First things first, to have a perfectly pan seared steak, you HAVE to have a perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet! Whether it’s new or an old faithful – keep it seasoned for absolutely amazing cooking - protecting it from rusting is as easy as a scrub, oil, and bake. Here's how to season your cast-iron skillet.
- Scrub skillet well in hot soapy water.
- Dry thoroughly.
- Spread a thin layer of melted shortening or vegetable oil over the skillet.
- Place it upside down on a middle oven rack at 375°. (Place foil on a lower rack to catch drips.)
- Bake 1 hour; let cool in the oven.
Now, on the the “meat” of the blog…
How to Sear a Steak
Searing steak is so easy to do! Here are our top tips for a pan seared steak that is caramelized on the outside, and juicy in the middle.
We enjoy a great steak in our house, and because we live in Canada, outdoor grilling can be difficult at times during the year – we sometimes have to shovel our way to it! Fortunately, this doesn’t stop us, as searing steak on the stove is a fantastic method too, and you can make this any time of year in less than 10 minutes. This method is also fantastic if you live in a condo, apartment or just don't have a bbq yet!
The way a steak is prepared makes all the difference in the flavour and tenderness of the meat.
The first thing you want to do is lay your steaks out on a board and blot them dry with a paper towel:
It may not seem like there’s much moisture on the outside of the steaks, but look how a few dabs really wets the paper towel:
Excess moisture on the outside of your steak is the enemy of a caramelized and browned steak. This is because the moisture must first evaporate before the browning can happen, so you want to get rid of as much as possible from the start.
Now that the steak is dry, start heating up a cast iron skillet over high heat. I find cast iron to be the best for searing steaks because it’s naturally nonstick, it retains heat wonderfully, and the material gives a better sear than a stainless steel pan.
If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you should consider buying one (it’s a fantastic cooking investment and you can find them on great sales!) but if you don’t have one right now, you can use any uncoated pan with good heat retention (heavy bottomed, copper core, etc). Do not use nonstick cookware, as the heat needed is too high and will ruin the pan.
Additionally, pick a skillet that is close in size to your steak. If you use gigantic pan for a small steak, the uncovered areas will soon be covered in burned steak juices.
When the skillet is screaming hot (I drizzle a couple of drops of water – if they dance, it’s good to go!), it’s time to season the steaks. I add a generous sprinkle of salt and black pepper:
Important: You don’t want to season the steaks with salt earlier than right before you cook them, otherwise the salt will draw out moisture and make the outside wet again.
Next, add about a teaspoon of oil (use a high smoke factor oil – avocado, extra virgin olive, etc) to the pan, and spread it out with a brush:
The reason I like to use a small amount of oil and brush it out, is then I don’t have any issues with oil splattering.
Add the steaks to the pan, making sure that you hear a loud sizzling noise when you do. If you don’t hear a loud sear, the pan is not hot enough, and you should take the steaks out immediately and heat the pan longer.
(Also, make sure the overhead fan is on while you cook since the high heat produces more smoke than low heat cooking).
How long do you sear a steak for?
For a 1-inch thick piece, the steak should cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side for medium rare on a relatively high heat gas stove.
While the steak is cooking, don’t touch it or move it at all. The steak should only be flipped one time, after that first 3-4 minute period when you check that the bottom is a beautiful golden brown color.
How do you know when the steak is done?
Because of variations in the strength of different stoves, it is helpful to have a meat thermometer, at least until you develop the ability to press a steak with your finger and know how done it is. Make sure you insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the steak and give it a few seconds to measure.
Finger testing - If you press on the steak and it yields to your finger and feels soft, then it’s still rare inside. Once the meat pushes back and it feels firm, it’s cooked well done.
Here are the temperatures for steak doneness:
- Rare – 125°, very red inside, cool interior
- Medium rare – 135°, red inside and warm
- Medium – 145°, pink inside and warm
- Medium well – 150°, slightly pink inside and warm
- Well – 160°, no pink inside
Keep in mind that the steaks will cook another 5 degrees from carryover cooking after you remove them from the heat, so pull them a little early.
Always let your steak rest after searing
After you take your steak out of the pan, let it rest on a plate for 5 minutes. If you cut into it right away, all the tasty juices will run out onto your plate. Resting the steak gives it time for the juices to redistribute throughout, so your steak is nice and juicy – you can tent foil over the plate to help keep the steak warm – make sure you don’t wrap it tightly, build a tent with your piece of foil so it is raised over the steaks.
We often eat our steaks simply seasoned with salt and pepper or a steak spice mixture (there are several amazing ones out there, or make you own blend) before cooking, but sometimes I add a pat of butter, or I make a compound butter. All you have to do is soften salted butter and mix it with herbs, like chopped chives.
- Can you cook steaks from frozen? No, always thaw the steaks first. If you’re in a hurry, you can thaw them in a cold water bath – make sure you have the steaks in a bowl in the water.
- Which steak is the best cut? Every cut has its merits, honestly. I recommend trying them all and deciding from there. My personal favourite is either ribeye or NY striploin.
- How long can you store leftover steak? First – what is “leftover steak”? If you do have leftovers, our suggestion is a maximum of 1-2 days in the refrigerator in an air tight container or wra. I don’t recommend freezing cooked steak.
- How to reheat steak– Again, while we never have leftovers, I recommend using the same pan you cooked it in originally, for a couple minutes on each side over medium heat, just enough to rewarm it and not over cook it. You don’t have to tent steak when re heating