The One Mistake Nearly Everyone Makes When Pan Searing a Steak
Cooking a restaurant-worthy steak on the stovetop should not be a daunting task. Read through these blunders, resolve to avoid them, and you can pan-sear a gloriously juicy steak dinner in the middle of the week.
You Don't Choose the Right Cut for the Job
When it comes to steaks, a T-bone may be the universal favorite cut of beef, and these are ideal when grilling outside. The best steaks for pan searing on the stovetop, however, are boneless steaks that are between 1 and 11/2-inches thick. Look for a steak with a good bit of marbling, or fat; along with imparting good flavor, fat helps the steak to remain juicy during the cooking process. Pan searing is also a great method to use on thinner steaks, such as flank or flat-iron, but keep in mind the entire cooking process happens much faster.
You Neglect to Prep
Prepping a steak is three easy steps: set it out, dry it, and salt it. Depending on how long you let the steak sit, prepping might actually take longer than the cook time; even so, you can still have a hot and juicy steak dinner ready in anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 ½ hours. Take your steak out of the refrigerator anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour before cook time. (Some cooks cut this time down to 10-15 minutes before cook time.) Place it on a roasting rack or a paper towel-lined plate and pat dry with more paper towels. Season both sides of the meat with a good dosing of medium grain kosher or sea salt. If you think you have added enough salt, go ahead and salt a little more, as a lot of salt grains will fall off into the pan during cooking. Save the pepper or steak seasoning until you take the steak off the heat, because the extremely hot pan (see the next topic below) will burn these spices before they have a chance to flavor the steak. Some cooks will salt the steak and let it sit out a mere 10 to 15 minutes. Use this time to prepare a side dish or toss a salad to accompany the steak at mealtime.
You Pick the Wrong Skillet
You need to cook your steak in a really hot skillet so reach for one that can withstand high temperatures, such as a heavy weight non-stick or the much-loved classic cast iron skillet. Heat it over high heat for about 10 minutes or until the skillet starts to smoke. The intense heat is key to a creating a nice crust on your steak.
You Forget to Flip and Flavor
Place the steak in the hot skillet and cook on the first side until enough of a crust has formed that the steak no longer sticks to the pan, about 1 minute. Flip and cook on the other side for 1 minute, or until that side does not stick. Some steak aficionados will tell you to flip only once, others advise to flip two or three times, cooking on each side for 1 minute before flipping. Choose your own method but, after about 4 minutes, add some butter (onions, herbs, garlic, etc. can go in now) to the pan. As it melts, tilt the pan so the butter pools on one side, and use a spoon to scoop the butter and drizzle it over the steak. You can flip again and continue to baste, checking internal temp after 5-6 minutes. Cook to your desired degree of doneness.
WATCH: The Southern Gentleman's Pan-Seared Skirt Steak & Chimichurri
You Rush the Finish
Once your steak has reached your preferred temp, transfer it to a platter and season with more kosher or sea salt, pepper and steak seasonings. Let it rest for 5 minutes (if you simply can't resist, it is ok to cut into it at this point), slice against the grain, and serve.