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.)

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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 (six-oz) filet mignons, about 1-1/2-inches thick
  • 1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 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.

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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Reviews & Comments

  • Such an easy recipe to follow. Steaks came out perfect! I added a little brown sugar on one side for caramelization, and it came out perfectly medium.

    • — Mama Lesa on July 31, 2020
    • Reply
  • Very tasty! But don’t forget to sear the edges of the steak also. Get that tasty fat rendered.
    But this is not the only way to cook a great steak with an overall crusty sear. And being best is very much a matter of opinion and choice.

    Many high end steak restaurants like to use an extreme high heat broiler appliance.

    Another technique for thick steaks is the ‘reverse sear-cold grate’ technique. Works awesome to get that tasty smokey/grilled crusty flavor without the burnt(overly acrid/bitter) grill marks.

    What I like to do with thinner steaks is grill it for half the cooking time, then cast iron sear for the second half of the cooking time. Or I will use the flat side of my grill grate accessory. You get the excellent smokey grill flavor with the crusty sear of a cast iron pan.

    • — Paco on July 26, 2020
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  • Absolutely delicious. Thank you

    • — Marie on July 16, 2020
    • Reply
  • the BEST way to cook a steak. Brushed each steak with EVO before generously seasoning with salt and pepper. No need to oil the pan. Mash some butter with anchovies or anchovy paste and place on top of cooked steak.
    Couldn’t be any better

    • — Carol Winkelman on July 13, 2020
    • Reply
  • I’ve never cooked a steak before, and oh my god my entire family was SHOCKED by how good this was!!! For future reference – I might’ve used a bit less salt and a bit more herbs, but as is was fantastic! I didn’t have enough thyme to flavor well, so I did a mix of thyme and basil and it was great. I also had 3 different steaks to cook and only one pan, so I cooked them all for 3 minutes per side then put them on a plate, then I added the butter and herbs and gave an extra 30-40 seconds per side to add the flavor. Thanks for such a phenomenal cooking technique!!!

    • — Sheila on July 12, 2020
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  • Hi Jenn, thank you for the recipe. It came out perfect

    • — Nelson on July 10, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, what are your thoughts on finishing this in the oven to achieve medium doneness?

    • — Chad on July 8, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Chad, That will work but, if the steaks aren’t too thick, you could also just reduce the heat a bit on the second side and finish them on the stovetop.

      • — Jenn on July 9, 2020
      • Reply
  • This worked out great for us!! We had (two) 10 oz New York strips and I used my inherited cast iron skillet. It did create quite a spatter. I don’t have a spatter shield. What will happen if I cover with a lid? Also, can you marinate the meat in place of the salt/pepper? Making sure of course, that it is dry before you add to the skillet. Thanks so much!

    • — Rose Stuber on June 23, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Rose, Glad you liked it! I wouldn’t cover it with a lid but you could lay a piece of foil loosely over the pan and leave a little opening (you don’t want a tight seal). And, sure, I think you could marinate it if you’d like.

      • — Jenn on June 23, 2020
      • Reply
  • How would this work for sirloin?

    • — colleen on June 4, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on June 4, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. I am excited to try this recipe as where I live, I cannot have a grill. Do you have a suggestion as to whether you like the stainless steel or cast iron better? I see that you show cast iron.

    • — Nery on May 28, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Nery, Either will work well, but if I had to choose, I’d probably go with the cast iron. I think you may get a slightly better sear with it.

      • — Jenn on May 29, 2020
      • Reply
  • This is good instruction for basic steak cooking. If you don’t have success with it…you need more practice.

    • — David Christy on May 28, 2020
    • Reply
  • Wow! I am stuck at home in Brussels and needed to start clearing out my freezer to find dinner. I found a lovely filet, but my grill was out of gas. Jenn to the rescue!!! My filet was absolutely gorgeous- perfectly cooked and seasoned! I already love your book and blog, but this was just superb. Thank you for keeping a girl well-fed.

    • — Jamie on May 21, 2020
    • Reply
  • Can you talk about oils? I see you use vegetable oil in this recipe rather than olive oil? Is there a reason?

    • — Mary Ward on May 21, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Mary, Vegetable oil has a lower smoke point than olive oil, so it’s better to use it when you’re heating oil to a high temperature. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on May 21, 2020
      • Reply
  • Thanks for saving me from the broiler…and the clean up. I followed your recipe and it came out delicious. And thanks for telling me not to play with it until it released. Because that is what I would have done. The steak came out medium rare, just the way we like it. It was a T-bone steak, BTW.

    • — Tom on May 6, 2020
    • Reply
  • This reminded me of the heavens.

    • — zig on May 5, 2020
    • Reply
  • Telling people to GENEROUSLY season with SALT and pepper DESTROYED my rib eye. I cannot believe the good reviews. I did what you said and though MY gut saved the medium rare I wanted(had to cook at least twice as long as you suggested. However the steak was inedible! I’m serious. WAY too salty. I’m a vert experienced and good cook, but circumstances put me in a place I had to cook a rib eye on the stove. Very surprised that you publish such a disastrous recipe.

    Other reviewers could not have used salt as you so illy advised.

    • — David on May 2, 2020
    • Reply
    • But we did use salt as she “so illy advised”. You’re one of those toxic people who hates on other people. She has a lot of good reviews for a reason. Have a seat & try find something more productive to do

      • — zig on May 5, 2020
      • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious! Never made one on the stove top before. Just the broiler and what a mess! This recipe is to die for, and if you have a splatter cover there is virtually no mess. Great flavor and super tender. I used ribeyes.

    • — Teresa L Oswald on April 21, 2020
    • Reply
  • Delicious! I never make steak period. It was always awful…on the stove. Too much trouble to fire up the grill for me. I used the iron skillet and followed these instructions…I had a wonderful steak!!! I enjoyed every bite!!

    • — Denise on April 15, 2020
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  • Never cooked steak in a pan before. I’ve been missing something! So flavorful and inside perfect doneness! A good alternative to the grill!

    • — Jack on April 12, 2020
    • Reply
  • First time ever cooking a steak, followed this recipe and it came out PERFECT

    • — Jeff on April 8, 2020
    • Reply
  • Excellent! Straightforward directions (thanks) and super easy. Would not have thought of adding the thyme at the end, thanks for that idea – we loved it. Appreciated your reminder to select the right sized pan and followed instructions exactly. Served with broccoli, a salad and your basmati rice – a lovely meal!! Thanks again Jen!

    • — Barrie on April 2, 2020
    • Reply
    • I meant to point out it was the basmati rice in your COOKBOOK – and it was fantastic!! First time making that! Thanks

      • — Barrie on April 2, 2020
      • Reply
  • Thanks 😊

    • — CDG on March 5, 2020
    • Reply
  • Followed this to cook five rib eye steaks this evening for my son in law’s birthday dinner (used 2 large cast iron pans). I put the butter right on each steak to melt in at the end as well as doing a quick baste of pan juices and then letting them sit as recommended. We all really enjoyed our steak dinner, it was great! Thanks Jenn!

    • — Sandra H on February 5, 2020
    • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious way to cook steak indoors! We loved it. Thanks for another awesome recipe, Jenn!

    • — Corinne on November 15, 2019
    • Reply
  • I’ve been cooking this same recipe for years. When I don’t feel like grilling (Which is totally different), this is an amazing option. For an added touch I will also rest the steaks against the side of the hot pan on the fat side for a few moments for the fat content to melt with a clove of thick sliced garlic in the pan just prior to adding the thyme and butter. Swirl and spoon over steaks. Mangia!

    • — Lenny on October 18, 2019
    • Reply
  • Of course this will work as you described Jenn, as you said, it works wonderfully with your pan-seared salmon recipe. That’s the only way I make salmon anymore. It’s fantastic. By coincidence we are having tenderloin tonight and I’ll be cooking it just this way.

    • — Frank on October 17, 2019
    • Reply
    • Great timing — Hope you enjoy! 🙂

      • — Jenn on October 17, 2019
      • Reply
  • Great instructions! This recipe is also great with some basil added at the very end …very aromatic, and some wine added to pan after steaks have been removed to create a tasty sauce. Thank you

    • — Richard Schinella on October 17, 2019
    • Reply
  • How long should you cook it for medium well thank you

    • — Sasha on October 17, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Sasha, keep the timing as is on the first side and, once you flip it, cook for about 5 minutes more. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on October 18, 2019
      • Reply
  • How much oil for the hot pan?

    • — Jeraldine on October 17, 2019
    • Reply
    • You’ll need 2 tablespoons. (Sorry – I just added it!) Hope you enjoy. 🙂

      • — Jenn on October 17, 2019
      • Reply

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