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Some chefs say the steak cooks more evenly by flipping it often. Others say this makes the juices run out. With so many different styles and recipes out there, one must wonder: who is right?

What are the reasons one would flip a steak regularly or only once? Does the type of meat have any influence on this?

Also, why would flipping the steaks frequently (supposedly) make them cook more evenly? If both sides are exposed to the same heat for the same amount of time, what is the difference?

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There's a great deal of opinion on this subject, the majority of the testing I've seen favors the multiple flip method. My own tests agree, you get a better result from more flipping.

Type of meat has no influence on the method, although it impacts how long you cook it. For example a rump steak is a bit denser than a sirloin or ribeye so it takes longer to cook.

The reason that steaks cook unevenly when flipped once is that the top of the steak heats as you cook the bottom, when you flip it what was the top has a warmer starting point so that side ends up hotter at the end of cooking. You can get evenness from the one flip method by doing 2/3 of the cooking time on the first side and 1/3 on the other side (that's approximate from my own testing). The benefit of a single flip is it's less time spent on the steak, if you have a lot going on in the kitchen you have more time to spend on other tasks.

Other than that multiple flips are the way to go as you get even cooking, less curling (although you can reduce fat curling by cutting across the fat every inch, this gets a better result in general), and the steak tends to cook faster. Note this is for thicker steaks, for thin steaks you really just want to get a crust on as quickly as you can, so a single flip makes sense.

I've never noticed a difference in juiciness with either method, other aspects of technique are more important, for instance with a thick steak you want to cook it mostly on the cool side of the barbecue and then crisp it up on high heat as opposed to cooking it on high heat the whole time.

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  • 5
    Huh, I always figured flipping cooked more evenly because it prevents the hot side from getting too hot. I.e., if you leave one side down too long, by the time heat has made it to the middle, the outside will have gotten too hot. Whereas flipping lets the top outside cool down a bit, while still transferring some of that energy to the cooler interior
    – BThompson
    Jun 4 at 13:13
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    Aside from cooking in a closed grill, I hadn't really thought about the heat that the top of the steak will be getting. Thanks for pointing that out!
    – BThompson
    Jun 4 at 13:25
  • This is not just with steak, it's with most kinds of meat once they get a bit thicker. I even do it with hamburgers. Fish is trickier, but for the rest: keep flipping.
    – Mast
    Jun 5 at 20:31
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    @user2705196 I'm not theorizing - I have decades of experience as a physicist, materials scientist, and a cook, and I've particularly spent a long time perfecting rare steaks. The more you flip, the longer it takes, the more the centre cooks.
    – J...
    Jun 6 at 21:29
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    @user2705196 I no longer cook steak, but I'm with J... both as a home cook and physicist. I used to do multiple flips for medium-well to avoid the outside over-charring while getting the middle good and hot, but one flip for rare (in the same pan, staggered starts to have them ready at the same time). If you flip once, you have no heat flow from the top of the steak towards the middle until late in cooking (aside from anything to do with hot air over the pan), but if you flip more than once, there's heat flow both up and down towards the middle from the first flip.
    – Chris H
    Jun 7 at 15:19
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If the steak is enclosed by a lid, such as in an outdoor grill, you flip once, because you lose 50 degrees every time you open the lid, which breaks the constant thermal transfer of heat to the center of the steak, so the inside will not be cooked properly.

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  • Idiot downvoters.
    – blahblah
    Jun 10 at 0:22

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