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How To Cook Steak On The Stovetop

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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

ingredients

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.

seasoned steaks

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.)

pan-sear steaks in skillet

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).

flipping steaks

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).

pan-sear steaks butter and thyme

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.)

Video Tutorial

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Pan-Seared Steaks

Pan-searing is the best way to cook a steak, and it’s also the easiest!

Servings: 2 to 4
Prep Time: 4 Minutes
Cook Time: 6 Minutes
Total Time: 10 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 (12-oz) New York strip or ribeye steaks or 4 (6-oz) filet mignons, about 1½ inches thick
  • 1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • A few sprigs fresh thyme leaves

Instructions

  1. To begin, pat the steaks dry with paper towels.
  2. Season the steaks all over with the salt and pepper.
  3. Turn on your exhaust fan and heat a heavy pan (preferably cast iron or stainless steel) over medium-high heat until it's VERY hot.
  4. Add the oil to the pan and heat until it begins to shimmer and move fluidly around the pan.
  5. Carefully set the steaks in the pan, releasing them away from you so the oil doesn’t splatter in your direction. The oil should sizzle.
  6. Leave the steaks alone! Avoid the temptation to peek or fiddle or flip repeatedly; the steaks need a few minutes undisturbed to develop a golden crust. Flip the steaks when they release easily and the bottom is a deep-brown color, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook the steaks for another 3 to 4 minutes on the second side for rare to medium-rare. (For medium, cook 4 to 5 minutes on second side; for well-done, cook 5 to 6 minutes on second side).
  7. During the last minute of cooking, add the butter and thyme sprigs to the pan with the steaks.
  8. 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.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Serving size: 6-oz portion NY Strip
  • Calories: 492
  • Fat: 39 g
  • Saturated fat: 14 g
  • Protein: 33 g
  • Sodium: 421 mg
  • Cholesterol: 147 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • I’m on a low carb diet with a low grocery budget, a combination that rendered my take on this recipe to be done with top round instead of a strip or filet. I have to say, adjusting a minute less per side for the thinner cut, the method described here was absolutely perfect. I have found the one I’m sticking with after some less than stellar results from recipes on other sites. Turned out flavorful, perfectly medium-rare, and-and this was a nice bonus for going with a cut of round-delightfully tender. Thank you so much for the great information!

    • — Brian from Jackson on September 29, 2022
    • Reply
  • This steak is on my “next week” docket, although obsessing and looking forward begins today 🙂 Would be interested in hearing if you pan sear steaks directly from the fridge, or if you let them come to room temperature first.

    • — Jeff Winett on September 15, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Jeff, you definitely can take them out about 30 minutes ahead of time. (I usually forget though and they still turn out well.) 🙂

      • — Jenn on September 16, 2022
      • Reply
  • Can confirm – this is the *best* way to make steaks. Simple, straightforward, and flawless each time. You can also include slightly more involved rubs, but don’t go too crazy and be sure to be careful in what you choose. The very high heat can scald some herbs, so make sure you choose a more heat-tolerant rub or seasoning. The herb butter process here is truly *chefs kiss*

    • — Sam Minish on September 15, 2022
    • Reply
  • A great recipe and the only way we prepare steaks! A suggestion for those concerned about the smoke and potential splatter indoors is to heat your skillet and perform the entire operation on your outdoor grill. Works just as well without chancing the smoke alarms!

    • — Andy on September 15, 2022
    • Reply

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