How to Pan Fry a Steak
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Nothing tastes as good as prime quality, juicy and flavorful well-cooked steak. Steak is one of the few meals that doesn’t require a recipe, pairs with everything, and can be served in any setting.
Achieving a restaurant-quality steak, with a crispy caramelized crust with a perfect medium-rare center should not be an overwhelming process for home cooks.
However, many questions on how to achieve the perfect steak are can be found on cooking forums throughout the internet.
Home cooks will ask, what is the best steak to use?, how long should steak be cooked for?, do I season?, and what pan should I use? are just a few of the many questions that are asked to cook a perfect steak. And as there are as many questions there are many complex and contradictory answers.
In short, there is no one perfect way to cook a steak! Firstly, everyone has a personal preference on what is a perfect steak, be it bloody rare, or charcoaled well done. And secondly, different cuts and sizes of steak require different methods to cook.
Although, “a one “ method only solution may be impossible to approach the question of how to perfect a restaurant-quality steak in your own home, let me share with you some techniques and tricks which will steer you towards, “your” perfect steak.
Buy The Best Quality Meat You Can Afford – What to look for when buying a great steak.
The most important factor for achieving a perfectly cooked steak is to start with the best quality ingredients your budget will allow. For a lover of steak, there is nothing more important than finding a good butcher and staying away from the grocery store. A great butcher can provide not only fantastic meat but also provide the best advice on how to cook it to perfection. Look for meat that is grass-fed, hormone-free, and ethically raised.
Freshly cut steak should have flesh that has a rich pink or light cherry appearance. Grass feed beef will have a darker red color than grain feed beef, whereas grain feed beef will have better marbling.
Select a steak that has a medium between lean and fatty, that is look for a marbling of fat in the meat. Marbling in a steak is the fat ( long white lines) that is running between the layers of meat. A steak with good marbling will be juicy and flavorsome when it is cooked. As the steak cooks, these lines of fat will melt, flavoring the steak and making the meat juicier.
When purchasing your cut of steak, it is important to buy a piece of steak that is at least 300g and has a thickness of at least 3-4cm. The aim of cooking a steak is to achieve a great crispy charred outside, with a juicy and tender inside, if your steak is thin you will end up with a steak that is overcooked, chewy, and dry when it is served.
Touch & Smell
The surface of a freshly cut steak should be moist, but not wet or sticky. It should also be cold to the touch and have an odor that is bloody or metallic.
Best Cuts of Steak For Pan Searing
Cooking steak on your stovetop is one of the best methods to achieve a great tasting restaurant-quality steak in your home kitchen. Pan searing on a heavy-based skillet or grill pan is a classic cooking technique, in which a steak is placed in a very hot pan, left undisturbed until a flavorful, golden crisp crust forms on the outer of the steak. One of the most important parts of cooking a steak with this technique is selecting a steak that is suitable for pan searing.
The best cuts of steak suitable for pan-searing include Sirloin, Fillet, Eye fillet, T-Bone, and flank steaks.
These steaks are cut from the most tender and flavorsome parts of a cow, contain a good portion of marbling (intramuscular fat), and have a great tolerance for high heat.
Sirloin steak has been often described as a true steak lover’s favorite choice of steak. It is known by other names throughout the world including, Porterhouse, and New York strip steak. Sirloin steak is a premium cut that is very tender and flavorful. Sirloin steak is butchered from the hindquarters of the cow and is removed in two parts, the top sirloin, and the bottom sirloin. Both of these cuts of meat are premium cuts, however, top sirloin is considered more tender, has a rich and firmer texture, has a higher heat tolerance than the bottom cut sirloin steaks, and is perfectly suited for the technique of pan-searing in a skillet or frying pan.
Eye fillet is the most premium cut and best quality steak available from your local butcher. It can also be known as fillet steak, beef fillet, fillet mignon, and beef tenderloin.
Eye fillet is cut from the hindquarters of the cow, this incredibly tender and succulent muscle sits beneath the ribs, behind the kidney and extends along the backbone, and does very little work, which is why it is so tender. Eye fillet steaks are very lean, have very little intramuscular fat, and boast a mild, buttery flavor.
As eye fillet steaks contain very little fat, if they are overcooked they tend to become dry and a little chewy. Eye fillet steak is suited to the hot and fast cooking method of pan-searing, allowing the outer to quickly charr with the internal meat being undercooked and will remain tender and juicy. Eye fillet steak is best served medium to medium rare when cooked.
Scotch fillet or rib-eye is one of the most popular steaks for lovers of steak. Scotch fillet is cut from the rib area of a cow, usually between ribs six through twelve of the animal.
Scotch fillet is one of the most flavorful, juicy, tender steaks available. They have a heavy marbling of fat which causes the meat to be full of flavor and very tender when cooked using a hot and fast technique like pan searing.
Scotch fillets can be prepared by your butcher with the bone in (Tomahawk steak) or boneless. The extra fat and moisture from the rib bone will enhance the flavor of the steak when it is cooked.
T-bone steak is the classic of all cuts of steaks. It is the steak that has it all!
T-bone is a crosscut from the front of the short loin, it has a “T” shaped bone and contains a strip of top sirloin on one side of the bone and a small piece of eye fillet on the other. It has moderate marbling of fat which keeps the meat moist and tender whilst cooking the steak. The “T” bone is part of the cow’s vertebra, when it is cooked it imparts a deep rich flavor to the meat.
T-bone steaks are perfect for grilling, but pan-searing is by far the tastiest way to cook a T-bone steak. Pan searing will result in a steak that will have a crusty charred outer with a juicy tender inside.
Flank steak is a lean, long, very flavorful cut of beef, cut from the underbelly of the cow located below the loin and sirloin. It is an affordable cut of meat and is considered tough if not cooked correctly. Because flank steak is lean and has little fat, it is suited for marination before cooking, which tenderizes the meat. Once marinated, cooked quickly at high heat, and cut across the grain thinly after it has been cooked, flank steak is full of flavor and melt in your mouth tender.
Choose the right Pan
The art of pan-searing steak is to get your pan as hot as possible. When choosing a pan suitable for pan searing, it is important to remember to select a pan capable of handling high temperatures. The best pan materials to choose from are heavy cast iron or 5 ply stainless cookware. Both of these materials are ideal for pan-seared cooking, they will heat evenly, absorb the heat fast, and transfer the heat quickly to the steak.
Because cast iron pans need to be seasoned regularly to prevent food from sticking to them, the seasoning technique infuses flavors into the pan. When heated at high-temperature iron molecules and the seasoning flavors leach into the food as it cooks. Because of this leaching process, cooking a steak on a cast iron pan creates a fantastic flavored steak. For this reason, many steak aficionados will choose to use a cast-iron skillet as their go-to pan to cook a perfect steak.
When selecting a Stainless Steel skillet choose a 3 or 5 Ply construction. These heavy-based pans are ideal for pan searing. Stainless steel skillets even distribute heat evenly and can be heated to high temperatures required for these styles of cooking. But it is important to remember that food will stick to stainless steel cookware, so use a high-temperature oil when cooking with them, and remember the techniques of cooking with stainless cookware. When pan-searing a steak, remember, do not move your steak until it releases itself from the pan, this may take up to 2 minutes per side. However, if you leave your steak to release from the bottom of the pan, it will be perfectly seared with a wonderfully browned crust.
Another great choice for a pan can be a cast iron or stainless steel grill pan. The grilled pattern of these pans is a perfect way to recreate a barbequed grilled pattern on your steak, so it looks likes it has just come off a barbeque.
Pan-Seared Cooking Technique
Pan searing is the perfect cooking technique to cook the perfect, T-bone, Sirloin, Eye Fillet, Scotch Fillet, and Flank steaks. Although all these steaks are different cuts of meat from different parts of the cow, they are however all suited to high-temperature quick cooking. Follow these simple techniques for pan searing and you will end up with a steak as good as your favorite restaurant.
Remove from the refrigerator
The first stage (that is after selecting your choice cut of beef) is to remove the meat from the refrigerator at least one hour before cooking your steak. Bringing your steaks up to room temperature will allow the meat to cook evenly through the steak. Bringing your meat to room temperature will also allow the outer layer of the steak to cook faster, allowing for nice brown charr, and will make the steak juicer in the middle. When adding cold meat to a hot skillet, it will also cause the meat to tense up, become chewy reduce the temperature of the pan, and can result in the steak stewing.
Allow your steak to come to room temperature
After allowing your steaks to come to room temperature, pat them very dry with kitchen paper and remove all the moisture on the surface of the steak. By removing all the moisture you will achieve a great sear, prevent the steak from stewing in excess moisture, maintain the heat in the pan, and reduce any oil splatter when adding the steak to the hot oil in the pan.
Season your steak
Season your steak on both sides heavily 30 minutes before cooking your steak with good quality sea salt, but don’t pepper it yet. By salting your steak before cooking, it will draw out any excess moisture, let this moisture draw out, and over the 30 minutes, time will draw the moisture back into the meat. This process will allow season your steak well, as well as cause it to become more tender and moist inside. Personal choice dictates when to season with cracked black pepper, some just before you add your steak to the pan (the pepper will burn – some like this flavor), others suggest after cooking to prevent the taste of burnt pepper.
Now to heat your thick and heavy skillet. Heat your skillet pan without oil on medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, this should get your skillet smoking hot (200-210.C). Once properly pre-heated, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the skillet, allow 10 seconds for it to heat, then add 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet, once the butter begins to foam, swirl to coat the base of the skillet then immediately add the steak.
Reduce the heat to medium. Season the steaks generously with salt and pepper and continue cooking, turning the steaks every other minute, until you see little pearls of blood come to the surface, about 3 -4 minutes. By this time your steak will be perfectly seared on both sides and should be cooked rare to medium for juicy, tender meat.
Steaks with a fat cap
If you are cooking a steak with a fat cap (Porterhouse, Sirloin, and T-bone) make sure to sear the fat cap edge for about 30 seconds. Check the internal temperature of the steak with a meat thermometer regularly during the cooking process to ensure the individual request for your guests.
Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan, 2-3 stalks of fresh thyme, and a crushed clove of garlic. Baste the steak with this mixture for 30 seconds. By basting with butter, not only will it give your steak a nice buttery and herb taste, but it will create a shiny glossy finish to your steak and brown your steak evenly
Use a Meat Thermometer
Using a meat thermometer check the internal temperature of the steak for doneness. (Temperature Guide For Cooking Steak – Medium rare 55°c-60°c, Medium 60°c to 65°c, Medium Well 65°c-70°c)Once the steak reaches the desired temperature for your guest, remove the steak from the pan and place it on a wire rack and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.
Rest Your Steak
Resting your steak will allow the steak time to reabsorb juices evenly throughout the steak. If you do not rest your steak, all these juices will be lost and ooze out when you cut the meat. By resting the steak for 10 minutes the juices that are retained create a juicy and incredibly tasty steak.
Serve to your guests.