Last year, I looked up a process to make the most delicious, crusty steak on your stovetop and in a pan, because my apartment is not grill-friendly. I found the instructions on Serious Eats (a fantastic food website filled with both great instruction and foodie whimsy which I recommend). This recipe comes from The Food Lab, when one of their writers heads into his tiny New York City home kitchen to test recipes and procedures ad nauseum until he’s figured out how the home cook can achieve great results in their own home kitchen. Seriously cool. 🙂 There’s a lot of interesting little tips in this process, and I encourage you to read it, but below I detail the ones that I found most important and took to heart.
The number one intriguing tip is the suggestion that you flip your steak every 15 seconds. I’d always heard that for the perfect sear you 1) get your oiled pan super-freakin’-hot, 2) slap your meat down and 3) DON’T MOVE IT. You can test it after a few minutes and when the steak can be easily removed from the pan, that’s when you flip. But this “15-second rule”, if you will, cooks your steak quickly and still achieves that crusty yum we all want.
(I want to admit that this was the first time we started taking pictures for the blog and so the 15-second-rule was kinda hard to capture. We didn’t always achieve 15-seconds -often more like 30 – and I did overcook the steak more than I would have liked. It was still good, though! I recommend taking the steak’s temperature often so you can create the doneness you desire.)
Point 1: Choosing your steaks.
When I went to my local Trader Joe’s (the best prices on pretty much anything), I had four choices for a steak that was going to be the star of our meal: Filet mignon (often marked as Tenderloin), Sirloin, New York Strip and Ribeye.
From most to least expensive…
Filet – I’d never attempted this cut before – actually a very lean cut of beef, yet very tender – and also the most expensive.
Ribeye – more expensive and highly marbled (those white lines of fat.) My personal opinion is that the steak is too fatty for the cost – I don’t actually enjoy all that fat.
***New York Strip – This is the one we used and for me, the sweet spot. Plenty of marbling and a price point (these were about $10 per steak) that I can get behind for a special dinner.
Sirloin – the least expensive and rather lean, but I find that it can be tough.
You also want your steak to be between 1″ – 2″ thick. I think, for this application, I might have had more success with a thicker steak: it would have given me more time to create a crust yet not cook the inside so much. You can see here that my steaks are 1″ thick.
Point 2: Season those suckers good:
Serious Eats suggests that you season your steaks more than you think you need. I used kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Freshly ground black pepper changed my life. Cracking your pepper immediately before adding it to your food releases the oils in the peppercorn, making it more flavorful and offering more bite.
I like to season my steak on one side, add that seasoned side to the hot pan, then season the other side in the pan. That way you don’t lose as much seasoning in the transfer.
Point 3: 15-second-rule
This was the most interesting suggestion to me – one I had never heard before. Flip your steaks every 15 seconds and take the temperature of the steaks as often as possible for proper doneness. We like medium rate and 130 degrees is the target mark for such a meaty center. (You can see the different temperatures for the different levels one doneness in the Serious Eats link above.) You’ll want to cook your steak to about 120-125 degrees, because the carry-over heat will continue to cook the meat when it’s removed from the heat source. I show the progression of my steaks below.