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Perfect Pan-Seared Steak

 How to cook the Perfect Pan-Seared Steak! It's easy to make delicious, perfectly cooked steak at home!

A few weekends ago we had some friends over to our house for lunch, and we got around to talking about A Family Feast.  We love hearing suggestions for the types of recipes people would like to see us post here – and our friend Simone was the first to speak up!  She asked for a simple and easy way to prepare steak – and others agreed (including myself!) – so here is our recipe for the Perfect Pan-Seared Steak!

I’ll admit – I usually leave the cooking of steak or other cuts of beef to my husband Jack.  Other types of meat…I have no problems cooking that!  But steak…I’ve never been happy with how it came out when I cooked it.  Until now that is!  Cooking the perfect pan-seared steak is so easy (and it comes out so deliciously good) you’ll become an expert at it too!

How to cook the Perfect Pan-Seared Steak! It's easy to make delicious, perfectly cooked steak at home!

For a perfect steak of any kind, you really need to start with a good quality, high-grade cut of beef.  For a perfect pan-seared steak, a good rib eye or sirloin are our recommended choices – and try to select a thick steak (at least 1½ inches thick).  Look for marbling (little spider veins of fat that are weaved throughout the meat, resulting in a more tender cooked steak) and try to avoid cuts that have large pieces of outside fat or gristle running through it.  Don’t be shy about asking your butcher – even at your local supermarket – for exactly the cut of beef you need!

At most supermarkets, you are most likely going to find a grade of meat that is called “choice”, which is perfectly fine to use!  Just try to avoid the grades called “select” or “standard” as they are lesser cuts of meat and usually lack the marbling you want. It is also possible to get the best grade called “prime” at the supermarket, but unlikely – you typically will need to go to a specialty butcher for that.  If you don’t mind paying top dollar, you can also buy aged beef. The butcher will place the beef in a climate-controlled space for a period of days or weeks. The beef will lose moisture and intensify in flavor. (It is possible to age beef at home yourself…see this article.)

When you get the steak home, remove it from the package and place it in your refrigerator, uncovered, on a plate lined with a few paper towels until you are ready to prepare it.  This will help remove any excess moisture and will also help intensify the flavor of your steak.

Finally, we recommend using a well-seasoned, large black cast iron frying pan for making the perfect pan-seared steak!

Perfect Pan-Seared Steak
Serves: 4 servings
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Note: In our photo, you may have noticed that we show some roasted potatoes in the pan. We roasted potato wedges in the oven with oil and seasonings until tender and then added them to the pan during the last two minutes of cooking. They absorb some of the melted butter and steak drippings and really compliment the flavor of the steak! This step is optional and is not fully outlined in the recipe.
  • 1 bone-in or boneless rib eye steak or sirloin steak at least 1 ½ pounds, cut to at least 1 ½ inches thick
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves, left whole
  • Few sprigs fresh parsley, including stems
  • Optional: Wine and stock (chicken, beef, veal,etc.) and butter for deglazing the pan and making a delicious pan sauce
  • Optional: Roasted potato wedges (see note above)
  1. Salt and pepper one side of the steak.
  2. Heat your seasoned cast iron skillet to smoking hot. Add oil and swirl around to coat. Add steak seasoned-side down (place it in pan away from you so you don’t get splattered), and then salt and pepper the other side of the steak. At this point do not touch it for two minutes. Using tongs (never pierce the meat with a fork), flip the steak and add butter, garlic and parsley to the pan next to the steak. Allow the steak to cook for 2 more minutes.
  3. Right after you flip the steak for the first time, with a spoon or small ladle, keep basting the melted butter over the steak. Baste continually for the full two minutes (tilt pan a little if you have to, to get the butter onto the spoon).
  4. After two minutes on each side, keep flipping and basting the steak each time leaving the steak for 30 seconds before turning. Test the steak with the poke test (see note below) and remove at medium rare at about the five to six minute mark of total cooking time. Cook a minute or two longer for medium to well. A thicker steak (such as a sirloin) may take longer.
  5. Turn off the heat and baste one more time. Leave the steak in the pan loosely covered with foil for 10 minutes and allow to rest before cutting. Baste one more time, and remove to a cutting board. Either cut the steak in half for each serving or for a nicer presentation, slice on the bias and serve slices.
  6. Discard the pan drippings or if desired, deglaze the pan with a little wine, then and stock and simmer for a few minutes to reduce the drippings. Add a tablespoon or two of butter to thicken for a nice pan sauce .
Note: To test the meat for doneness, we use what is called the 'poke test'. Make a tight fist and feel the flesh just below your thumb into the palm of your hand. Firm is how well-done steak will feel. Loosen your grip a bit and feel the same spot. That will be medium-rare. Loosen your grip all the way and that is blood-rare. Now poke your finger into the thickest part of the meat and compare it to your palm for the perfect level of doneness that you desire.

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  1. Woohoo! Can’t wait to try this (especially after another night of chewy and dry steak). Thanks, guys! :)

  2. Jackie Nissen :

    All of your recipes look so great. I made the chicken soup, and it was a keeper. Thank You

  3. Loving all your recipes. This one sounds fantastic, I buy Cowboy Steaks made by LeadBetters, they melt they are so soft. I normally BBQ them but in winter I use the Stove top.

    Tip #1 ~ Add a good splash of Worcester Sauce to your cooking oil the smell and taste are divine, or if you have steaks waiting to be cooked let them sit in a small amount of W/sauce turn to coat each side.

    Tip #2 ~ If your steak is frozen DO NOT DEFROST (this toughens the meat) cook as normal from frozen on the BBQ, 8 – 10 minutes a per side, spice with your choice of spices as your turn the meat. I only use Lawry’s Garlic Salt.

  4. Saw this on the food blogger pinterest board. it is perfectly cooked and the pic does it total justice.
    Peter @Feed Your Soul Too recently posted…Cajun Gumbo Pot Pie – Cajun Week Day 3My Profile

    • Thank you so much Peter!! I guess we did set the bar very high when we used the word ‘perfect’ in the recipe title…so I’m very glad you think so! Thanks for clicking over to visit our site and for commenting! Martha

  5. This really looks like absolute perfection!
    Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious recently posted…Italian Baked EggsMy Profile

  6. This was the best steak I have ever had, thank you for sharing this recipe.

  7. Love your recipes please send them to my email address. Thanks

  8. I’m a Texan from Ft. Worth. I’ve grilled steaks taught to me from generations. Simple is best. A little salt and a touch of pepper and that’s it. Wine stock; butter;( I can’t believe someone said Worcester Sauce) just takes away the flavor . Maybe that’s how you eat meat back east, but in Texas, we simply like the flavor of the meat period

    • Hi Edward – Thank you for taking the time to write to us! My husband Jack has spent a good deal of time in Texas for work and he has said that the best steak he ever ate was simply seasoned and simply cooked. There is definitely something to be said for simple cooking, and given the choice between an herb-encrusted piece of meat or fish, he would choose a simply seasoned version every time. Thanks for sharing your insight – we value the expertise of someone who comes from the heart of steak country!

  9. Mary Delgado :

    You folks know how to eat! Can’t wait to try this and some of your other recipes. Keep ‘em coming! And, THANK YOU! P.S. Chung-Ah has great recipes I’ve also tried!

  10. #1) ALWAYS bring your steak up to room temp before putting it in the pan. Salt and Pepper both sides while it is warming up. The salt starts to break down the protein of the meat and is a great tenderizer.

    #2) Less is more. The more times you turn a steak, the more likely it is to dry out. It distributes the juices unevenly. The done steak should also “rest” for a few minutes before it is sliced and served.

    Personally, i like to use butter instead of oil. I will brown the butter before placing the steak in the pan. I also like to put fresh rosemary sprigs in mine. After I put my steak in the pan I will put a sprig of rosemary on the meat and a pat of butter. While the one side is searing the butter is melting into the meat with that fresh rosemary.

    Before I deglaze, i throw some minced garlic and shallots in the pan with a little extra butter and do a quick sautee. Then I throw my red wine in and let it reduce down. I like to throw some more butter into the sauce to make it rich. Hey, I said this is how I make pan seared steak. I NEVER said it was good for you! Lol!

  11. Found this on Pinterest so making for dinner tonight! The directions seem easy enough, thanks :)

  12. Adding soy sauce to the butter is my favorite. No salt no pepper. Just butter and soy.

  13. I made a steak last night and followed your recipe exactly – it was the best steak we have ever eaten!! I have never been much of a meat eater so I had very little experience buying and cooking steak. I read everything you wrote and did exactly what you said.
    Thank you for the details and info on what steak to purchase.
    Soo happy!!!

  14. Kim Honeycutt :

    I also leave the steak grilling to my hisband. He grilled steak last night and it was delicious. This sounds like something I could try. Pinning it!

  15. Kimberly Regan :

    Thanks to You my husband raved about how I cooked Him the best steak He has ever eaten! *laughs* He even said it was better than He’s had at a restaurant! This is coming from a guy who never raves about anything lol. When I ask Him if something tastes good I get a ‘yeah it was good’ or ‘yeah it was ok’ He did rave about the Cajun Meatloaf I made that I found on Pioneer woman as well!

    • Thanks for writing to us Kimberly – we love hearing our readers’ success stories like yours – especially when they are cooking for a picky eater! So glad you both enjoyed the recipe!

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