The Art of Pan-Seared Steak: Perfecting the Ultimate Steak at Home

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Video cooking steak in stainless steel pan

Are you tired of spending a fortune on restaurant-quality steaks? Look no further! This guide will teach you the art of pan-searing the perfect steak, complete with a mouth-watering garlic herb butter and flavorful pan juices. With my insider tips from years of experience as a chef, you’ll be able to recreate the tender, juicy, and flavorful steaks you’ve always craved right in the comfort of your own home.

The Perfect Pan-Seared Steak

Whether you prefer a New York strip steak, a ribeye, or any other thick cut with beautiful marbling, the key to the best steak lies in simplicity. A perfectly seasoned steak boasts a deliciously golden brown crust on the outside, while remaining melt-in-your-mouth tender and juicy on the inside. While some may choose to use pan drippings as a sauce or top their steak with a simple compound butter like garlic butter, the choice is yours. What’s certain is that achieving a steakhouse-quality meal at home is easier than you think.

Selecting the Best Steak for Pan Searing

For optimal results, opt for high-quality steaks such as USDA Prime or USDA Choice cuts that are well marbled and uniform in size. Thicker steaks, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches, are ideal for pan searing. Although bone-in steaks can be used, be aware that they will take slightly longer to cook.

Here are a few popular cuts to consider:

  • Ribeye Steak: Also known as Delmonico steak, this cut is celebrated for its meatiness, rich flavor, and generous marbling that creates an incredibly tasty steak. It’s also perfect for making delicious pan sauces.
  • Strip Steak or New York Strip Steak: This steak is well marbled and boasts excellent taste. With no pockets of fat in the middle, it’s easy to slice neatly.
  • Beef Tenderloin or Filet Mignon: Often referred to as the most tender cut of beef, this buttery steak is prized for its mild flavor. While it’s great for pan searing, be cautious as it may cook faster than other cuts.
  • Top Sirloin: Lean, tender, and mild, this cut offers a bit of chewiness and is more budget-friendly. Just make sure to get “top sirloin” rather than sirloin or bottom sirloin steak, as those are different cuts.

Sliced steak topped with garlic herb butter

The Butter Baste Steak Magic

To take your pan-seared steak to the next level, you’ll need a few simple ingredients:

  • Oil: Use extra virgin olive oil for a deliciously rich flavor.
  • Butter: Opt for unsalted butter, although salted butter works great too.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic cloves add a burst of aromatic flavor. Lightly bruise or smash them for optimal results.
  • Herbs: I recommend using fresh rosemary as it can withstand the high heat of cooking. Alternatively, you can use fresh thyme or a combination of both.
  • Seasonings: A good steak requires minimal seasoning, especially when butter basting. Just a generous sprinkling of salt and black pepper will do the trick.
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Ingredients to make the best steak with garlic and herb butter

Crafting the Garlic Herb Butter for Steak

Elevate your pan-seared steak with a luscious garlic herb butter. To make it, gather the following ingredients:

  • Butter: Softened unsalted butter is preferable, but salted butter will work too.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic is a must for an irresistible burst of flavor.
  • Fresh Herbs: Get creative and use your favorite combination of minced fresh herbs. Personally, I adore fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley, but feel free to choose what speaks to your taste buds.
  • Seasonings: Enhance the butter with a sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Sea salt or Kosher salt works perfectly for compound butters.

Mixing the Garlic herb butter ingredients in a small white bowl with a fork

Essential Tools for Pan Searing Steak

To achieve pan-seared steak perfection, make sure you have the following items on hand:

  • A heavy pan: Utilize a cast iron skillet, a heavy stainless steel skillet, or a combination of both for best results. A 12-inch skillet is ideal for two big steaks, while a 10-inch one is perfect for smaller cuts like filet mignon. Cast iron retains heat exceptionally well, resulting in a beautiful crust.
  • Kitchen Tongs: These are indispensable for securing a firm grip on your steaks. However, if you find yourself without tongs, a fork can also do the trick (gasp!).
  • Meat Thermometer: Accurate temperature measurement is crucial for determining the steak’s doneness. Invest in an instant-read meat thermometer and insert it into the thickest part of the steak for the best results.

Mastering Pan Searing on the Stovetop

Now, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of pan searing steak on your stovetop:

  1. Pat Dry: Bring your steak to room temperature and use paper towels to pat it dry. Excess moisture on the surface of the steak can hinder achieving a perfect sear.
  2. Season: Just before cooking, generously season the steak with salt and black pepper. Alternatively, you can salt the steaks 40 minutes to 24 hours in advance for enhanced flavor.
  3. Heat the Pan: Set your cast iron or heavy stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil, swirling it around to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the oil is hot, carefully place the steaks in the pan.
  4. Sear: Allow the steak to sear on the first side until a beautiful brown crust forms. Flip the steak only if it easily releases from the pan. If the steak has fatty sides, briefly sear those as well.
  5. Baste: During the last 2 minutes of cooking, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the butter, rosemary, and garlic to the skillet. Tilt the skillet so the butter pools to one side. Use a spoon to continuously baste the steaks with the melted butter, cooking until they are about 5-10 degrees away from your desired level of doneness.
  6. Rest: Transfer the steaks to a cutting board or plate, and loosely tent them with aluminum foil. Allow the steaks to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve the steaks topped with the garlic herb butter for an extra burst of flavor.
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Rib eye steak on a cast iron skillet
Flipping a golden brown steak with tongs
Juicy steak cooking with garlic and rosemary on a cast iron skillet

The Stovetop and Oven Method for Cooking Steak

If you prefer a stovetop and oven combination method for cooking your steak, follow these steps:

  1. Preheat the oven: Set the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Follow the stovetop instructions: Begin by patting the steaks dry, seasoning them, heating the pan, and searing the steaks.
  3. Transfer to the oven: Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the butter, rosemary, and garlic to the skillet. Place the skillet in the preheated oven and cook for approximately 2-4 minutes, or until the steak reaches your desired internal temperature.
  4. Rest and serve: Remove the skillet from the oven and spoon some of the butter over the steak. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board or plate, loosely tent them with aluminum foil, and allow them to rest for 10 minutes. Serve the steaks topped with the garlic herb butter for an unforgettable dining experience.

Garlic Herb Butter: A Little Extra Magic

To create the garlic herb butter that takes this dish to the next level, follow these simple steps:

  1. Mix the ingredients: In a small bowl, thoroughly combine the herb butter ingredients.
  2. Shape and chill: Transfer the herb butter mixture onto a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Shape it into a log, wrap it up, and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.

Achieving the Perfect Steak Doneness

To ensure perfection, keep in mind that the internal temperature of the steak will rise while it rests. To achieve your desired level of doneness, remove the steak from the heat when the internal temperature reads 5 to 10 degrees below that level. For accuracy, insert an instant-read meat thermometer into the thickest part of the steak. Here’s a temperature guide for reference:

  • Rare: 125° – 130°F
  • Medium-rare: 130° – 135°F
  • Medium: 140° – 145°F
  • Medium-well: 150° – 155°F
  • Well Done: 160°F and above

Debunking Steak Myths

Let’s dispel a few common steak myths and uncover the truth:

  • Myth: Only salt steaks right before cooking.
  • Truth: You have options. Salt the steak just before pan searing or, for even better results, salt it and allow it to rest for 40 minutes to 24 hours, either uncovered in the fridge or on a tray.
  • Myth: Never use a fork to turn your steak.
  • Truth: While using kitchen tongs is recommended, a dinner fork won’t cause any substantial damage. Contrary to popular belief, all the precious juices won’t run wild off into the pan!
  • Myth: Don’t flip your steak multiple times.
  • Truth: It really doesn’t matter. While the recipe advises against constant flipping due to the fast-paced restaurant kitchen environment, it won’t negatively impact your home-cooked steak.
  • Myth: Cook your steak in butter or butter and oil from the beginning.
  • Truth: Butter should only be added in the last 1-3 minutes of cooking. Otherwise, it will burn over high or medium-high heat, even with the addition of oil.
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Pan Searing Time: How Long is Just Right?

The ideal pan-searing time for a steak typically ranges from 8 to 12 minutes over medium-high or high heat. However, cooking times may vary based on factors such as the steak’s thickness, cut, type of meat, and your specific stove. Achieve a perfectly juicy steak by using a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Remove the steak from the heat when it reads 5 to 10 degrees below your desired level of doneness, allowing it to rest and continue cooking during the resting period.

Make-Ahead, Storing, and Reheating Tips

If you’re planning ahead, here are some suggestions for prepping, storing, and reheating your steak:

  • Make Ahead: For enhanced flavor, salt the steak at least 40 minutes prior to cooking. If you have more time, you can leave the meat uncovered in the refrigerator overnight. Just remember to bring it to room temperature before cooking.
  • Storing: Store leftover steak in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
  • Reheating: While reheating may cause some overcooking, you can still enjoy your leftovers. Reheat the steak in a preheated 300°F oven by placing it in an oven-safe container with a few tablespoons of broth, covered with aluminum foil. Heat until warmed through, about 8 minutes. Alternatively, you can use the microwave on 60% power, reheating in short intervals until warmed through.

Perfect Sides to Complement Your Steak

Complete your steak feast with these delectable side dish options:

  • Roasted Fingerling Potatoes Recipe
  • Crispy Parmesan Oven Roasted Asparagus
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes
  • Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
  • The Best Sauteed Green Beans

So there you have it: the ultimate guide to pan searing the perfect steak. Impress your family and friends with restaurant-quality results, all from the convenience of your own kitchen. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different cuts and flavors to find your own signature steak masterpiece. With a little practice, you’ll soon become a master of the art of pan-seared steak.

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