Black belt steak cooking secrets: The science behind cooking the perfect steak

‘I'm gonna want the milk steak, boiled over hard, and a side of your finest jellybeans, raw.’ 

When I saw the illiterate janitor from the TV show ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ state that ‘milk steak’ was his favorite food, I was in stitches. It was not long after that though, when laughter turned to silence, followed by morbid curiosity. Was there some hidden mystery behind the jest? I had to test it- for science’s sake.

I strongly suggest that you do steak cooking experiments like these in isolation. After my experiment of boiling steak in milk failed miserably, my friend who was present at the time, made sure that this disaster was documented better on social media than a damn royal wedding.  

Soon after, people stopped responding to my dinner invites, and the circle of ridicule grew exponentially. I realized I had to redeem myself and the only way I could do that was by studying the science of preparing and cooking steak so that I could stand out from my idiot friends and be taken seriously again. 

Here is what I learned…

‘Would you like it rare, or I don’t care?’

I want to start by asking you if you like your steak ‘well done’ ? Do you prefer it almost crispy on the outside and cooked well throughout? If the answer is yes, then please go back to your cave or sewer and think about where you went wrong in life.

To the rest that remained, thanks for staying tuned. It is an honor to be sharing information with the distinguished elite such as yourselves. Ah, the pleasure of sliding your Sikkina knife through that perfectly cooked medium-rare sirloin steak… but I digress. 

The first thing that you need to realize is that it is not as unsafe to eat rare steak as it would be to eat ground beef (hamburger) for instance. The reason for that is that pathogens such as E-coli are more present in surface meat where steak is internal meat, and the pathogens find it hard to get all the way down there. Unless the steak has been tenderized. These methods that puncture the steak to soften it, may allow little gateways for nasty little bugs to penetrate. In that case, they need plenty of heat to be sent back to hell.’

Ask your butcher to make sure that there was no tampering with the steak. The FDA demands that this information should be present on the labeling, but it won’t hurt to double-check. 


Ever stopped to wonder why meat changes color and tastes differently when you cook it? The reason why this happens is due to the proteins in meat that denature, and the different proteins that meat consists of, change at different temperatures. Myosin, which helps muscle contraction, denature around 120 to 130 F (49 to 55 C). Actin is also a protein that assists muscle contraction but also cell division and other functions, denatures around 150 F (66 C). Tests revealed that on average, people prefer the Myosin to be denatured while the Actin remained in its natural state.

Internally rare steak temperature optimally should be 130 F (54 C) medium-rare steak temperature is 135 F (57 C), medium steak temperature is 145 F (63 C), and lastly, medium-well steak temperature is about 160 F (71 C). For well-done steak, well we don’t know because we don’t care. 

Remember to take all kinds of steak off the grill 5 F (3 C) before you reach your intended target steak temperature. The surface will heat the interior slightly even after the meat is off the grill.

The Maillard reaction

This chemical reaction happens when sugars and amino acids in the meat react to form new compounds. You want the outside of the steak to undergo this reaction to ‘seal in’ the flavors. The best way to do this is to use your meat thermometer to see when the surface temperature gets to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) whether you are cooking on the stove, cooking in the oven, or cooking on the grill. 

Some people put salt on the outer surface when they prepare steak in order to draw moisture out from the top surface that supposedly would improve the Maillard reaction. According to scientific tests, this won't influence how the Maillard reaction occurs. To find that balance of high heat on the inside and low heat on the inside is a task that requires skill and experience. There are alternatives that you could try if you feel confident to take your steak game to the next level. 

Boiling steak (Cook Sous-vide) 

I used this point to prove to my friends that I wasn’t insane to attempt ‘milk steak’. The only difference is that you won’t actually be boiling the steak. Oh and no, there is no milk involved. 

The best recipe for steak and getting it close to perfection is called sous-vide and top-notch restaurants have been doing it for years. This entails vacuum sealing the steak in plastic, submerging it in perfectly controlled low-temperature water, and poaching it to perfection before throwing it out on a super-hot surface as specified before.

Cook frozen steaks

If you haven’t been paying attention while reading through the article above, let’s just do a quick recap. The most important thing regarding food science that you need to remember is that you need to get a Maillard reaction going. That means that you want the outer surface at a temperature of 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) while the inside remains at a much lower temperature- depending on how you want your steak done.

A simple way to achieve this is by freezing the steak before. It is recommended that the steaks are frozen uncovered (which also dries the surface) and then placed in plastic bags once frozen solid. When you want to grill them, simply throw the frozen steaks on the hot surface while they are still frozen.

The Maillard reaction would happen faster because the surface was dried out during the uncovered freezing process. The inside would also take longer to reach a high temperature, which is exactly what you want. 

At Sikkina, you won’t find the right tools to prepare milk steak. But for every other type of food, we have just the right accessories for you. We could help you glide effortlessly through any type of steak, even when they are frozen or heavens forbid….well done. 

Make sure to visit the Sikkina official website to find the latest tools for all your culinary needs or join the Sikkina Social Media community where like-minded food geniuses gather.