How Do You Get The Perfect Crust On Steak

So how do you get the perfect steak crust? First, getting an even crust on a grill is more complicated than you think, even though grilling is a preferred cooking method for most steak lovers. You should sear the steak on a cast iron pan to achieve a perfectly caramelized crust. The key to getting it done perfectly is to sear the steak on a scorching pan without turning it over too soon.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to get a crust on the steak perfectly every time. Since searing steak is only one part of the process, I’ve included a step-by-step guide and steak temperature chart. Make sure to follow every step carefully, and you’ll end up with a delicious steak every time.

What is Maillard’s reaction?

The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that occurs when food is cooked at high temperatures. This reaction creates browning and flavor development in foods, such as the crust on a steak. The Maillard reaction starts when heat is applied to the surface of the steak, causing the amino acids and sugars to react and create new flavor compounds. As the cooking process continues, the crust on the steak becomes more pronounced and flavorful due to the ongoing Maillard reaction. The crust also helps to retain moisture within the steak, creating a tender and juicy texture.

What is the ideal cut of steak for developing a good crust?

Best steak cuts for developing good crust
Best steak cuts for developing a good crust

The perfect crust really comes down to the cut of the steak and the cooking method. However, some steaks are better suited for developing a nice crust than others because of the marbling and grain structure. However, here are the top picks:

So, the top pick for getting an amazing crust is the ribeye steak. Why, you ask? Well, let me tell you. Ribeye steaks have a killer combination of marbling and fat distribution. The marbling, or those little streaks of fat running through the meat, not only adds to the flavor but also helps to keep the steak moist while cooking. The fat on the outside of the ribeye melts and renders beautifully during the searing process, creating a crispy, flavorful crust that’s simply divine.

Another great option is the New York strip steak. This cut has a nice balance of marbling and tenderness, making it a solid choice for developing a lovely crust. The strip is a little leaner than the ribeye, but it still packs plenty of flavor and tenderness that’ll make your taste buds dance.

Of course, there’s the classic filet mignon, which is super tender and delicious, but it doesn’t have as much marbling as the ribeye or strip. So, while you can still get a decent crust, it might not be as crust-tactic as the other cuts.

How do I properly season the steak to enhance the crust?

Seasoned steaks
Filet mignon seasoned with kosher salt and steak seasoned with dry rub.

When it comes to steak seasoning, less is often more. Simplicity is key. You really can’t go wrong with the classic combo of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. The salt is essential for drawing out the steak’s natural flavors and helping to form that tasty crust we’re all after. The coarser texture of kosher salt is ideal, as it adheres better to the steak and creates a more even crust. As for the pepper, it adds a nice, subtle kick that complements the meat’s flavor.

Now, onto the timing of seasoning your steak. Ideally, you should season it 30-60 minutes before you start cooking. This allows the salt to penetrate the meat and break down some of the muscle fibers, resulting in a more tender and flavorful steak. Just make sure to pat the steak dry with paper towels before seasoning to remove any excess moisture.

But what about marinades? While a steak marinade can certainly add some incredible flavors, it’s not necessarily the best choice when trying to create a nice crust. Since marinades are liquid, they can make it difficult to achieve that crispy, seared exterior we all love. If you do choose to marinate your steak, make sure to pat it dry thoroughly before searing to minimize any steaming effect caused by excess moisture. Also, remember that marinated steaks might not develop a crust as evenly or effectively as simply seasoned steaks.

If you want to add extra flavor without compromising the crust, consider using a spice rub or compound butter. A spice rub made with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, or your favorite herbs can add another layer of flavor without adding too much moisture. Just be cautious with rubs that have high sugar content, as they can burn easily and lead to a bitter crust. As for compound butter, it can be added at the end of the cooking process or while resting the steak, infusing it with extra richness and flavor without interfering with the crust formation.

What type of oil is best for searing steaks and achieving a crust?

Best cooking oils for searing steaks
Best cooking oils for searing steaks

When searing steaks, you’ll want to use an oil with a high smoke point. This is crucial because a high smoke point means the oil can handle the high heat needed for searing without breaking down and producing off flavors or smoke. So, which oils have a high smoke point? Here are a few of our top picks:

  • Vegetable oil
  • Canola oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Avocado oil

These oils are all great choices for searing steaks, as they can withstand high heat without smoking excessively or breaking down.

Now, when it comes to flavored versus unflavored oils, it really depends on your personal preferences and the flavor profile you’re going for. Unflavored oils, like vegetable or canola oil, won’t add any extra flavor to your steak, allowing the natural taste of the meat to shine through. This is particularly important if you want the seasoning and crust to take center stage.

However, if you’re looking to add a little extra something to your steak, you might consider using a flavored oil, like extra virgin olive oil or sesame oil. Just keep in mind that these oils typically have a lower smoke point, so they might not be ideal for high-heat searing. To avoid burning the oil and ruining your steak, you could try combining a flavored oil with a high smoke point oil. This way, you get a hint of flavor without compromising the searing process.

In summary, when it comes to choosing the best oil for searing steaks and achieving that perfect crust, opt for a high smoke point oil like vegetable, canola, grapeseed, or avocado oil. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can experiment with flavored oils, but be mindful of their lower smoke points. Happy searing, and enjoy that mouthwatering crust!

What cooking techniques can be used to create a perfect crust?

Best Cooking Method For Getting a Perfect Steak Crust
Grilling and pan-frying are the two best cooking methods for the steak to develop a nice crust.

Each method has its own unique benefits; however, as a chef, I find the cooking techniques below to work best for creating a nice golden brown crust on the steak’s exterior.

  • Pan-searing: This is the classic, tried-and-true method for getting a fantastic crust on your steak. Grab your trusty skillet (cast iron or stainless steel are great choices), heat it up to a high temperature, and let that sizzle work its magic. Direct contact with the hot pan surface ensures an even and beautiful crust. Plus, you can add butter, garlic, or herbs to the pan for an extra boost of flavor. Here’s a detailed article on pan-searing steaks.
  • Grilling: If you love that smoky, charred flavor, grilling is the way to go. High heat and direct contact with the grill grates create those beautiful grill marks and a delicious crust. Just make sure your grill is preheated and clean to avoid sticking and uneven cooking. If you want to learn more about grilling steaks click this link to learn more.
  • Broiling: If you don’t have access to a grill or stovetop, broiling steak is a solid alternative. Using the broiler setting in your oven, you can achieve a nice crust on your steak by placing it close to the heat source. Keep an eye on the cooking process, though, as broiling can quickly go from perfect to burnt if not monitored closely.
  • Sous vide followed by searing: This technique is all about precision. First, you’ll cook the steak to your desired level of doneness using sous vide setup (think a vacuum-sealed bag submerged in temperature-controlled water). Once the steak is cooked to perfection, you’ll quickly sear it in a hot pan or on the grill to create that coveted crust. The result? A perfectly cooked steak with a beautiful crust, every single time.

How To Get The Perfect Steak Crust: step-by-step

How To Get The Perfect Steak Crust
Ribeye steak with a crispy crust.


  • Well-marbled steak cut (ribeye steak or New York strip);
  • Kosher salt;
  • Freshly ground black pepper;
  • Butter;
  • Fresh thyme;
  • Garlic;
  • Light olive oil.


Step 1: Bring Steak To Room Temperature

Bring steak to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Timing depends on the steak size and other factors (read here to learn more). It’ll allow steak to cook more evenly. You can also cook frozen steak; however, I recommend reading this article before attempting to do that. While the steak gently comes to room temperature, season it generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Step 2: Pat Steak Dry

Pat the steak dry to remove excess moisture from the exterior of the steak. It’ll allow steak to develop a better crust. If moisture is left on the meat’s surface, it takes more time to evaporate, resulting in a less crunchy exterior.

Step 3: Preheat The Cast Iron Skillet

Preheat the cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat until smoking hot (500 degrees Fahrenheit). Searing meat on a scorching pan is vital because it’s the only way to get a perfect steak crust.

Step 4: Sear The Steak

Add a few tablespoons of high smoke point oil to the pan or rub the steak with oil. Place the steak into the pan and sear for one and a half minutes on each side. Using a spatula, press the steak lightly so that the entire surface is in contact with a pan. Lift it using tongs and check if a caramelized crust has formed. If it needs extra time, sear the steak for additional 30 seconds.

Step 5: Cook Steak on Medium Heat

Once the crust has formed, turn the heat to medium and cook the steak. Continue cooking to the desired doneness. Check the steak’s internal temperature using a meat thermometer. Aim for medium rare; however, do not cook past medium; otherwise, the steak can become tough and chewy.

Step 6: Baste

About halfway through cooking the steak add butter and fresh herbs to the pan. Using a tablespoon, baste the steak. Butter and fresh herbs will add an extra depth of flavor to the steak making it even more delicious.

Step 7: Rest

Rest the steak for 5-10 minutes, depending on the steak’s size. It’s an essential step because it’ll allow steak juices to redistribute throughout the steak’s interior, making it tender. However, if you choose to slice into it right after it’s cooked – the steak juices will end up on your plate rather than inside the steak.

Steak Temperature Chart

steak 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.

Using a steak temperature chart for tracking meat’s temperature is essential. It’ll allow you to cook a juicy piece of steak every time. However, you need a meat thermometer for that. Stick a probe into the thickest part to check the reading.

Alternatively, you can use a finger test method. It’s an accurate method; however, it requires skill and practice.


How long does it take for steak crust?

Depending on the cooking method, getting a perfect steak crust can take 1-3 minutes on each side. The hotter the cooking surface is, the quicker the crust will form. 500 degrees Fahrenheit is a perfect temperature for steak searing.

Why am I not getting a good crust on my steak?

There are a couple of reasons why you can’t get a perfect steak crust. First, the cooking surface is not hot enough for searing. Second, you are using the wrong cooking method. For example, cooking steak in the oven is not ideal for the steak to form crust unless you’re cooking steak under the broiler. Ensure the grill or cast-iron skillet is hot enough to get a perfect steak crust.

Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas is an accomplished chef with over a decade of experience in the culinary world, having worked in esteemed, high-end restaurants across Europe. With a talent for combining traditional techniques and innovative flair, Renaldas has refined his signature style under the mentorship of respected European chefs. Recently, Renaldas has expanded his impact beyond the kitchen by sharing his expertise through his online platform. Dedicated to inspiring culinary professionals and food enthusiasts, he offers expert advice, innovative recipes, and insightful commentary on the latest gastronomic trends.
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