many possible ways to cook meat, and each has pluses and minuses. Some cuts work better than others for each cooking method.

Broiling vs. Baking

When it's raining or too cold outside to use the grill, your oven will do just fine. Broiling and baking are very similar to grilling in that they both use dry heat to cook meat.

Broiling is most like grilling because the heat element comes from one side — from the bottom in the case of a grill and from the top in the case of broiling. With baking, the heat comes from all around the steak. Therefore, a broiler cooks the top of the meat, while baking cooks evenly through to the center.

Broiling uses very high heat — 550 degrees F to sear the top of the steak. Baking uses lower heat — around 400 to 450 degrees F. Due to the high heat, broiling typically cooks steaks faster than baking. However, with baking you can "set it and forget it," while broiling requires vigilance to prevent the meat from burning or even catching fire.

Read more: 10 Steak Recipes That Any Carnivore Will Love

How to Broil Steak

Certain cuts of steak are better than others for broiling. Because the heat doesn't penetrate on all sides, thinner cuts work better for broiling. With thicker cuts, the top of the steak may begin to burn before the bottom has reached the proper temperature. According to MasterClass, the best cuts for broiling are no more than 1 1/2 inches thick. Examples include boneless tri-tip, skirt steak, ribeye and sirloin steaks.

The Cattlemen's Beef Board and National Cattlemen's Beef Association suggests different cooking times and distances from the heat source, depending on the type of steak and the thickness. For example, for a 1-inch ribeye, the steak should be 3 to 4 inches from the broiler and cooked for 14 to 18 minutes, depending on whether you like your steak medium rare or medium.

Start by pulling your steak out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before you're ready to cook it. According to Southern Living, putting a steak under the broiler while it's still cold can make it seize up, which can affect the tenderness of the finished product. Just don't allow raw meat to go unrefrigerated for more than two hours or you risk potentially dangerous bacterial growth, warns the USDA.

While your steak is coming to room temperature, set up your broiler by adjusting the oven rack to the appropriate distance from the heating element. Then, turn on the broiler to the highest setting and get your broiler pan ready. A broiler pan has a top tray with holes in it and a bottom pan to catch fat drippings. This is also a healthier way to cook steak as it can reduce the fat content.

If you don't have a broiler pan, you can use a grill pan, cast-iron skillet or regular pan. Spray the pan with a thin coating of non-stick cooking spray. You don't need a lot of fat or oil to broil steaks.

Next, season your steak. You can simply sprinkle both sides with a little salt, or add other herbs and spices of your choice. You can marinate steaks before broiling, but MasterClass advises that using heavy, oil-based marinades can result in a lot of drippings that can increase the risk of fire.

Place your steak on the broiler pan and pop it into the oven. Set a timer for a couple minutes before the recommended cooking time, and get your meat thermometer ready.

When the timer goes off, open the oven and insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the steak. Meat has reached a safe temperature when the thermometer reads 145 degrees F, according to the USDA. This is the correct temperature for a medium-rare steak; for medium, wait until the thermometer reads 160 degrees F. If your steak is not done, continue to cook, rechecking the temperature every couple minutes.

Remove your steak, cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil and allow it to rest for five minutes on the countertop. This allows the juices to absorb so they don't all leak out onto your plate when you cut into it.

Tip

Stay close by the oven while you broil steak. Turn on the oven light and peek in every so often to watch for fire. Some smoke is normal, but if you start to see or smell a lot of smoke or flames, immediately remove the steak.

How to Bake Steak

The process for baking steak isn't too different from broiling steak. Remove the meat from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking, and preheat the oven to 400 to 450 degrees F. Season your steaks with salt or any type of marinade, herbs or spices you desire.

The best way to bake steak requires one extra step than broiling. Searing the steaks over high heat in a pan on the stove top before putting them in the oven will help develop a nice crust similar to broiling.

If you have a cast-iron skillet, place it in the oven while it preheats, then remove it when hot and transfer it to the stove over medium-high heat. Using tongs, place your steaks in the hot pan and allow them to sear for 1 minute. Flip the steaks, and sear for another minute.

Next, transfer the skillet to the oven. If you don't have a cast-iron skillet, you can warm a pan in the oven while you sear the steaks in a pan on top of the stove. Then, transfer the steaks to the baking pan in the oven. Be sure to spray the pan with a little oil; a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet shouldn't need any oil, according to Kitchn.

Set your timer for halfway through the total recommended cooking time, then flip the steaks. Then, set the timer for a couple minutes before the end of the cooking time. Check the temperature of the steaks and either continue to cook for a couple minutes at a time, or remove them from the oven. Cover the steaks and let them rest on the countertop for five minutes before serving.

Read more: Healthy Baking Tips For More Flavorful Food

Tips for Healthy Cooking

Steaks are a bit of an indulgence. Research has shown that eating more than 18 ounces of red meat each week can raise the risk of colorectal cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. High intakes of red meat are also associated with heart disease, diabetes and other types of cancer.

That doesn't mean you can't have a steak every now and then, but you should try to use the healthiest types of meat and cooking methods. To keep your steak as healthy as possible:

  • Choose lean cuts like eye of round, sirloin tip, top round, bottom round and top sirloin.
  • Opt for hormone-free grass-fed meats.
  • Use cooking methods that don't require a lot of extra fat, such as broiling and baking.
  • Don't use heavy, fatty sauces.
  • Control added sodium.

Some research shows that cooking meat with high heat increases the creation of carcinogenic substances called heterocyclic aromatic amines, or HAAs. According to a research review published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety in January 2016, HAA concentrations rise at cooking temperatures over 350 degrees F. The higher the temperature and the longer the cooking time, the greater the amount of HAAs created.

Frying and grilling produce the highest amounts of HAAs, but, because of the high temperature required for broiling, it may also not be the healthiest preparation method, either. Therefore, baking at the lowest possible temperature may be a better option to reduce the risk of excess HAAs — although it may not produce the most flavorful results.

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