Searing steak and burning spices
Lately I've been practicing searing steak in a cast iron pan and I've gotten pretty good at it. I salt the steak, pat it as dry as possible, brush a little olive oil on it and lay it in the smoking pan. So far I've only used salt to season, fearing that any spice on the outside will burn and turn bitter in the high heat, but I would like to start experimenting with spice-rubbed steaks. So my question is for those chowhounds who like spices on their steak; how do you sear without burning?
I accidentally bought Mequite flavored Montreal Steak Seasoning recently, and just seared steaks last night using that - and it was fantastic. But I experimented with intentionally burning the spice a bit - I heated the pan to smoking, sprinkled my seasoning in, then slapped the steaks on top. I was just cooking fairly cheap steak for my husband and son, as my daughters and I had been grazing earlier, but the smell brought not only my daughters by a neighbor to the house, ending up in more steaks being cooked later.
I'm not convinced I'd intentionally buy it again, or rec it to 'hounds, but might have to experiment more to find out for sure. Like right now.
Couple of thoughts.
1. When I do decide to add spices, or a dry rub, on my steaks I don't mind that they get burned -- actually prefer it that way.
2. If you absolutely want to avoide burned or "blackened" spices, then sear your steaks first, then add your spices and finish off under a broiler or in the oven.
It would work better if you dry-brined the steak with the seasonings on it (not sure what "spices" you're referring to) first for a day. This seasons the steak through, and unwraps the protein molecules for a terrifically juicy & tender steak.
Blackened seasoning mixes do work well in this application. (of pan searing & not burning or tasting burnt.) I usually only season my ribeyes with salt, pepper and maybe a Montreal steak blend. But I charcoal grill, instead of pan searing. I also use, on occasion, fine sea salt and dried porcini mushroom powder. Again, on a grill, great taste, like a seared on crust, no burnt spice.
I probably wouldn't get too fancy with different spices, but I'm a purist when it comes to my prime steaks!