Cooking a Restaurant Style Steak at Home
One of my favorite things in the whole world is a hot, thick, juicy steak. Seared golden brown and tasty on the outside, juicy and pink on the inside just waiting to be devoured. While we are dreaming why not add a thin beefy pan sauce ladled on top for just that extra bit of deliciousness.
As you can see I love steaks and up until recently I have been a straight-up “griller”, if I cooked a steak at home it was on the grill. Not this is a bad way to cook a steak, quite the contrary, but I was looking for something a little more like what I was getting at my favorite Steak House. Most restaurants “broil” their steaks at incredible temperatures, this is what gives them the wonderfully flavorful outer crust while not overcooking the steak.
Most of us don’t have the equipment to reproduce this at home, however, using a frying pan instead of a grill will get you much closer. After experimenting in many a smoke-filled kitchen below is the best method I have found to reproduce the “Steak House” steak at home.
Cooking Steak in a Frying Pan
Obviously a great pan-fried steak starts with a great cut. For pan-frying a steak, you want a tender cut of meat like a tenderloin or rib eye, the more marbling the better. Also for cooking steak in a frying pan, I prefer a thicker cut, thinner steaks tend to cook too quickly getting overdone.
The best pan for cooking a steak is a heavy cast-iron skillet. The cast iron will conduct much more heat than the typical steel or non-stick pan and what we need now is heat. We want the pan to be very, very hot to sear the steak as fast as we can. That being said I have used regular frying pans with good results but a cast iron pan is defiantly the best.
Preparing the steak is very simple:
Wash and pat dry
Coat with oil (any cooking oil will do).
Season with salt and pepper.
I wouldn’t season with much more than that, because of the intense heat and direct contact with the pan most other seasonings just burns.
It’s best to let the steak rest at this point. Let it come up in temperature for more even cooking and for the salt and pepper to start to work their magic.
Searing the outside
*In this step there will be smoke so be careful (and maybe turn off your fire alarm).
**If you like your steaks done more than rare you should preheat your over to about 450 at this point.
This is the moment of truth, take your pan and heat it over high heat, you don’t need to add any oil because the steaks already have oil on them. What we are trying to do is sear the outside of the steak to get that wonderful caramelized outer crust without burning it and without overcooking and drying out the steak.
The way to accomplish this is hot and fast, carefully set the steak(s) into the hot frying pan. If you are cooking more than one make sure not to overcrowd them which will result in steaming rather than searing. After about 2 minutes check and see if the outside is done, it should have a perfect dark brown (not black) crust, if not let it go a little longer otherwise turn it over and sear the other side.
Done to your liking
At this point, you need to decide how “done” you want your steak? After about another 2 minutes you should have a steak that is seared on the outside but depending on the thickness of the steak may still be rare on the inside. If you like your steak on the “more” done side we need to finish it off in the oven if not just top it off with a small pat of butter and let it rest.
Finishing it off in the oven
Your oven should be preheated to somewhere between 400 – 500 degrees. Add the pat of butter to the top and carefully (remember it’s very, very hot) move the pan into the oven. Stay close, at this temperature, it won’t take long. And you will want to remove the steak just before it is done the way you want. Because it will continue to cook for a bit. If you are using a thermometer it can raise 5 – 10 degrees. So if you like your steak medium (160 degrees) you want to take it out at about 150 – 155 degrees.
Letting it rest
Now you now have an unbelievable steak that would rival most “Steak House” restaurants (at a fraction of the price). And we want to move it to a cutting board or plate to rest. I know you are just dying to grab that knife and go to work. But if you do all those succulent juices we spent so much time and effort keeping in will just run out on the plate. Letting the steak rest allows the hot juices to cool a little and disperse back throughout the meat.
Top it off with a pan sauce
While your newly pan-fried steak is resting you have the opportunity to take advantage of all the wonderful flavor left on the bottom of the frying pan with a pan sauce. Pan sauces are so simple. It’s almost a shame and they can add just that extra touch to push the steak to the next level.
To create a pan sauce drain off any excess grease from the pan (we are making a sauce, not gravy). And place the pan over medium-high heat (the pan is probably pretty hot so be careful). Add some type of liquid to the pan to deglaze like red wine or beef stock. My favorite is beef stock with a little vermouth. Scrape the little crumbs from the bottom of the pan and bring the liquid to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the sauce reduces into a thin sauce. Now butter can be added to richen up the flavor if desired.
Congratulations, if everything went as planned you should now have a wonderfully flavorful and tender pan-fried steak before you just waiting for you to cut into and enjoy. Go ahead, you earned it.
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