How Do You Get The Perfect Crust On Steak

searing steak on a pan

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.

HexClad 12 Inch Stainless Steel Frying Pan
Best For Steaks

Best Cooking Method For Getting a Perfect Steak Crust

Best Cooking Method For Getting a Perfect Steak Crust

The best steak cooking method for achieving perfect steak crust is pan searing. A flat surface of a thick pan is excellent for searing steaks evenly. A thick-bottomed cast iron pan can retain heat exceptionally well, which is essential. If the pan starts to lose heat when you place the steak, the steak stops searing and begins to slow cook, and you do not want that.

Even though grilling steak is a preferred cooking method for most home cooks, it’s not perfect for achieving an ideal crust like you would on a frying pan. Most of the time, it’ll give you crusty spots with a slightly bitter dark line of crust. A better alternative is a plancha grill. However, if it’s hard to sacrifice a charcoal flavor for a perfect crust, prepare a grill for two-zone cooking. Two-zone is best for achieving a brown steak crust. Sear the steak on the direct heat side of the grill for the caramelized crust and finish it off on an indirect heat side. The grill’s indirect heat side will slowly bring the steak to the desired temperature.

How To Get The Perfect Steak Crust

How To Get The Perfect Steak Crust



Step 1: Bring Steak To Room Temperature

Bring steak to room temperature 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 steak gently comes to room temperature, season it generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Step 2: Pat Steak Dry

Pat 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 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.

To Recap About The Perfect Steak Crust

To sum it up, here are some key takeaways if you want to achieve a perfect steak crust every time:

  • Cooking Method. The best steak cooking method to achieve excellent crust is pan frying. Yes, you can have great crust when grilling; however, it will not be as perfect.
  • Use a heavy pan. To achieve a perfect crust, you’ll need a heavy pan. Most lightweight aluminum nonstick pans cannot withstand high heat, which is essential when searing steak. On the other hand, a heavy-bottomed cast-iron skillet or heavy stainless steel frying pan can withstand high heat and retain it. Heat retention is vital since the pan needs to be smoking hot throughout the entire searing process (around 500° Fahrenheit) for a crust to form.
  • Pat steak dry. Before steak hits the smoking hot pan, use a paper towel to remove excess moisture. A dry exterior results in a much better crust
  • Do not turn too soon. Sear the steak for 1-2 minutes on each side without turning it. Using a spatula, press the steak to the pan’s surface. It’ll help to achieve an evenly brown crust through the steak exterior.


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.

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