Cooking a steak in a frying pan is as classic as it gets, yet it requires some finesse. Its all about the basics. From one chef to another, let me fill you in on a few of the things you can to do perfect your technique.
Use a solid bottomed pan or a cast iron pan. A thicker pan will hold heat better and give you a better sear. When you use a cheaper, thinner pan it can cool down some when you put the steak in the pan and it will let some of the juices out before you get that sear. You end up boiling your steak before you get that brown crust and we don’t want that.
Get the pan good and hot.
I mean get it HOT. Don’t burn your house down, but you want to make sure your pan is hot enough to sear the meat as soon as it hits the pan. When you put the steak in the pan you should hear it sizzle. If you cant hear it, you can’t sear it! A good way to test your pan temperature is with a few drops of water. If the water dances around and doesn’t evaporate right away you should be hot enough.
Use a combination of oil and butter
Get your oil nice and hot in your frying pan and add some butter. Why you ask? Oil has a higher smoke point than butter, meaning that it will get hotter before it starts to burn or catch fire. Butter has a very low smoke point and burns easily but it helps to build that beautiful brown crust your going for. By using the two together you help stop the butter from burning but you also get that browning effect! What happens when the meat is browned is called the Maillard Reaction and butter helps you get there. It’s a reaction between amino acids and melting sugars when protein gets hot. The Maillard Reaction is the gateway to flavor country! Now you know.
Pat your meat dry before you sear it
If your steak is wet its going to want to steam before it sears and that’s “no bueno”. You want to get that crust forming as quickly as possible and any extra moisture on the steak makes it take longer. Get it nice and dry, season it and get it into the pan.
Leave it alone
This is the most important piece of advice I can give you. Once it’s in the pan don’t touch it. Don’t move it around, don’t lift it up to check it, don’t keep flipping it over. Just leave it. Let the pan do the work. Every time you move it you change the heat. If you lift it, it gets colder, if you move it around, different spots get more or less heat. Put it in your pan and back off! Sit and enjoy the show. After 3 or 4 minutes when you can see the browning on the edge of the steak you can have a look at it. If you have the sexy golden brown crust you can flip it. If not, let it go another minute or two. Once you flip it let it cook again.
If you follow these simple tips you will be a pro in no time.
How you cook your steak, be it rare, medium rare or medium well is up to you. Follow these tips and you will be able to get that crust regardless of the doneness! And don’t forget, there is no shame in using a meat thermometer to get the perfect doneness. This is all about the end result and it’s better to just get it right. Respect the meat and don’t overcook!