[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]
Though there’s nothing like a well-grilled steak in the summertime, when the weather changes, pan-seared steak can be an even better route. Pan-searing in a ripping-hot cast iron skillet (the best type of pan to use for this method, given its superior heat-retaining qualities) produces an evenly golden crust that really accentuates the flavor of the steak itself, allowing it to shine.
Why It Works
- Using a larger, thicker steak (at least one and a half inches thick and weighing between 24 and 32 ounces) makes it easier to achieve good contrast between the crust on the outside and the tender meat within.
- Basting it with butter both deepens the crust on the outside and helps the steak cook more quickly.
- Contrary to popular belief, flipping your steak frequently will help it cook more evenly and gently and develop a great crust
- 1 large bone-in T-bone or ribeye steak (see note)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable or canola oil
- 3 tablespoons (45g) unsalted butter
- 6 sprigs thyme or rosemary (optional)
- 1/2 cup finely sliced shallots (about 1 large; optional)
Carefully pat steak dry with paper towels. Season liberally on all sides, including edges, with salt and pepper. If desired, let steak rest at room temperature for 45 minutes, or refrigerated, loosely covered, up to 3 days (see note).
In a 12-inch heavy-bottomed cast iron skillet, heat oil over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Carefully add steak and cook, flipping frequently, until a pale golden-brown crust starts to develop, about 4 minutes total.
Add butter, herbs (if using), and shallot (if using) to skillet and continue to cook, flipping steak occasionally and basting any light spots with foaming butter. If butter begins to smoke excessively or steak begins to burn, reduce heat to medium. To baste, tilt pan slightly so that butter collects by handle. Use a spoon to pick up butter and pour it over steak, aiming at light spots.
Continue flipping and basting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of tenderloin side registers 120 to 125°F (49 to 52°C) for medium-rare or 130°F (54°C) for medium, 8 to 10 minutes total.
Immediately transfer steak to a large heatproof plate and pour pan juices on top. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Carve and serve.
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