The best way to cook thin steak is... carefully. It’s easy to overcook it, which leaves you with a dried-out hunk of meat that’s light on flavor and heavy on chewiness. While the grill or stovetop are more traditional methods for preparing a steak, baking it in the oven is an easy option involving a little less work and cleanup.
Prepping the Steak
Place a greased baking tray, cast iron skillet or other oven-safe pan in the oven and preheat it to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Letting the tray or pan get hot first helps you get a sear on your steak as you would on the stove or grill.
Keep the steak out at room temperature for about 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking, so it doesn’t go into the oven really cold. While there’s some debate whether this really accomplishes anything, some people insist the meat seizes up and cooks unevenly if it basically goes straight from the fridge to the heat. So, if you have time, you might as well do it, as it can’t hurt (just never leave meat out at room temperature for longer than two hours).
Pat the steak dry with a paper towel; then brush all its surface area with cooking oil or melted butter. Pat on plenty of salt and pepper and any other herbs or spices you want to use, such as garlic or onion powder, rosemary and/or thyme.
Marinating a Thin Steak
As an alternative to just seasoning the steak, you can marinate it for added flavor. Thin cuts are the best candidates, as the marinade actually stands a chance of penetrating through enough of the beef to make a difference. Many preparations of leaner cuts like flap steak, sirloin tip side steak, bottom round and top round steak recipes encourage marinating to impart some extra flavor and moisture.
If you don’t have a store-bought beef marinade, it’s easy to make your own. Marinate equal parts cooking oil and an acid, such as vinegar, wine or citrus juice. Add plenty of salt and pepper, as well as any other complementary aromatics you want to use, like minced garlic, onion powder, chili powder, rosemary, thyme, soy sauce or fish sauce. Some sweetness from sugar or brown sugar adds nice depth of flavor, too.
Soak the steak in a glass or other nonreactive baking dish covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator for 1 to 12 hours. The longer it marinates, the stronger the imparted flavor, but do it too long and you risk making the meat mushy. Flip the steak halfway through if it’s not fully immersed. Discard the marinade at cooking time; it’s contaminated with bacteria from the raw beef.
Baking a Thin Steak
Place the steak on the preheated oven tray or skillet in the center of the oven. Leave it in place; then flip it over with tongs or a spatula after 6 minutes. Don’t stick it with a fork to turn it, as holes in the meat allow the juices that provide moisture and flavor to escape.
The best way to cook thin steak – especially leaner cuts that are often less tender and flavorful – is to medium-rare. That’s an internal temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer. If you prefer rare, the target temperature is 120 degrees F; for medium, cook to 140 degrees F; for medium-well, cook to 150 degrees F; and for well-done, cook to 160 degrees F.
Cooking time varies by oven, thickness of the steak, color and material of the tray or pan, and other factors. Plan for it to take about 12 minutes to get to medium-rare for a steak that’s around 1/2-inch thick. Remove the steak from the tray or pan promptly to prevent overcooking, and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes, during which time its juices settle and its temperature rises about another 5 degrees.
Eric Mohrman is a food and drink, lifestyle, and travel writer. He spent 10 years working front- and back-of-house in a few casual and upscale restaurants, adding professional experience to his love of eating and cooking. He lives with his family in Orlando, Florida. His stories on food and beverage topics have appeared in numerous print and web publications, including Visit Florida, Orlando Style Magazine, CrushBrew Magazine, Agent Magazine, Dollar Stretcher Magazine, The 863 Magazine and others.