How To Cook Sirloin Steak – Which Cooking Method Is Best?
Sirloin is one of the most common cuts of steak that you'll find in US stores and restaurants. It's a lean, relatively inexpensive cut, making it popular with families on a budget who still want to indulge in an excellent meal on occasion.
What is Sirloin?
Sirloin comes from the rear-back section of the cow and can be divided into three cuts: top sirloin, bottom sirloin, and sirloin tips. Top sirloin is the most tender of the three and is typically the most expensive. Bottom sirloin is much more common and affordable.
Sirloin tips are usually cut from the back-most section of the sirloin, next to the round, and may be made up of 50% or more round. For that reason, sirloin tips are the least expensive, but also least desirable cut of sirloin.
How to Choose the Right Sirloin Steak?
The absolute best way to ensure you’re getting the best sirloin steak is to go to a real butcher. However, since many of us don’t have local butcher shops nearby, or they’re prohibitively expensive, we’re going to focus on getting your steak from a grocery store.
First, consider portion size. You should plan to serve ¼ to ½ pound of steak per person, depending on their appetite and if you’re serving anything else with the meal.
You’ll want to choose a steak that’s at least one inch thick, preferably two inches if possible. The thinner the steak is, the quicker it will dry out from cooking it.
The coloring is important. Many grocery store steaks have artificial coloring to make them look more attractive, but you can still tell a lot about steak from the color. A fresh sirloin steak is deep red, with a lot of marbling.
Marbling is caused by little veins of fat throughout the meat and is a good indication of how juicy the steak will be. Also, look for a thick band of fat around the perimeter of the steak. The fat should be a creamy white color—if it's yellow, that means the steak isn't fresh, and you shouldn't buy it.
How to Prepare a Sirloin Steak
If you're not planning to cook your steak within an hour of returning home, you'll need to refrigerate or freeze it. Sirloin will stay good in the fridge for two to three days but can last up to a month in the freezer.
When you’re ready to cook your sirloin, you’ll need to get it to room temperature. For a frozen steak, you should do this gradually, by thawing in the refrigerator first. A refrigerated steak will need to sit out for about an hour to reach the optimum temperature.
Wash your room-temperature sirloin on both sides, then pat it dry with paper towels. Rub your steak with whatever seasonings you want to use. A good sirloin only needs some salt and pepper to enhance the flavor, but you can use other seasonings too if you prefer.
Once both sides of the steak are seasoned, leave it sitting for about forty minutes before cooking, so it has time to absorb the seasonings—otherwise, most of your seasoning will fall off as soon as you put your sirloin on the pan or grill.
If you want to marinade your steak, you should do so at least four hours before cooking. You can buy pre-made marinades at the store, or whip up your own using equal parts oil, vinegar, and spices. Place each steak in its own sealable plastic bag, then add the marinade and seal it up.
Place the bagged sirloin in the fridge for up to 24 hours, depending on how strong you want the marinade flavors to be. When you’re ready to cook, remove the steaks from the bags and pat them dry with paper towels.
The reason you want to start off with a dry steak is that a wet steak will generate steam once it hits a hot surface. The steam will prevent the outside of the sirloin from getting a nice crust on it and will slow the browning process in general. A wet steak also won't hang on to seasonings and oils as well as a dry steak would.
Which Cooking Method is Best?
There are three primary methods of cooking sirloin steak. People will swear that one approach is better than the rest, but the truth is, it depends on how you like your steak prepared and how long you have to cook it. We’ve provided instructions for all three methods, so you can determine which one is right for you.
How to Cook the Perfect Sirloin
Sirloins aren’t the best cut of meat for the grill, because of how lean they are. Grilling can dry out a sirloin and make it tougher. However, with the right technique, you can still get a perfectly-cooked sirloin steak from the grill. You don’t want to use this method if you like your steaks cooked above medium; if you grill your sirloin beyond that point, it’ll get too tough.
While you’re letting your steak rest at room temperature, heat up your grill. The heat you cook your sirloin at will depend on its thickness—thicker steaks require lower temperatures, which is counterintuitive. For a half-inch cut, you’ll want your grill to be medium-high. For thicker cuts, you need medium or medium-low heat.
When your steaks are ready to cook, place them on the grill and keep an eye on them. Make sure there aren’t any flare-ups that could char the steak.
Contrary to popular belief, you can (and should!) turn your steak over more than once. Frequent turning will ensure even cooking and help you get a nice sear on the outside.
Your cook time will depend on the thickness of your sirloin and how you like it cooked. The only sure-fire way to know when a steak is done is to use a thermometer. A rare steak should have an internal temperature of 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit; medium rare is 140 degrees, medium is 155 degrees, and well done is 165 degrees.
Once your sirloin has reached the desired doneness, take it off the grill and let it rest. The steak will continue cooking during this period and get to the optimum temperature. Cutting into the steak too soon will also release a lot of the juices and fat, leaving it dry and tough. Five to ten minutes is ideal.
Eat your delicious sirloin steak!
Pan searing is the easiest way to get a perfect sirloin steak. The pan creates an even crust on the outside of the steak and allows you to cook with oil to prevent the sirloin from drying out.
A cast iron pan is the ideal vessel for your sirloin, but any heavy-duty pan that can withstand high heat will do.
Once your steak is ready to cook, place your pan on the stove and add about a half tablespoon of oil per serving (again, about ¼ to ½ pound is a single serving). Turn the heat up to high, and wait for the pan to heat up. You’ll know it’s hot enough when the oil starts to smoke.
Place your sirloin on the pan, and press down gently to ensure the entire surface is in full contact with the pan. Let it sit for about a minute, then flip it over, pressing it down again. Continue flipping every 30 seconds.
After about four minutes, you should have a nice brown crust on the outside of the steak. Use your meat thermometer to determine if it’s done, and continue cooking if necessary.
When the sirloin is done, remove it from the pan and let it rest under a tent of aluminum foil for five to ten minutes.
Enjoy your perfectly seared sirloin!
If you’re not able to babysit your steak the entire time it’s cooking, broiling is a pretty fool-proof method. You won’t get the same sear as cooking on a grill or stovetop, but you should still end up with a light crust on the outside.
Place your top oven rack about six inches below the heating element, and then place your pan on the top shelf. A cast iron pan works best for this, but any pan will do. You can put half a tablespoon of oil in the pan if it’s not nonstick.
Set your oven to broil, or to the top possible temperature if it doesn’t have a built-in broil function. Allow the oven and the pan to thoroughly pre-heat, which should take 15-20 minutes.
Pull out the oven rack and carefully place your sirloin on the pan. The pan will be extremely hot and may splatter a bit, so watch out for that.
Allow your steak to sear for three minutes per side. Once you're satisfied with the crust (which again, won't be quite as lovely as if you sear in a pan), set your oven to 500 degrees.
Cook your steak at this temperature for as long as you need to get to your desired level of doneness. Use a meat thermometer to check it. A general guideline for cook times is:
Rare—Three to four minutes
Medium—Five to six minutes
Medium Well—Seven to eight minutes
Once they’re finished, remove your sirloin steaks from the pan and let them rest for at least five minutes.
BONUS: If you want to get that perfect sear while still broiling your steaks, you can cook them in a pan on the stove first and then place them in the broiler. You’ll cook them for 30 seconds to one minute per side in the pan. A cast iron pan can go directly from the stove to the oven, preventing you from having to wash multiple pans after dinner!