how to master that beautiful sear

When it comes to a perfectly cooked steak (you know the one—beautiful sear on the outside, juicy on the inside, slices like butter), heat is your best friend....

By: Anna Decker / 04/05/2016

Start with a heavy bottomed skillet—they absorb and distribute heat more evenly. We love the flavor that a seasoned cast-iron imparts, but stainless steel is also a great option. Be sure the skillet has enough surface area to allow your meat room to breathe, otherwise it’ll steam.

Season well. Feel free to get fancy, but salt and pepper and good quality meat are all you really need to produce great flavor. Be sure to bring your steak to room temperature by letting it sit for about 20 minutes, then pat dry with a paper towel before seasoning.

Fat is your friend. Drizzle about a tablespoon of high-heat oil, like safflower or sunflower, into the hot pan so that it coats the pan (you can always add more later if needed). This will prevent the meat from sticking.

Get that pan hot, just to the point where the oil starts to shimmer, but make sure it doesn’t start to smoke and burn.

No touching! Here’s the important part—while it may be tempting to move the steak around to see how it’s looking, a good sear is the trick to getting that gorgeous crust. The amount of time on each side will depend on the thickness of the steak and if this is your first rodeo, it can be difficult to assess when it’s done. One method is the old hand trick: touch the palm of your hand just under your thumb and then touch the steak. If they feel pretty similar, you’ve probably hit medium rare. We also love this guide from Food52. If you have a thermometer handy, go for it. For medium-rare, your steak should be between 120 and 125°F when you remove it from the skillet.

Let it rest. You want those juices to cling to the meat fibers. Letting the steak rest before you cut it helps keep all of those natural liquids in. Depending on the meat, you’ll want to let it rest at least 5 minutes, and longer for thicker cuts of meat.

how to sear the perfect steak

Once you have this basic technique down, you can play around with pan sauces (we’ve never met a garlic butter pan sauce we didn’t like) and seasonings. The first step of course is choosing the cut of meat you want to cook. Thrillist has a great guide with wine and beer pairings included. We’ve also put together a roundup of some of our favorite steak recipes. Peruse them below and go forth and sear with confidence.

seared strip steak with brussels sprouts and celery rootseared strip steak with brussels sprouts and celery rootA smaller, great quality steak that won't leave you stuffed? This is it. Creamy celery root makes a decadent base and Brussels sprouts roast up golden and crispy. Be sure to gather the loose Brussels sprouts leaves and roast them alongside the sprouts themselves; they’ll be irresistible like potato chips.

Skirt steak and barley cooked with radishes and swiss chard

skirt steak and barley cooked with radishes and swiss chard Skirt steak is one of the most flavorful and tender of all steaks, and it cooks in only 4 minutes. We’ve dressed the seared steak in an herb oil and kept the cooking load light by cooking grains and vegetables together in one side dish.

seared hanger steak recipe

hanger steak and celery salad with onion rings & blue cheeseA good piece of meat needs little more than salt and pepper to make it sing. But onion rings and a cool celery and blue cheese salad certainly doesn’t hurt. We got the onions super crunchy in the oven, no deep-frying necessary. Get those started, mix up the salad, then sear the steak.

seared espresso rubbed steak

espresso rubbed steak with roasted fingerling potatoes & Brussels sproutsGround espresso makes for a mind-blowing steak rub. The coffee is subtle and infuses the meat with a slightly sweet and earthy flavor. Combined with smoky chipotle powder and ground coriander, it forms a bold mix that will make any piece of meat feel all that more special. We melted a little butter with the spiced steak juices to then drizzle on top.

lamb steaks & spicy sweet potatoes with lime yogurtThe combination of tender sweet potatoes and Greek yogurt is so delicious you’ll never want to eat your roasted vegetables any other way. Scallions get cooked whole with the steaks and take on the rich flavors of lamb. Remember to smear the plates with yogurt before topping with vegetables and lamb so you get some creamy and tangy goodness in every bite.

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