Pan seared steak is delicious, with a crusty, seared outside and a tender, juicy inside. If you can’t cook outside on your grill, or you don’t want the hassle, don’t fret! While you don’t get that smokey flavor of a grill, a good steak cooked in a cast iron skillet or other good pan is about as good as you can get.
When learning how to cook steak, one of the primary concerns for most people is how to get a nice seared exterior while keeping the inside nice and juicy, not dry and tough. Below are a number of tips on how to make pan seared steak that is easy and delicious.
How to make a Perfect Pan Seared Steak:
First of all, I’m not going to go into all the details of how to cook a good steak. I already have other pages devoted to that. For detailed tips on how to grill a steak, including choosing meat, seasoning and marinating and the like, check out my Grilled Steak page and my Grilling Steak page.
- Choice of Pan: For pan seared steak of course you need a good pan! My ideal choice is a good ol’ cast iron pan like the one pictured above. It is heavy, handles high heat well, has good heat distribution and is all made of metal so you can throw it in the oven. If you don’t have a cast iron pan (they are pretty cheap), any heavy duty frying or sauté pan will do. Try to find one which is sturdy and all metal, without non-stick coating or a wooden or plastic handle. You are going to need to throw it in the oven so if it has a wooden or plastic handle it might catch fire or melt!
- Pan Sear, Then Bake: The key to pan searing is the you use the ultra-hot skillet just to sear the steaks nicely, to get a nice caramelized crust on the surface of the steak, while leaving the inside tender and juicy. You can then finish the steak in a hot oven to bring the internal temperature up to your desired doneness.
- First be sure to let your steaks come up to room temperature. While waiting, pre-heat your oven to about 500 degrees F with your cast iron skillet inside.
- Just before ready to cook, season or marinate your steaks any way you like. If I have a good prime steak then I like to let the meat speak for itself without too much getting in the way. Just rub it with a generous amount of coarse salt and pepper just before cooking.
- Use a oven mitt to pull the skillet out of the oven, leave the oven on, and put the skillet on a burner turned up to high.
- Some people like to leave the skillet bare but I like to use a bit of oil to help with the sear so I add a couple tablespoons of olive oil, usually mixed with a bit of something else like grapeseed oil to keep the smoke point up.
- After the oil has had a few moments to heat up fully, throw those steaks in the pan. If your pan was hot enough it should immediately sizzle aggressively. It will only take a minute or two to get a nice golden sear going on the first side. You can gently lift the edge of the steak with a spatula to take a look.
- Once your desired sear is done on the first side, flip the steaks and repeat on the second side.
- When your second side is done, you are going to throw the whole thing, pan and steaks, into the oven to finish. I like to throw a couple generous pats of butter on top of the steak at this point for a little extra flavor!
- How long you leave the pan seared steak in the oven depends on how well done you want it. For me, I like my good steak medium-rare so I just leave it in an additional minute or two. Leave longer for more done if you desire but too long as it will start to dry out and get tougher. You really don’t need more than a few minutes even for medium-well unless your steaks are really thick. You can always kinda test the doneness by pressing gently on the top of the steak with your finger to feel the resistance. Rare steaks are squishy whereas well done steaks are harder and springy. If you really like rare steaks, you may not need to put the steak in the oven at all after searing.
- When done to your desired doneness, let your meat rest! Place the steak on a platter or plate and cover with tin foil. If you like you can add another pat of butter on top! Let the steak rest 5 to 15 minutes, more for bigger, thicker steaks. This will give time for the internal temperature and juices to re-equilibrate.
Thats it! Your delicious, caramelized pan-seared steaks are ready to eat! Serve with your favorite sides and enjoy!