November 25th, 2007

Alternatives to Grilling Steak: Skillet Method

Pan-Seared Steak

Cooking steak in a skillet is easier than you might think.  You’ll need a heavy skillet, olive or other vegetable oil, tongs and, of course, your favorite steak. Be sure to turn on your kitchen ventillator to remove smoke and airborne oil that occurs while cooking.  The cooking times given are for steaks that are about 1? to 1-1/4? thick.

First, the skillet: Well-seasoned cast-iron is ideal, if you have one.  The next best choice is heavy aluminum (can be non-stick, but doesn’t have to be).  The two main things to remember is that searing a steak requires steady, even heat; the other is that the skillet should be large enough to avoid crowding your steaks.

Steaks should be barely cool or close to room temperature.  Pat them well with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.  Otherwise, the steaks will steam instead of sear.  Heat skillet over a medium-high heat until very hot, then add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan to a depth of about one-quarter inch.  When the oil begins to smoke, use your tongs to place each steak in the skillet at least one-half inch apart.

Now, leave them alone!  The point is to allow the surface of the steak to brown evenly and thoroughly.  An easy way to see if they’re ready to flip is to try moving them a bit with your tongs.  If they don’t move fairly easily, then wait a little longer.  Gently shake the pan (away from you, then towards you) to move the oil around.  When the steaks move easily with your tongs, pick them up one at a time, shake the pan to redistribute the oil and then place them back in the skillet, uncooked side down.

Repeat the browning step after flipping the steaks, until the other side is seared.  If you like your steak cooked rare, they’ll almost be done when both sides have been seared.  For medium-rare, turn the heat down to medium and flip them over to the side that seared first.  Cook about 4 to 5 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, and let them rest about 10 minutes before serving.

Tomorrow, broiling steak in your gas or electric oven.


  • John W.

    Eureka and thank you! I’d never used the method, ran out of propane for the grill, and …. you know the rest.

    Great steak! (T-Bone) Next time, I’ll try a little less oil (would have done well with about half as much), and try grapeseed oil. XV Olive oil was OK, but definitely imparted some flavor.

    Searing worked exactly as per instruction, but was much faster than anticipated. Four minutes each side for med rare was close but just a tad too long. Pink center, but not true med rare. Hard to judge when we’re looking at, e.g., “medium heat” on different stoves. Nonetheless, it was delicious, and I know exactly what to do next time.

    Steak was prepared after drying and scraping by forking and rubbing in meat tenderizer and garlic salt, then flavoring with soy sauce rubbed in on one side and Worcestershire on the other. Surprisingly, the tenderizer didn’t over-soften the meat – it was perfect after marinating in a bag for too long (abt 36 hours.)

    On an indulgence binge, I also cooked lobster for the first time. Cut the tails, eight minutes in steam, butter melted in the steamer, and it was perfect. Surf and turf to brag about.

    Couldn’t have done any of it without the help of sites such as this one, and am very grateful for the guidance. Food’s too expensive to allow for trials, and you folks have made my day and protected my wallet.

  • Dena P

    Thanks, John! Glad you had a great experience!!

    Dena

  • Peter H

    Thank you the steak was delicious :3