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I've recently made the jump from buying steaks at the grocery store to buying whole cuts of steak from an online butcher and breaking them down into steaks myself.

One thing I have noticed is the steaks I've bought from the online butcher take longer to cook. For example a ribeye of medium thickness bought from the grocery store would be medium if I cooked it for 2.5 minutes either side on a cast iron skillet. In contrast, I cooked a skirt steak half the thickness for about 3 minutes either side and this came out more medium rare.

I've been using the same pan, stove and temperature however it seems like its easier to overcook a mass produced steak.

Just out of interest has anyone had similar experiences? If so, does anyone know why?

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  • Welcome to the site! – GdD Feb 13 at 12:30
  • You are comparing two different steaks so your example is not appropriate and proves nothing. – Rob Feb 15 at 11:51
  • Hey Rob you ever heard of transitivity? The thinner steak in my example takes longer to cook so the example is relevant. The point would only be further emphasised if I cooked two rib eyes. – user123 Feb 16 at 22:40
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Going to a butcher is a very good idea, and doing some of your own butchering on larger cuts is a great way to save money and get really good quality meat. It's not a question of butcher versus supermarket though, the factors that make a difference in cooking time are:

  • Cut: The word steak is a generic term for a small cut of meat cut across the muscle fibers, these cuts come from many different parts of the animal and have very different properties. Some cuts are denser because they do more work on the animal, these denser cuts like rump/round take longer to cook. Skirt steak does not cook at the same rate as filet, you can't compare them directly
  • Aging: Most of the time steaks are aged, this can be using a wet or dry method. Dry aging allows beef to loose moisture, concentrating the flavor and making it denser. Wet aging is cheaper and faster, but does not allow for this moisture loss. Dry aged steaks will be denser than wet aged steaks of the same cut, and therefore take longer to cook. There are plenty of butchers and supermarkets that sell both wet and dry aged beef, butchers are much more likely to be selling dry aged beef because you buy from a butcher when you want something better. Note that you can dry out wet aged steaks a bit by leaving them unwrapped in your refrigerator for a day, but it's never going to be the same quality

The key message is not to cook to time, but to temperature as all steaks are different. A good instant-read thermometer is well worth the few bucks to get the right result.

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Is the supermarket meat packaged in a gas-filled plastic thing, and the butcher's isn't? If yes, that might be the cause: that gas is there to keep the meat looking red and fresh, so people will buy it. It also has the effect of making the meat look cooked much more quickly than it actually is. This is probably not a problem for steaks but it's dangerous for minced meat, which needs to be cooked thoroughly: people think it's cooked based on its appearance but it isn't, yet.

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