Perfect steak is largely about practice. I also like medium rare. I typically am cooking the New Zealand grass fed steaks I get in the freezer section of Trader Joe’s, they are about 3/4 - 1 inch thick.
I TIME the cooking. Individual times will vary depending on your heat source and your pan. I will always use a very very heavy pan like cast iron, enamel cast iron or a very heavy bottom stainless pan. I use a skillet shaped shallow type pan. I used to use the broiler but ever since I worked for years with a cooking school I now do on the stovetop. I also used to grill but due to carbon buildups, dealing with coals, etc, I haven’t fired up my Q in years. in fact, I think I’ll sell it at my upcoming yard sale.
Your steak needs to be at room temperature or the inside will take too long to cook. I also massage the steaks a bit, this seems to “relax” the meat fibers a bit. I know it sounds weird but I saw Julia Childs mention it once and when I tried it it seemed to make a difference in texture.
I lay the room temperature, massaged steak on a plate, pat it dry on all sides with a paper towel, salt and pepper it and rub it all over with a little olive oil.
I put my heavy bottom skillet (or grill pan if I want fancy hatch marks) over a medium heat and let the pan really heat up. On both my old propane stove and my current electric stove dead medium on the burner dial seems to give me the same amount of heat.
Once the pan is hot I gently set the steak into it with tongs. It should immediately be sizzling merrily but not smoking or popping. If I’m using a grill pan and want hatch marks I let it cook for 3.5 minutes then give it a quarter turn for another 3.5 minutes. If I’m not going for hatch marks I leave it for a full 7 minutes. After 7 minutes I use tongs to turn the steak over and do the same on the other side. USE A TIMER. My current timer doesn’t do half minutes so I do three minutes then I count out the half minute.
Once the steak has cooked on both sides I remove it from the pan and place it on a plate that I have allowed to warm on the stovetop, cover it with another inverted plate and set the timer for 10 minutes for the steak to rest. Resting is VERY important, the residual heat will continue to cook the steak and the juices will redistribute inside the steak. If you cut into it right away the juices will flow out all over the plate. Keeping those juices inside the steak is also why you handle it with tongs, not stab it with a fork to turn it. While I occasionally use a meat thermometer for some things, I find it entirely unnecessary for steaks. This is partly about experience so I don’t need to and partly that I don’t want to pierce the steaks and lose the juices.
I use the steak resting time to either made a pan sauce with the fond in the pan (don’t usually do a sauce for the grass fed steak - if I want a pan sauce - like green peppercorn sauce - I use a regular sirloin instead) or to finish the other things I’m serving with the steak and get them plated in preparation for the steak being done.
If I want the steak to be restaurant glossy, I will melt a pat of butter over it while it rests. If I want to really show off or be fancy I will melt a pat of butter in a small metal container, add a drop or two of garlic juice (I have several different meshes of garlic presses, one produces juice only) and brush this butter over the steak with a brush made of lightly squeezed rosemary tips bundled together right before serving. I saw that on a video once of how to make a perfect steak and it is a subtle but noticeable difference.
I know my cooking temp and time sounds different from what you will read about in most recipes - I’m almost 60 and this is how I’ve been cooking my steaks for ... the last 20 years.
It takes practice, so pay attention, use your timer. Different stovetops, different pans might have somewhat different results so you may need to adjust your timing. You can also pay attention to what is going on with the fluids on the top of the meat. You will get an eye for what should be happening when. Because of the variable heat on a grill that is part of what I would watch when I was grilling.
Because I am usually also preparing sides to go with the steak, the timer is essential for me so I don’t lose track of what is happening with the steak. I will usually prep everything first and get all my sides going before putting the steaks on so I can finish everything while the steaks cook and then rest so it’s all ready at the same time.
My favorite meal ever, a perfect steak, mashed potatoes (with roasted garlic, yum!), sautéed mushrooms with tarragon (and maybe red wine) and vegetables, especially aspargus or spinach. When I do this meal I tend to keep the veges pretty simply cooked and seasoned so they are a nice fresh foil for the rest of the meal.
For the most amazingly perfect mashed potatoes ever, start with half russet and half yellow potatoes peeled and cut into similarly sized chunks in very salty (like the ocean) cold water in a pot. Put the pot of salty water and potatoes over high heat, bring to a simmer and simmer til tender. Don’t cook past fully tender or the pototoes will get mushy and gross. Immediately drain the potatoes in a colander, put the pot back on the stove with butter, say 4 tablespoons if you started with four large potatos, let the butter melt (not burn or brown) then add the potatoes back to the pot with the butter and adjust the texture with BUTTERMILK. The buttermilk gives a wonderful tang and creamy texture. Mash well or even better, run through a potato ricer if you have one for the fluffiest potatoes.
Using half the russet/starchy potatoes and half the yellow/waxy potatoes is also key here relating to texture. All starchy will require too much buttermilk and butter and all waxy can get “gluey”. Because the water is salted (most of which gets discarded) you typically don’t need to add salt to the finished product.
When I am making these potatoes to go with steak I will put the pot on to boil and get that going before I put the steaks into the pan. You can hold the potatoes hot in a double boiler or on the side of the stove protected from scorching for about a half hour, but you don’t ever want the steaks waiting for potatoes.