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How to Pan Fry a Steak Perfectly - A Step-by-Step Recipe!

April 5, 2020
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Most people understand the joy of eating a well-prepared steak. But what many people don't know? It's easy to cook a steak that tastes like a chef at an upscale restaurant prepared it.

Using only a few ingredients and some extra cooking time, you can create an incredible steak on your stovetop.

This straight-forward, easy-to-follow recipe will guide you through the process of making a pan-fried steak step by step. You'll learn how to prepare tender and buttery steak so that you can satisfy your cravings at home.

What's the Best Steak for Pan-Frying?

You'll have the best results using the pan-searing technique if you select a boneless steak between 1 and 1 1/2 inches thick. We’ll get into cuts in just a bit, but we generally recommend using thicker cuts like a New York strip steak or a boneless ribeye. When you use a thicker steak with more fat, it's more likely to stay juicy when you cook it.

Steaks that appear to have a lot of white saturated fat running through the meat at the best for this cooking technique.

Your best bet is to splurge on the best steak that you can get. Although it costs more than other meats, it will still be cheaper to cook steak on your own then it would be eating at an upscale steakhouse.

You can shop our selection of delicious, non-GMO, pasture-raised, and grass-fed beef for the best steak.

Can I Use Other Cuts?

Pan-searing a steak also works on cuts that are less than one inch thick, but just know the cooking time will be much faster.

To cook thinner cuts of steak effectively, have a digital thermometer on hand, so you don't run the risk of overcooking it.

Bone-in steaks aren't ideal for pan-searing. To avoid uneven cooking, use your oven or grill for cooking bone-in steaks.

One thing that doesn't change no matter the cut is that you must let your steak get to room temperature before cooking it.

If the steak has been sitting in the fridge, let rest for at least 20 to 30 minutes. By cooking it at room temperature, you will allow it to cook evenly.

Choose Your Steak Cut

Depending on factors like your tastes and budget, you may want to choose a specific cut of steak. Different cuts produce different amounts of flavor and tenderness.

Sirloin: Sirloins are prime steaks like filets. However, they are more flavorful than filets. Sirloins are best-served medium to medium-rare.

Filet: Filets are beloved by many because of how tender they are. This low-fat cut is delicious when cooked medium to rare. However, it is the most expensive cut.

Strip loin (New York): As mentioned above, these make for a great option for pan frying because of their thickness, marbling and fat strap that adds incredible flavor while cooking.

Ribeye: You can get a boneless ribeye that usually serves one, or a rib on the bone (côte de boeuf). Medium to Medium-rare is often the best temperature for this cut.

If you want a truly EPIC steak eating experience, make sure to check out our craft cuts of steak included in our Premium Reserve Collection.

Ingredients You Need for the Perfect Pan-Fried Steak

To make perfect pan-fried steak, you don't need many ingredients. You can create the perfect meal using only the basics. Here are all of the ingredients that you need to prepare the steak:

  • 1-2 tbsp. of unsalted butter (preferably 100% grass-fed butter)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 1-2 tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Your steak cut of choice (we use Delmonico Ribeye here in our recipe)
  • Garlic

Finally, to achieve the perfect, crisp crust, you'll want to cook a steak using cast iron. Non-stick Teflon or copper pans won't hold the flavor from the fat or deliver the same crispy sensation.

How to Fry Steak in a Pan: Step-By-Step

Cooking Time: 25-35 minutes

Total Time (including prep time): 1 hr 40 minutes

Now that you know the best cuts of meat to use for pan-searing and all of the additional ingredients you'll need, let's get into the step-by-step instructions for pan-searing a steak.

Step 1

Take the steaks out of the refrigerator and let rest for about an hour before you plan to cook them. This wait time will allow them to get to room temperature. If you can't wait an hour, 30 minutes should suffice.

Put the meat on a plate lined with paper towels and pat the steaks dry. Drying the surface of the meat leads to a crispier exterior.

Step 2

If you are planning to serve any sides, make sure to prepare these ingredients before you cook steak. Steaks require quite a bit of hands-on cooking.

They cook very quickly, so make sure you don't get distracted by any other prep work while they're on the cast iron pan.

Step 3

Season your steaks with salt and pepper generously. Don't forget to coat the sides of the meat as well.

Step 4

For about 10 minutes, heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. You'll know it's ready when the cast iron pan starts producing a bit of smoke.

Step 5

Add olive oil, then carefully add the steaks on the hot cast iron and cook one side of it until it has a crust and doesn't stick to the cast iron pan. This initial searing should take only 1 minute.

Continue to cook and flip the steak for an additional 3 minutes. When you flip the steak, make sure to sear the edges on both sides, so they attain coloring like the rest of the steak.

Step 6

Add butter, garlic, and your choice of herbs to the pan. Flip the steaks again. Tilt the pan so the butter will flow to a single side of the pan. Use a spoon to baste (pour-over) the butter. Flip the steak and repeat these steps.

Once you've been cooking for 6 minutes, you can start to check the temperature of the meat. Depending on the desired doneness, the total time you may need to pan-fry will vary.

Rare steaks are 125° and very red inside. Medium-rare steaks need to reach 130°-135°. Medium steaks need to reach 135°-145°, and medium-well steaks need to reach 145-155°.

Step 7

Remove the steak from the cast iron skillet and let rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting it. You can salt and pepper to taste if needed.

Extra Pan-Frying Tips

Achieving the perfect pan-seared steak takes practice. Here are some tips to help you cook the perfect steak every time:

  • If you want the steak to develop a nice crust, make sure you pat the meat dry before adding it to the pan. You can even season your meat with salt the night before you plan to cook steak and let it sit in your fridge uncovered. The salt will draw out the moisture and add flavor to the meat in the center.
  • Don't skimp on the salt. Steak soaks up flavors nicely, so being generous with the salt will only lead to a more delicious steak.
  • Splash water in the pan to see if it's hot enough. If the water droplets continue to move around the pan, you need to heat it longer or increase the flames to high heat. If it evaporates immediately, the pan is ready to use.
  • Don't add the steak until the cast iron is scorching. Wait until the olive oil is shiny and about to smoke.
  • Give it time to rest. Before you cut your steak, let it rest 5 minutes so that you don't lose any of the juices.
  • But, don't let it rest for too long. There's no joy like eating a hot steak. Many people think that steak needs to rest much longer than it does. Since steak is relatively small compared to other meats like brisket, it cools down quickly, meaning there are only a few degrees of carryover cooking. If you take into account the resting, slicing, and plating of the steak, it'll likely be cool sooner than you think.
  • Use a cast-iron skillet. If you don't have one, you should consider getting one. Cast iron skillets retain heat well, making it easy to achieve an evenly cooked steak.
  • Add your butter at the end. Butter has a low smoke point, so it will burn if you leave it in the pan for too long.
  • For strip and other steaks with strips of fat on the sides, sear the fat first by holding the meat with tongs and cooking it in the rendered fat.
  • Don't cook until it's well-done. Pan-seared steak should be juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside. A well-done steak often tastes dry.

How to Know if Your Steak Is Done

Because stoves from different manufacturers vary in heat output, having a thermometer is essential to cook a steak properly and achieve the desired doneness.

Eventually, you'll have the ability to know how cooked a steak is just by pressing your finger into it.

If the meat doesn't push back when you press into it, it's still rare. If it feels firm, it's well-cooked.

Sides That Pair Well With Steak

Many sides that pair well with steak and add a unique flavor profile to your meal. Here are some classics:

  • Potato gratin is a French dish that uses sliced potatoes baked in cream or milk.
  • Crispy mashed potatoes are another perfect pairing. Crispy mashed potatoes are crispy on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside. To achieve this, smash as many baby potatoes as you want, lay on a tray and season with butter, garlic, salt and pepper, and then bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Just as the name suggests, steak fries make an excellent side for a steak. They're like an elevated French fry that's more filling.
  • Baked potato...you can never go wrong with the classic as a steak accompaniment.
  • Asparagus or Brussel sproutsare side options that are a bit healthier. When you roast Brussel sprouts with a bit of salt and pepper, you get a caramelized finish on the outside with a tender interior. Asparagus are great grilled, steamed or oven-roasted and drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Compound butteris flavorful and easy to prepare. Simply mash together butter, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Tightly package the mixture in plastic wrap and refrigerate it until solid.

The Best Herbs to Season Steak

The four basic spices that you should include in a steak recipe are onion, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Besides those spices, it's common to use herbs to season steaks. Herbs like thyme, rosemary, sage, and oregano, infuse your dishes with unique flavors.

Using southwestern spices like coriander, cumin, and chili peppers make for a brighter-flavored steak.

Asian dishes use a special seasoning that contains fennel, peppercorns, star anise, cloves, and cinnamon.

What's excellent about steak is that it's so versatile. You can use culture to influence how you prepare your meat. Each approach will result in a delicious and flavorful meal.

How to Slice Your Meat

There are ways to cut a steak that yield better-tasting results. Slice the steak across the grain to allow for shorter meat fibers. This method will result in a tender steak that's easier to chew.

To find the grain of the steak, look at the streaks that run across the length of the steak. To properly cut across the grain, you may need to adjust the position of your steak during the process.

Choosing the Right Knife

Knives may seem like a simple kitchen product. However, there are a lot of different types of knives made for various purposes.

Cutting any type of meat requires a durable and sharp knife. Since preparing meat calls for lots of prepping and trimming, having the right tool will make the process easier.

Look for a blade that is around 8 inches. Make sure it features an ergonomic handle that allows you to maintain a secure grip.

How Many Steaks Can I Cook at Once?

Cook as many steaks as will fit into your skillet. Just remember that the more steaks you add, the lower the surface temperature of the skillet will be.

The quantity can affect the desired doneness as well. Adding too many steaks can result in slower cooking times and an underdeveloped crust.

Final Thoughts

When you finally bite into your perfectly cooked steak, you'll understand the appeal of indulging in a more premium cut of meat.

We hope you enjoyed this recipe and found it easy to follow! Remember that a well-cooked steak needs to cook in a very hot pan.

Make sure you season your meat liberally to ensure you get the maximum flavor. Also, let it rest for 5-10 minutes before carving it, so you don't lose the juices.

Pan-searing a steak is much easier than people think. Give this recipe a try, and feel free to check out some of our other savory recommendations!

Blake Hitzfield

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