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

  • 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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