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How long should steak sit after seasoning? (Explained)

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As most skilled home gourmands and professional chefs will tell you, there’s a sweet spot for seasoning a steak.

There’s also a sweet spot for how long a steak should sit after it’s seasoned but before it’s grilled. Moreover, there is, naturally, some disagreement between these steak aficionados as to where the said sweet spot is. 

To clear up this confusion, we’ll take a look at how long a steak should sit after seasoning.

We’ll also look at some of the most common alternatives to this time frame to offer you the most flexibility in your cooking methods.

How to Season Your Steak: Start With Cold Steak

Some serious chefs advocate seasoning your steak well in advance of cooking — up to 24 hours in some cases.

However, Otto Wilde, of Otto Wilde Grillers, recommends seasoning your steak about 40 minutes before cooking time. For the juiciest steak, you want to start out with a cold steak straight out of the fridge.

This is a pre-seasoned steak.

How Long Should a Steak Sit After Seasoning: Adding the Salt

Once you’ve taken your steak from the fridge, pat the steak dry with a paper towel. You want the steak to be dry before you add the seasoning.

Next, comes the seasoning. Sprinkle a generous portion of kosher salt on the cold, raw steak, covering both sides with a generous amount.

After that, the steak should sit at room temperature for at least 40 minutes before you grill it. This allows the seasoning to seep into the steak as it warms up to room temperature. 

The salt pulls the juices out of the steak. It also softens the steak a bit.

Once the steak has a good coating of salt, put it on the grill or in the pan and sear both sides of it.

How Long To Wait Before Seasoning a Steak: The Alternatives

As has already been mentioned, there is some debate among steak lovers as to how long a steak should sit before it gets seasoned. While 30 to 40 minutes works for many chefs and home cooks, not everyone agrees with this number. 

Instead, they may advocate the following:

Start with a cold steak straight out of the refrigerator. Season both sides of it with kosher salt until it’s covered generously with salt on both sides.

Cover the steak and put it back in the fridge. Allow it to sit for 24 hours in the fridge before cooking. 

Once the 24 hours are up, take the steak out of the fridge, let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, and then, pat it dry with a paper towel. 

Grill it as usual. 

Other Seasoning Considerations: Adding Pepper

Some steak lovers like ground black pepper with their steaks. This seasoning option, as you may have guessed, also has a number of debates going on around it.

Many cooks advocate adding pepper to the steak when you add the salt.

Those who do also recommend that you press the pepper into the steak on both sides (as opposed to sprinkling it on the steak). 

Those who are not fans of this method maintain that adding pepper before cooking causes the pepper to burn a bit on the steak during cooking time. They prefer to either add it to the steak while it’s cooking or once it’s done cooking.

As with the salt debate, this comes down to personal taste.

To Add Butter or Not?

Finally, some steak aficionados love butter on their steaks as well.

This isn’t the butter or oil that you might put into the pan to sear the steak with. 

Rather, it’s butter as another flavoring.

For this, you’ll want to add the butter to the steak as it’s nearing the end of its cooking time.

Allow it to sit a bit before you serve it. This rest time allows the butter to melt all over the top of the steak, giving it a nice flavor and juicy sheen.

Final Thoughts

Cooking a steak until it tastes just right comes down to a matter of personal taste in the end.

While some home gourmands and pro chefs prefer to let a steak sit overnight in a crust of kosher salt, others believe that it’s best to season it and then wait until the steak reaches room temperature before cooking.

Usually, this takes between 30 and 40 minutes.

In light of this debate, it’s safe to say that the best results often come as a result of experimentation. That is to say if you’re not sure how long you should wait before you cook your steak, be willing to experiment a bit with a number of cooking methods until you find the one that suits your taste buds best.