Cooking steak in a pan is one of my favorite steak cooking methods. It takes only around ten minutes for a perfect pan-seared steak. We often use pan frying instead of grilling steaks in a high-end restaurant.
You can use any cut of steak for pan-frying. I’ll teach you how to cook a delicious steak in a pan in this article. You’ll also learn how to determine whether the steak is cooked to your liking or not. Also, I’ll show you how to buy a good quality steak.
How To Cook a Steak In a Pan
To cook a steak in a pan, you’ll need only a few ingredients: a good quality steak, salt, pepper, butter, garlic, and fresh herbs.
The important thing to know you need to have a good heavy frying pan or a skillet. Searing steak requires a high temperature. Putting a thin base frying pan over medium-high heat can damage the structure of the pan, meaning it can warp. Nonstick pans can start to lose their nonstick coating if exposed to very high heat for too long. To cook a steak, you need to have either a cast-iron skillet or a high-quality pan capable of withstanding temperatures upwards of 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
I often use this HexClad 12 Inch Hybrid Stainless Steel Frying Pan for steaks and other dishes. It’s lightweight compared to cast iron. It’s versatile and durable. Most importantly, it conducts and retains heat exceptionally well.
This cast-iron pan is also a great choice if you’re on a budget. It’s heavy, and it can withstand high heat. It also retains and conducts heat well, which is essential when you want a pan-seared steak.
- Rib-eye steak (choose whatever cut you like);
- Olive oil;
- Kosher salt;
- Freshly ground black pepper;
- Fresh thyme;
- Fresh rosemary;
- Take the steak out of the fridge and season it with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Leave it to rest at room temperature for about forty minutes before cooking. As I mentioned before, this cooking method works for all cuts of beef. Do not worry if it’s a lean filet mignon or a new york strip steak. This pan-fried method works for any cut. I’m using new york strip steaks, which I’ll be cooking medium-rare.
- Prepare everything in advance. Make sure to wash the herbs. Peel garlic and take the butter out of the fridge. It’s crucial to have everything within your hand’s reach because the steak cooks fast. You’ll need to react quickly; otherwise, you’ll overcook the steak.
- Preheat the pan. Place the pan over high heat until it starts to smoke lightly. Add some olive oil. Make sure the oil you’re using has a high smoking point; otherwise, it’ll burn and leave a bitter taste.
- Pat steak dry. Using a paper towel remove excess moisture from the exterior of the steak. It’ll help to develop a nice crust on the outside.
- Lay the steak away from you in the pan. If you’re cooking more than one steak – make sure not to overcrowd them; otherwise, they’ll cook unevenly. Give the steak a nice sear on both sides. Sear for one to one and a half minutes on each side. Once the golden-brown crust is formed, turn the heat down to medium.
- Turn the steak every few minutes. My new york strip steak is about an inch thick; therefore, it’ll take about 6 mins to cook to medium-rare.
- Baste the steak. Halfway through cooking, add butter, fresh herbs, and garlic. Baste the steak with a tablespoon. Tilt pan to create butter pools. Using a spoon, baste the steak with hot butter. It’ll help the steak absorb all the fantastic flavors of butter and herbs.
- Use the meat thermometer to read the temperature. Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the steak to get an exact temperature. Alternatively, use a “finger test” method. Take out the steak when cooked 5 degrees Fahrenheit below your desired doneness. The steak continues to cook for another few more minutes after taking it out from the pan.
- Rest. Leave the steak to rest at room temperature for around eight minutes. Cover it with aluminum foil. Resting helps steak to retain all of the flavorful juices. If slicing straight after it’s cooked, the juices will end up on your plate rather than inside the steak.
Steak Doneness Temperature Chart
- Rare steak: 125° F;
- Medium rare steak: 135° F;
- Medium steak: 145° F;
- Medium-well steak: 150° F;
- Well done, steak: 160° F.
Below you’ll find cooking time for one-inch-thick steak:
- Rare steak: around 4 mins;
- Medium rare steak: 4-6 mins;
- Medium steak: 6-8 mins;
- Medium-well steak: 8-9 mins;
- Well done, steak: 9-11 mins.
Note: thicker steak tends to cook longer; however, the cooking process remains the same. Remember to take the steak out of the frying pan when the internal temperature is 5 degrees Fahrenheit lower.
Slicing into the meat with a knife to check the doneness is much worse than sticking a thermometer because you’ll lose even more juices. If you aim to have a juicy steak, you’ll need to learn a “finger test” method for checking steak doneness.
Chefs at restaurants and some advanced home cooks use a “finger test” method to determine steak’s doneness. It’s a reliable method to get accurate temperature measurements. The upside of this method is that you do not lose any flavors because the steak remains intact. With some time and practice, it’s easy to get the hang of it.
Here’s a video explaining how to use the “finger test” method to check steaks doneness:
How To Buy a Good Quality Beef
Gras-fed steak is the best steak you can buy. It’s more nutritious and more flavorsome compared to grain-fed beef.
Grass-fed beef eats mostly grass, while grain-fed cows are forced to consume a diet based on corn and soy, which is unnatural to cattle. Grain-fed beef is bland in taste with less marbling and a different texture to grass-fed cattle.
To buy good quality beef, you’ll need to go to your local butcher shop or farmers market. Whole Foods Market is offering high-quality grass-fed steaks as well.
Here’s how to distinguish a good quality steak from a bad one:
- Marbling is essential for a good-quality steak. Fat is flavor; therefore, having no fat or less fat means less flavor. Look for tiny flecks of marbling spread across the steak;
- The smell is another critical indicator of whether a steak is good or bad. If it smells sour or has an ammonia odor, it’s better not to cook meat like that;
- Color is a good indicator of beef quality. Grass-fed beef is dark red with many marbling, while grain-fed is usually pinkish and pale red. Make sure to shop for dark red meat.
How To Store a Beef Steak
Make sure to cook the steak 3 to 5 days after purchasing it. To preserve the quality of the raw steak, you can vacuum seal it or wrap it in baking paper and store it in an airtight container.
Leftover steak can be stored in a fridge for up to 4 days. Place it in an airtight container.
Pan-fried steak is delicious as it is; however, it’s nice to serve it with a pan sauce, some french fries, or stir fry vegetables. Below I’ve included perfect steak recipes for any occasion. These recipes can be made in a cast-iron pan.
Here’re are five delicious recipes:
- Garlic butter steak and potatoes recipe;
- Steak and eggs recipe;
- Steak Frites recipe;
- Steak with chimichurri;
- Salisbury steak recipe.
Can I cook steak in a regular frying pan?
Yes, you can cook steak in a regular frying pan. The pan must have a thick base since pan-seared steaks require high heat. A thin pan can warp and be damaged when exposed to high heat.
How long do you pan fry steak per side?
Pan fry steak for 1-2 mins per side when on high heat and 3-4 mins when on medium heat.
What’s the best pan to cook steak in?
The best pan to cook steak in is one that has a thick bottom and can retain heat well. Material is essential since not all metals are equal. For example, aluminum and copper are some of the best heat conductors meaning steaks cook evenly in pans made from these materials