Steak 101 


Expert steak tips

To take the intimidation out of buying and grilling steaks, we asked Peter Sanagan, cookbook author and owner of Sanagan’s Meat Locker in Toronto, for an all-beef tutorial.

Take flight

“Be a little adventurous and serve a steak ‘flight’ for your friends and family. Cook three or more different types of steaks, then slice them so you can all try the different types and declare favourites” says Sanagan.


Quality beef has gotten expensive. What are some affordable steaks for the grill?

Cuts like flat iron and hanger steaks, as they’re tender and very flavourful, if somewhat difficult to find in grocery stores. For a more common steak, top sirloin, but cut out its silver skin before cooking, as it will make it chewier.

What exactly is dry-aged beef?

Dry aging allows the muscles to be exposed to oxygen in a humidity controlled environment over a period of time in order to break down the protein to produce more tender beef. It loses water, and there is a lot of loss due to trimming. Both reduce yield, so it’s expensive. But it creates a popcorn and blue cheese flavour profile loved by steak connoisseurs.

Grilling and slicing larger steaks is very fashionable. What’s the best way to cook them?

I recommend two methods. For the “high-low” approach, a steak is seared on the hot side of the grill (2 to 3 minutes per side) before being finished on the less hot side (5 to 10 min utes per side, depending on the thickness of the steak). The second method is called the “reverse-sear.” A large steak is slowly cooked in the oven at a very low heat (200°F/93°C) until the desired internal temperature is achieved (125°F/52°C for medium- rare), then it’s seared quickly over a very high heat (about 2 minutes per side) to caramelize the outside. This method takes a little longer but produces more accurate results.

What’s the most foolproof way to check for a steak’s doneness? And what are some of your favourite sauces to serve with grilled steak?

An instant read thermometer. For home cooks, it’s so much better. Go in from the side into the thickest part. 

For favourites sauces: salsa verde, chimichurri, tarragon mayo or just a dish of best-quality Dijon-style mustard.

Beef up your library

To learn more about beef and the art of cooking steaks, check out Sanagan’s new cookbook, Cooking Meat (Appetite by Random House, 2020).