Become an expert at cooking a Perfect Pan-Seared Steak at home! (It’s easy!)
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!
What kind of beef should I buy to make a Perfect Pan-Seared Steak?
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 1 – 1½ inches thick but not any thicker. If too thick, it may require some time in the oven to finish cooking after searing). 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! Depending on how the steak is cut, you could end up with the end of the loin which will not be as flavorful and tender as the center. The appearance of the cuts will look visibly different. The tender center will be cut against the grain so when looking at the steak, you will not be able to see the grain. The tougher outer end will look like it has grain running from side to side and will cook up a little tough. That said, rib eye or sirloin are good no matter what, but if you are paying top dollar for a steak, minds well push to get the best cut possible.
There are also other factors that as a consumer, you are probably unaware of such as the age of the animal and grade of the cut. Sometimes packaging at supermarkets are misleading so when selecting your steak, go to a reputable trustworthy butcher.
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!
You may like these other Steak recipes:
- Steak au Poivre with Crispy Shallots
- Steak Tips with Caramelized Onions
- Salisbury Steak
- Steak Bomb Sandwich
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 complements 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 – 1 ½ pounds, cut to 1 ½ inches or thinner. (Any thicker will require some time in the oven)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon 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)
- Place steak on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb some of the liquid and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Using half the amount of salt and pepper season one side of the steak.
- Heat your seasoned cast iron skillet to smoking hot (have hood fan in high). Add oil and swirl around to coat. (normally olive oil would burn at such a high heat but when mixed with butter on the next step, it will not burn and adds flavor). 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.
- 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).
- After two minutes on each side, keep flipping and basting the steak each time, leaving the steak for 30 seconds before turning again. 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.
- If you are not comfortable with the poke test and want to use a probe thermometer, hold the steak sideways with tongs and insert the probe from the side. Turn burner off at 110 degrees F and let the steak sit in the pan for five minutes. The carry over heat will continue to cook the steak (be careful if your steak is thin, this step may take less than five minutes). Baste one more time and remove to a platter and loosely cover with foil for five more minutes to allow juices to work back into the meat.
- Remove to a cutting board and either cut the steak in half for each serving or for a nicer presentation, slice on the bias and serve slices.
- Discard the pan drippings or if desired, deglaze the pan with a little wine, then add 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.