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What Is The Perfect Steak Thickness?

If your method of picking out steaks at your local grocery store is simply finding the thickest steaks, you could be doing it wrong. After all, there are plenty of different types of steak, so the best thickness of steak is different based on the steak itself. Then there are …

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By Jeremy Pike


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What is the Perfect Steak Thickness
One Thick Cowboy Steak

If your method of picking out steaks at your local grocery store is simply finding the thickest steaks, you could be doing it wrong. After all, there are plenty of different types of steak, so the best thickness of steak is different based on the steak itself. Then there are your personal preferences on top of that!

So what is the best thickness of steak? When it comes to choosing between a thicker and a thinner version of the same cut of steak, you generally want to go with a thicker steak. If you’re looking for a steak to grill or sear (like a ribeye or New York strip,) you will want to target between an inch and 1.5 inches. The thinner a steak, the quicker the middle cooks. If you prefer medium-rare, a steak under an inch might cook too quickly in the middle by the time you’ve developed a beautiful crust on the outside.

Now there are exceptions to that guideline. If you’re a big eater, I’d say you want a cowboy steak (a thick-cut bone-in ribeye) that’s between two and three inches in thickness.

However, if you’re looking for steak for tacos, you don’t want a cowboy steak. Instead, you want a thin flank steak that can be sliced and enjoyed with your favorite taco toppings. 

So let’s take a deeper look at the best thickness of steak, some outliers, and the best ways to cook thicker and thinner cuts of steak.

Why 1-1.5 Inches Is The Best Thickness Of Steak

As a general rule, if you’re looking for a good steak to grill or sear, one to 1.5 inches is ideal because it won’t overcook the middle but you also won’t have a raw steak (unless you want that, of course.) You can ramp up the heat to sear the exterior of the steak without worries that you’ll end up serving a steak that’s well done. 

You also don’t have to worry about burning the exterior of the steak to ensure you reach that ideal internal temperature. Always remember, you want to use an instant-read thermometer like the FireBoard Spark to track your internal temperatures to ensure you haven’t undercooked or overcooked your steak. 

So whether you’re looking at ribeyes, New York strips, or even a T-Bone, one to 1.5 inches is the way to go. It’ll be the easiest way for you to get both the interior and exterior of your steak done to your liking.

However, there may be times when you want to wow yourself or others by serving a monster thick-cut steak. How do you cook it properly so you can still serve a medium-rare steak that’s been seared nicely?

How To Cook A Thick-Cut Steak

If you’ve got a steak that’s around two or more inches in thickness, you’ll want to reverse-sear it. This allows you to bring the internal temperature up slowly before finishing it over high heat. It means you can have the right doneness and great sear that you wouldn’t be able to do in a more traditional pan-sear or by grilling over high heat.

My favorite way to do this is by using a pellet grill or smoker for the first part of the cooking process before finishing the steaks on a preheated grill or griddle. You could do this in an oven and get the right results, but by using a smoker, you’re adding some wood flavor to your steaks.

Start by preheating your grill or smoker to 250°F. I would recommend oak because it pairs nicely with cuts of beef. Once your smoker is ready, add your steaks and smoke them until they are within five to 10 degrees of your preferred internal temperature. Remove them from the smoker and let them rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your grill or griddle for searing. After the steaks have rested for 10 minutes, place them on your preheated cooking surface and sear all sides (don’t forget the edges!) Remove and serve!

Now what about thinner cuts of steak like a flank steak?

Thick Filet and Ribeye
Nick Thick Filet and Well Marbled Ribeye

How To Cook Thin Steaks

Now, there are different types of thin steaks. You might find thin-cut ribeyes or New York Strip steaks. You will also find steaks that are simply naturally thin like flank steaks. You won’t cook them all the same. 

If you’ve got a regular steak that has been cut to a thickness of less than an inch, you’ll still want to pan-sear or grill it, you simply need to watch your internal temperatures much more closely. These thin-cut versions will cook a lot faster so it can be tougher to hit your proper internal temperatures than their thicker cousins.

As for the flank steak, it requires a little more effort and care. Due to its tough nature, we recommend that you marinate flank steak before cooking. As for the cooking process itself, you will want to grill or sear it until done, between 130°-135°F. Let it rest for up to 10 minutes before slicing thinly against the grain. 


Question: Do Thicker Steaks Taste Better?

Answer: If cooked properly, yes. A thicker ribeye has more fat to start to render which gives you more flavor. It’s also easier to reverse-sear thicker steaks than thinner, so you can even add more flavor through wood smoke. It’s also just harder to overcook thicker steaks which can ruin the flavor.

Question: Can A Steak Be Too Thick?

Answer: The thicker the steak, the harder it can be to cook it properly. It takes time to cook the interior properly and a thick steak can be prone to uneven cooking. It’s entirely possible to have a thick steak that’s been seared properly while still being raw in the middle. It’s also possible to burn your steak trying to get the internal temperature up. If you can get the reverse-searing process down right, it’s a fantastic experience. Just expect to have leftovers.

Question: How Thick Is A Tomahawk Steak?

Answer: While we touched on cowboy steaks earlier, tomahawk steaks are the star of plenty of social media videos. Typically, these massive steaks with an equally as massive bone handle are around two inches thick.

Wrapping It Up

We think that the best thickness of steaks that you would grill or sear at home for dinner is between one and 1.5 inches. However, there will be variances for specific types of steak. If you’re looking for a fancy steak dinner, you’ll want a filet mignon that’s between 1.5 and 2 inches thick. As noted above, flank steaks are naturally on the thin side, so don’t bother agonizing as you pore through the meat cooler looking for a thicker cut.

We know that there are plenty of steaks out there and choosing the right one can be hard. If you’re looking for tender and flavorful steaks, check out our list of the fattiest cuts of steak. All that marbling can render down, leaving you with tasty, juicy, tender meat. For added flavor and spice, chimichurri sauce is always a great condiment for your steak.

What do you think is the best thickness for steak? Are you more of a cowboy steak fan, or do you want a thinner steak? Let us know in the comments!

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