Guide to Steak Thickness: Stop Buying Skinny Steak!

thick steak filet mignon

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Somehow everything got messed up with the thickness of our steaks.

The vast majority of steaks sold today are nowhere near as thick as they should be for optimal eating.

In this guide, we’ll explain why a thin steak is generally worse than a thick one, and how to cook a proper, thick steak to perfection.

Is there a perfect steak thickness?

Obviously, the perfect steak thickness depends on numerous factors, not least of all your personal preferences. 

However, if you take some naturally thin cuts out of the equation (such as skirt or flank) you’ll find that, in general, the ideal steak thickness to aim for is around 1.5 inches. 

At 1.5 inches, your steak remains quick and easy to cook, without being too easy to overcook.

A nice thick ribeye steak

If you are still searching for a simple way to get your steaks done perfectly medium or rare, try switching to a thicker steak.

Why are thicker steaks better?

Let’s take a look at why thickness matters so much when cooking your steak – before moving on to some helpful tips on how to get your thick, or thin, steak cooked just right. 

Why too thin is worse than too thick

Naturally thin cuts aside, thick is always better than thin. 

When you stick a thin steak on to sear, the high heat penetrates through your cut straight away. This can result in your steak becoming overdone before you even have a chance to remove it from the heat. 

If you opt for steaks with a minimum of one-inch thickness, then the chances of your steak overcooking are slightly improved. But, nowhere near as well as with a 1.5 inch one or above. 

While extra-thick steaks need some extra care and special techniques (see our steak cooking tips below), with a very thin steak, your options are pretty limited in terms of doneness.

For this reason, if you have a choice of steaks, we recommend opting for thicker ones over thin ones.

Not only are they easier to cook, they also tend to have better texture, and more flavor when done, as you’re less likely to overcook them. 

Thin steak cuts

Thin steak cuts, as often sold in bulk or at budget prices, are generally less than one-inch thick. 

As your steak thickness slims, so do your chances of achieving a nice medium or rare center. Once your steak starts to sear, the heat will start cooking the center much earlier due to its thinness. 

The gray bands near the surface that cook first will also make up a higher proportion of the total steak.

This will make it almost impossible for you to cook your steaks just right, no matter how hard you try. 

Thick steak cuts

On the other hand, thick steak cuts stand up much better to heat. This allows you to get a nice sear, without your steak automatically being well done. 

If you are going to treat yourself to a nice Ribeye or New York Strip, you better make it a thick one of at least 1.5 inches as sold by premium butchers. 

In fact, some steak aficionados even go so far as to suggest that ones 1.75-inches or 2-inches thick are even better. While you may want to try these extra-thick cuts out, for ease of cooking, lower costs, and general day-to-day meals, 1.5-inch thick steaks are more than sufficient. 

Steak cooking tips

Maybe all you could pick up was a couple of thin steaks from your local store and you’re wondering how best to cook them? Or, perhaps you ordered in something special and now you’re stressing out that you’ll mess them up? 

Don’t fear. Our cooking tips have everything you need to get your thick or thin steaks just right. 

The best way to cook thick steak

If you’ve brought home a steak more than 1.5 inches thick, we recommend using the reverse-sear method.

This involves using two temperatures to get your thick steak cooked to perfection – resulting in a juicer, more flavorsome steak that is more evenly cooked.

thick steak on weber kettle

Firstly, as this is a reverse-sear method, you’ll want to cook your steak through to your desired level of doneness. This is done at a lower temperature, and you can check on your steak’s progress as you cook.

Keep an eye on temperature during the reverse sear

Once your steak is approaching your preferred level of doneness, it’s time to fire up the heat. 

With your thick steak almost ready to eat, aim for a short, hot sear. This ensures a juicier steak and takes the guesswork out of getting it done just right. 

Your sear will add flavor and color, but as you’re using the reverse-sear method, (quickly searing once your steak is almost done through to your preference), you won’t have to worry about overcooking your steak.

The best way to cook thin steak

When you’re cooking thin steak, it’s important to remember that your cut is going to cook through quickly. So, you’ll want to cook at high temperature, but for short periods to ensure that even your thin cut remains tasty and full of flavor.

bavette steak on the grill

Get your grill or pan heated up as high as possible before adding your steak. Then, proceed to cook each side for a maximum of 60 seconds. 

The idea behind using the maximum heat and short heat exposure time is to ensure that your steak sears in record time. This prevents too much heat from penetrating into the meat and causing your thin steak to become chewy and overcooked.

So remember, when you’re cooking thin steaks, cook them high and keep them on for just a short period, or else they’ll quickly go past their best. 

Wrapping it up

When cooking your steak, it’s important to take its thickness into account. Now that you know what to look out for, you’ll no longer have to struggle with overly thin cuts cooking through too quickly.

We recommend 1.5 inches to be the ideal thickness for most cuts. But, in any case, it’s important to adjust your cooking temperatures and time to your steak thickness for perfect results.  

How do you cook extra thin or thick cuts? Does the reverse-sear method work well for you? 

Don’t forget to let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And if you’ve enjoyed reading this article, make sure to share it with your friends! 

Joe Clements

Joe Clements

As the son of a vegeterian, I grew up dreaming about meat. Now as the founder and editor in chief of Smoked Barbecue Source I get to grill, barbecue and write about meat for a living! I'm sharing everything I learn along the way on my journey from amateur to pitmaster.

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