How to Sear Steak
Have you ever had a really bad steak? One with a grey looking, and blah tasting outside & a dry, chewy and gross inside. Of course you have, we all have….and we all never want to have one again. Knowing how to sear a steak properly, is going to save you from having to choke down similar "steak cooking crimes” in the future. In this cooking video, I use a porterhouse steak to show you how to sear a steak. A good sear, will give you a nicely browned; crusty in texture; powerful in flavor, outer layer, while l allowing the inside of the steak to retain it’s natural juiciness…ie…not get overcooked. As I said, in the video, I use a porterhouse, but the same techniques can be applied to any steak. The main variance will come from the thickness of the steak, and the total cooking time (either leaving it on the stove top, grill, or perhaps moving to an oven to finish cooking), but regardless of thickness, getting the sear right, will get you 90% of the way to a great steak. Hope you enjoy it!
How to Sear a Steak
- The main principle of searing is simple. Apply very high heat to caramelize the outside of steak quickly, before that heat penetrates deep into the meat and overcooks the center. Once you understand that principle, and how it works, it’s easy to make the right searing decisions.
- Season the steak with a generous amount of salt and pepper, about 30 minutes prior to cooking
- Heat your pan, or grill, until it is very hot, and just starts slightly smoking. It’s best to use a heavy pan (like cast iron) that will retain heat once the steak is put in it….thin pans make it much harder to get a good sear.
- Add a bit of oil to pan (I generally just use olive oil as it’s what I have around), and lay down the steak. You should hear aggressive sizzling, if you don’t remove the steak, and let the pan get hotter.
- Now, you can’t touch, or flip the steak. The contact with the hot pan is what sears the meat, every time you check, lift, move the steak, you break that contact and lessen the heat transfer. So don’t touch for at least 3 – 4 minutes.
- After 3 – 4 minutes, the surface should be seared, but it can easily go another 2 – 4 minutes with no real risk of burning. Depending on the thickness of the meat and your desired internal temperature, you can flip any time after that initial sear is done.
- Flip the steak over, and repeat the process on the other side…keeping the heat on full bore, and not fiddling with the meat; until the second side is done.
- If your pan was hot enough, you’ll now have a perfectly seared outside, with a rare, or raw, inside. You can keep the steak on the stove top, or put it into a hot (450+ degrees) to cook until the inside gets to your desired doneness.
That my friends is how to sear a steak. It’s actually very simple, if you understand the main principle, use high heat, and have confidence you won’t burn the meat (it’s actually hard to burn a steak by searing…but easy to overcook/dry it out by searing incorrectly). A few more "Do's & Don'ts" for you:
- It’s best to start with room temperature steak, so pull it out of the fridge an hour ahead of time
- The thinner the steak, the high temperature the pan needs to be; You want to get a sear before the center is overcooked…which is harder with thin steaks (that’s why I buy thick cuts)
- After searing, it’s best not slice into the meat to check doneness. Use the hand technique, or a meat thermometer
- This same searing technique, but with different timing, can be applied to chicken, pork, fish…just about anything.