Both grilling and pan-frying steaks have their advantages and can yield delicious results when done correctly. Grilling a steak allows for a smoky, charred flavor and distinct grill marks while also cooking the meat evenly without excess fat. Pan-frying, on the other hand, enables better control over the cooking temperature, resulting in a more even sear and the ability to create a rich pan sauce. Ultimately, the choice between grilling or pan-frying a steak comes down to personal preference, as well as the equipment and cooking environment available.
In this blog post, we’ll dive into the nuances of grilling and pan frying, compare their pros and cons, and provide some insight to help you determine which method may be best suited for your specific needs.
What is grilling?
Grilling steak is a cooking technique that involves exposing the meat directly to high heat from an open flame or heated grill grates, resulting in a seared exterior and a tender, juicy interior. This method imparts a unique, smoky flavor to the beef, thanks to the Maillard reaction, which occurs when proteins and sugars in the steak are exposed to high temperatures. The direct heat also creates a caramelized crust on the steak’s surface, adding an additional layer of flavor and texture. However, grilling can be more difficult to control and requires careful monitoring to ensure the desired level of doneness, as it can quickly lead to overcooking if not managed properly.
What is pan-frying steak?
Pan-frying steak is a stovetop cooking method that involves searing the meat in a hot pan, usually with a small amount of oil or butter. This technique allows for even heat distribution across the surface of the steak, resulting in a consistent and controlled cooking process. The direct contact between the steak and the hot pan produces a delicious crust through the Maillard reaction, enhancing the flavor and texture of the beef. Pan frying also enables the incorporation of additional flavors by adding ingredients like garlic, herbs, and butter to the pan, which can be used to baste the steak as it cooks. However, it is essential to manage the heat carefully, as high heat can cause smoke and potentially overcook the steak if not monitored closely.
Is It Better To Grill or Pan Fry Steak?
Depending on whether you want to gill or pan-sear steak below, you’ll find the benefits of both grilling and pan-frying steak. I also included the cons of both cooking methods so you can make the best decision.
Benefits of Pan Frying Steak
Below you’ll find the four main benefits of pan-frying a steak:
Steak Cooks Fast
It takes time to prepare the grill for cooking meat. Unless you are using a grill pan. Pan-frying is a convenient way of cooking steak fast. Take out your stake half an hour before cooking. Add some oil to the pan, and that’s it. The meat should be ready in six to eight minutes. Depending on how well cooked you like.
Adds Texture And Flavor
It’s hard to achieve the same texture on a grill as you can on a frying pan. Not only does it bring out a lot of flavors, but the result is great-looking brown steak. Every time you cook a steak, press it gently to the pan so it comes in full contact with the surface for the most fantastic exterior texture.
Steak Remains Juicy
The pan-frying method will ensure the meat remains juicy. Grilling will also result in a steak with a juicy center. However, it’s easier to achieve that when pan-searing.
Crispy On The Outside
Searing a steak in frying pan results in a caramelized brown crust that is packed with flavors. Finish it off with a knob of butter, and you’ll have yourself a perfect steak. Even the most hardcore steak lover who likes grilled steaks will admit it’s incredible.
Cons of Pan Frying Steak
Of course, there are some downsides to pan-frying steak. I would say the most significant one is that it requires quite a lot of oil. Since most of us want to limit our cholesterol intake, grilling in this regard is a better option.
Requires Lots of Butter And Oil
To cook the juiciest steak using the pan-frying method, you’re going to need a lot of oil and butter. So preparing steak using this method might not be ideal for some people.
Uneven heating happens when a pan is made from a material that does not distribute and conduct heat well. Thick multi-ply construction pans made from stainless steel and aluminum distribute heat evenly, resulting in evenly cooked steaks. Thin stainless steel pans, on the other hand, produce poor results in terms of heat distribution. The center tends to be hotter than the sides. Grilling is easier in this regard.
Let’s say you’re cooking four rib-eye steaks at once in a cheap frying pan. They may be cooking at different rates. A steak in the middle can be cooked much faster while the ones on the side are not.
The thickness of the pan is also critical since it determines how well it retains heat. If you place four cold pieces of meat at once, the pan will drop in temperature. Usually, the middle stays hotter while the sides cool down significantly.
To avoid these issues, you would want to have a good thick, high-quality frying pan for your steaks. I highly recommend this HexClad 12 Inch Hybrid Stainless Steel Frying Pan. As a chef, I like this pan.
How to cook steak in a pan: a quick overview
- Take your steak out of the fridge half an hour before searing (I’m using a rib-eye steak).
- Season the steak with salt and pepper.
- Place your pan on a stove over medium-high heat. You can use a cast-iron skillet; however, I’m using HexClad 12 Inch Hybrid Stainless Steel Frying Pan.
- Pour in some oil. Canola or grapeseed oil is one of the best options. Both oils have a high smoking point.
- When a pan starts to smoke lightly, place a steak in a frying pan. Make sure not to get burned since the oil is so hot. Place a stake away from you. It will prevent oil spillovers.
- Cook on one side for three to four minutes, depending on the steak’s thickness and how well cooked you want it to be. If it’s an inch thick, that should cook even faster.
- Turn a steak over and let it cook for a minute before you’ll add a knob of butter and herbs to make a hot baste. I use thyme and rosemary. It gives the steak a nice flavor.
- Take the steak out of the frying pan and let it sit for five to seven minutes before serving. It’ll ensure the steak is juicy.
Note: You’ll need a high-quality thick frying pan that retains heat well to get the best cooking results. Here’s a detailed article explaining how to cook steak in a pan.
Benefits Of Grilling Steak
Here’re the four main benefits of grilling the steak:
The grilling method produces the purest-tasting steak since this method uses wood, charcoal, and steak’s natural fats. The fat is dripping on a heat source which creates smoke that smells amazing. Cooked steak is flavorful and juicy. When you pan-fry, steak flavors are different. Most steak lovers prefer grilling.
Adds Amazing Flavors
Smoke adds a fantastic depth of flavors to the steak, unlike using the pan fry method. And when Maillard’s reaction is combined with a smoky flavor, the steak will have a unique flavor profile that most steaks lovers enjoy. And if you do not know what Maillard’s reaction is, read this article to learn more.
Requires Less Oil or Butter
Using little oil or butter provides health benefits. Unlike deep frying or searing, grilling doesn’t need excess oil; therefore, it’s a healthier alternative. Rubbing a steak with some oil is all you need. Not only is food more beneficial, but the flavors are much better.
Great For BBQ Grill
Grilling steak outside is unique because you feel connected with nature. It also requires more effort since you have to prepare a grill for cooking. Last time I set out to cook a medium-rare filet mignon for my family. It’s one of the leanest beef parts. I was grilling it on a BBQ grill using oak as a heat source. Smoke added such a distinct flavor that it is hard to replicate on a frying pan. Most outdoor living spaces can easily accommodate a grill. If you have the option to buy a grill, I highly advise you to do so. Steak grilling on a good day is a truly remarkable experience.
Cons of Grilling Steak
Of course, there are some cons to grilling a steak. It’s an art form that requires a certain skill level which can be achieved by practicing.
Can Be Difficult
Most home cooks are intimidated by grilling. They believe it’s too complicated and therefore choose to pan-fry their fresh steaks instead of grilling. Yes, it’s true – it’s not as easy as pan-frying. On the grill, it’s hard to achieve a nice crust, but instead, you can get a distinctive flavor which you can get from pan-frying.
The most common mistake amateur home cooks make when grilling is burning the meat. Trust me; there’s some science behind grilling. So treat your steak with caution when grilling. After a while, you’ll get the hang of it.
It Can Cause Fire Hazards
Grilling can cause fire hazards. Some make sure you take all the precautions needed. Be careful with fuels since pouring too much of them can cause huge flames.
How to cook steak on a grill: a quick overview
- Prepare your grill for cooking. You can use charcoal which is more convenient, but I prefer hardwood like oak.
- Half an hour before grilling, take out the steak from your fridge. It should get to room temperature.
- Season and oil the meat. I use grapeseed, a generous amount of salt, and some freshly ground peppers (using a pepper mill).
- Once the charcoal or hardwood is red hot, make sure you distribute it evenly. It will allow for the meat to cook evenly.
- Place your steak on a grill.
- Flip it over every three minutes. It also depends on how well you like your steak done. For medium (145-degree Fahrenheit), it takes seven to nine minutes, so it is two minutes twice for each side. Use a digital thermometer to determine how well the steak is cooked. You can find a degree of doneness here.
- When a steak is done, take it off the grill and leave it to rest for around seven minutes. And if you decide to slice it, make sure your pieces are thick since thin pieces tend to get colder much faster.
Note: Here’s a detailed guide explaining how to cook steak on a grill.
Grilling or pan-frying is a personal preference. Grilling seems to be the purest way of cooking the steak. Grilling retains the nutritional value of the steak while at the same time adding distinctive flavors, which most people love. On the other hand, pan-frying requires more oil, but you get a lovely crust on the outside.
Is it better to grill or pan-fry ribeye?
The best way to cook a rib-eye steak is on the grill because it contains a lot of fat. When fats start to melt, it drips onto charcoal or wood, making steak to absorb some of that smoke. The outcome is the smoky flavor of the meat. Pan fry is also an excellent option for this cut of meat; however, most enjoy grilled meat more.u003cbru003e
Is it better to cook steak in a cast-iron skillet or grill?
If you want more crust on the outside, cooking steak in cast iron is the best option. Cast iron provides a much better heat distribution than a grill does. However, if you like smokey flavor, then you should cook meat on a grill. Both methods have slightly different flavors.u003cbru003e
What cut of steak is best for pan-frying?
Boneless steaks are best for pan-frying. Sirloin, rib-eye, and skirt steak are excellent cuts for pan-frying. One and a half inches thick steak is a sweet spot for searing.u003cbru003e