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Pan-searing is the best way to cook a steak, and it’s also the easiest!
I love the kind of dinner that you can cook without a recipe. The truth is, good cooking is more about technique than recipes and the best dishes are often the simplest to prepare. A properly cooked steak is case in point. With just a few ingredients and a single pan, you can cook a steak that’s as delicious as one you’d order in a high-end steakhouse.
The key is knowing how to pan-sear. Pan-searing is a classic technique in which the surface of the food is cooked undisturbed in a very hot pan until a crisp, golden-brown, flavorful crust forms. It’s the key to building flavor and texture in a dish. It also prevents sticking and gives your food a restaurant-quality look. Pan-searing is the absolute best way to cook a steak (salmon, too), and it also happens to be the easiest.
What you’ll need to Cook Steak on The Stovetop
When it comes to beef, the best candidates for pan-searing are boneless, quick-cooking cuts between one and one-and-a-half inches thick, such as NY Strip, rib eye or filet mignon. (For larger or slow-cooking cuts, like roast beef tenderloin with red wine sauce or beef stew with carrots and potatoes, pan-searing is usually the first step, and then you finish the cooking in the oven.)
How to cook steak On The Stovetop
To begin, pat the steak dry with paper towels. (Any moisture on the exterior of the steak must first evaporate before the meat begins to brown.)
Season the steaks generously on both sides with salt and pepper; the seasoning will stick to the surface and help create a delicious crust.
Turn on your exhaust fan and heat a heavy pan over medium-high heat until it’s VERY hot. The best pans for pan-searing are stainless steel or cast-iron since they can withstand high temperatures.
Add the oil to the pan. You’ll know it’s hot enough when it begins to shimmer and move fluidly around the pan.
Carefully set the steak in the pan, releasing it away from you so the oil doesn’t splatter in your direction. It should sizzle. (Use a pan that is large enough that it’s not such a tight fit or the pan will cool down and your food will steam instead of sear.)
Leave it alone! Avoid the temptation to peek or fiddle or flip repeatedly. The steaks need a few minutes undisturbed to develop a brown crust. (Don’t worry about sticking; the steaks will release easily when they are ready to flip.)
Flip the steaks when they release easily and the bottom is a deep-brown color (usually about 3 minutes).
Continue to cook the steaks for another 3 to 4 minutes on the bottom side for rare or medium-rare.
During the last minute of cooking, add 1 tablespoon of butter and a few sprigs of fresh thyme to the pan with the steaks (this is optional but delicious).
Read more Cut Your Own Meat and Save Money!
If you are serving the steaks unsliced, transfer them to plates and serve hot. If you plan to slice the steaks, transfer them to a cutting board and let rest, covered with aluminum foil, for 5 to 10 minutes; then slice thinly against the grain. (Resting allows the juices to redistribute from the outside of the steaks; if you slice them too soon, the juices will pour out of them.)
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