When to Season Steak for the Tastiest Results (Hint: It’s a Lot Earlier Than You’d Expect)

when to season steak: person grinding salt on a raw steak on a cutting board
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You’ve overcome your fear of the butcher shop (we get it, it’s totally overwhelming) and there’s a gorgeous ribeye waiting in your fridge. But you know the work isn’t done yet. Aside from cooking the meat, you need to decide how you’re going to season it. Our two cents? Keep it simple with salt and pepper. But wait, didn’t you read somewhere that you need to start the process days in advance? Actually, yeah, you probably did. If you’re wondering when to season steak for the tastiest results possible, here’s the ideal time frame (and how to do it).

When to Season Steak

For most cooking methods, we’re followers of the “season as you go” method. And while sprinkling on the S and P right before cooking won’t ruin your dinner by any means, you’re better off with a little advance planning: For the best results, season steak with salt at least 30 minutes before you cook it. This way the salt has ample time to penetrate the meat, especially if it’s a thick cut. Wait too long and you run the risk of a slightly bland dinner.

But what about seasoning steak days in advance? There’s some truth in that. You can (and should) season your steak as early as the time you bring it home from the butcher or grocery store. While 30 minutes is a good minimum, four hours or even a few days ahead is better because it really gives the salt time to soak in and flavor the steak. Just unwrap the meat, coat it in salt, rewrap it and stick it back in the fridge until cooking time.

How to Season Steak

Even if you’re sticking with just salt and pepper, it’s going to add tons of flavor to that flank steak (or whatever cut you choose)—as long as you use the correct amount of salt and season the right way. Don’t worry, it’s easy:

  • How much salt should you use? We aim for one teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of steak. The salt should visibly coat the steak but not pile up too excessively.
  • How should you season the steak? Make sure you coat every side, not just the top and bottom. It’s easier to season evenly if you sprinkle from higher above rather than really close to the meat. (You don’t have to go full Salt Bae, but that’s kind of a good visual.)
  • What type of salt should you use? We prefer kosher salt because the grains are larger and easier to distribute than fine table salt. They’ll also cling to the meat better than a large flake sea salt (which is better for finishing purposes).
  • Anything else? Yeah! Remember that flaky sea salt? It’s a nice touch to add after you’ve rested the steak and sliced it for serving. A crunchy salt like Maldon adds pockets of flavor and a little surprise texture that will have your dinner guests oh-so-impressed. It’ll also ensure the interior of the steak is just as well-seasoned as the outer layers.

Now that you’re a seasoning pro, it’s time to get cooking. (Oh, and don’t forget the sides.)


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...