I spent some time with a great client a few nights ago, and we worked on his steak cooking skills. First, a trip to the market, followed by seasoning a cast iron skillet, leading us into a pan seared steak. We also put together a mushroom sauce and some whipped potatoes. As he concisely stated, ‘there are a lot of moving parts’. I wanted to break down that night into smaller, digestible chunks. So I’ll post three (or four) series of notes to try and capture it all.
Pan Seared Steak –
- Choose a thicker cut (filet, strip, ribeye)
- Pre-Heat the oven to 350
- Season the steak (salt and pepper) and massage the seasoning into the meat
- Turn on your vent or hood fan
- Bring the oven-safe pan (with a little vegetable oil) to a high temperature
- Place the steak in the hot pan and give it a gentle press to make sure the entire surface is in contact with the pan.
- Sear like this for 3 minutes or so (depending on the thickness, heat, moisture, etc.)
- Flip the steak, and cook for slightly less time
- *Take the steak’s temperature now, so you know how far away you are from your desired doneness. Or just wing it.
- Pop the whole pan/steak into the 350 degree oven for 5 minutes or so (variables, variables)
- Take the steak’s temperature after 5 minutes.
- 140 degrees is a pretty nice medium, so depending on the size of the steak, desired doneness, and so on, remove the steak from the oven anywhere from 5 to 10 degrees below the desired temperature. Bigger steaks will rest longer, and therefore should come out further from the desired final temperature.
- Allow the steak to rest at least 5 minutes (lightly covered, or not).
These guidelines for pan-seared (then oven-roasted) steak can also be used for thinner cuts; more on that later. When choosing your steaks, look for “rib” or “loin” cuts that have nice little flecks of white (fat marbling). Here’s what Cook’s Illustrated has to say. For me, the ribeye, skirt, flank, and hangar are winners in the flavor category. Strips, filets, and T-Bones definitely win the swimsuit round. If you have the time, let the steak warm up (sit out at room temperature) before you cook it. This will slightly reduce your cooking time, and help retain moisture/tenderness. There is some debate about seasoning the protein before cooking or after, I say go ahead and season before you cook, and rub it into the steak.
For a nicely browned surface, it is important to bring the oven-safe pan and oil just to the point of smoking. This is the case for any protein that you want to sear. Also, if you want to get all “chef-crazy” you should pat the surface of the steak dry before cooking it, to increase the browning. Find a spot in the pan the size of your steak. Ensure that spot is coated in oil by swirling the oil, or slightly tilting the pan. Lay the steak in the pan, letting it fall away from you to avoid oil splattering back on you. Give the steak a gentle pat to ensure that the surface is uniformly in contact with the hot pan. Watch the steak for a few minutes, and don’t move it. You should see moisture rise to the surface, and browning all around the bottom, or pan side. Next, pick up the steak, and set it back down as before, in an oil-coated spot. Let the steak brown a little. At this point you could take a temperature reading (or not) and then put the pan into the oven.
I would check on your steak after 4 minutes, and take its temperature again. You can always cook it longer, but you can’t un-cook it. Be gentle when handling the steak to take the temperature. If you bang it around, or mash it with the tongs, (not that you would) you will lose some of the moisture you’re trying so hard to hold onto. Once you reach your determined pre-resting temperature (5-10 degrees below final temp.) remove the pan, and let the meat rest. Some people like to loosely cover the steak at this point. As you wish. The resting, however, is pretty important. You are letting the moisture (which you’ve just scared away from the surface) return to the surface, and you’re also letting the external temperature equalize into the center of the steak.
For thinner cuts of steak, you won’t need the oven. The steak will come to temperature in the pan, and rest briefly. As an added bonus, when you rest the meat you could treat it to a little pat of butter on top, to nurture and moisturize. A compound butter is fantastic, or little olive oil is nice too. Alternately, if you want to finish your steaks on the range, a nice way is to baste them.
Stay tuned for more in this series –