In the Kitchen

The Secrets You Need to Know to Perfectly Sear Steak

You make think you know how to sear steak, but there are a few chef secrets that make all the difference.

There’s something wonderfully indulgent about treating yourself to a great steak at home. But in order to make sure that the experience goes off without a hitch, it’s crucial to know how to get that perfect sear. Whether you’re just out of college or simply new to cooking, below Chef Suz has shared some tips on how to make sure you have perfectly seared steak every time.

A perfect steak—nice deep brown crust outside, medium rare meat inside—relies on three key conditions: screaming hot pan, super-dry meat, and seasoning. And by seasoning, we mean kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Start your perfect steak by letting it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking. When it’s time to sear away, begin heating your pan. We love cast-iron for steak, but stainless steel will do, too. This is not the time for your nonstick pan; you want something heavy, and if your steak is thicker than about 1.5 inches, something ovenproof, too.

2. When we say “heat the pan”—we mean it. Place that thing over high heat until you can see smoke coming off of it. Once you do, reduce the heat to medium high. While that’s happening, using paper towels, pat your steak as dry as possible. This will ensure your steak sears and browns; excess moisture will create steam.

3. Season your steak by grabbing a large three-finger pinch kosher salt and showering it over from about 12 inches above your food for even distribution. Give it a good grind of fresh black pepper, then season your second side.

4. Now that you’ve got a smoking pan over medium-high heat, add about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Let it heat until it’s shimmering, then add your steak. You should hear a sizzling sound. Now, get away from the steak. Don’t move it! We know you’re tempted to poke and prod, but leaving it alone for maximum contact with the pan will give it the best sear.

5. How long to sear completely depends on the thickness of your meat. If it’s above 1.5 inches, consider you’ll likely sear 4–5 minutes per side, but will need to finish cooking it in a very hot oven (450 degrees F) for a few minutes. For a skirt or flank steak, think more like 2–3 minutes per side. Remember: you can always cook it longer, but you can’t undo a well-done steak (ignore if you prefer it that way).

6. But regardless, all steaks will need to rest about 5 minutes. They’ll continue to cook after they leave the pan, and need time to redistribute their juices. Cut into it too soon and all the juices will run out on your cutting board (instead of your mouth).

7 To check for medium rare doneness on any steak, press your finger into it. You’re looking for medium “spring back” —no spring and it’s rare, too much and, well, you might want to serve a steak sauce with your steak because it’s slightly over. Hold your thumb and middle finger together, then feel the pad of your hand. That’s what medium rare steak should feel like.

As for taste? It will be delicious—especially when you get chef bragging rights.

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