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Pan Searing Beef & Finishing in the Oven ???

Ive got a few questions regarding searing a piece of beef in a cast iron pan and then finishing it in the oven. Ive tried this a few times, with mixed results. My wife and I like our beef to be rare no matter the cut. Every time I have attempted to pan fry a steak (whether or not Im finishing it in the oven) it has come out too over cooked for our liking.

This is my understanding and thoughts.....

With a thinner steak (maybe like a thin sliced Delmonico) I dont seem to have a problem cooking it to rare, as I toss it in a preheated cast iron skillet for maybe 90 secs on each side, and it comes out just fine for the most part.

Its when I get into the more expensive thicker cuts of meat, that I have a problem. Im guessing it is all about timing, but I just cant get it down.

Another problem Ive had is uneven cooking on the steaks, if I sear on side 1 for 90 secs, turn, and sear side 2 for 90 secs, then toss in the oven to finish, side 2 is always more done, my guess is because the cast iron stays so hot and continues to cook it.

How do I fix that? Sear for less time on side 2? Transfer steak to a cool pan then put in the oven?

Ive also recently watched an episode of Good Eats where AB was cooking a large piece of beef (I dont recall what kind) and he seared it, then let the beef and the pan cool down quite a bit before tossing it in the oven to finish. His logic was that this would stop the outside cooking process, resulting in a piece of meat that has a much larger medium-rare middle than a piece of meat that was seared and then immediately placed in the oven. I guess its hard to explain, but he had nice diagrams and it made sense at the time. Is this true?

I realize Im rambling, but I guess my question/s is/are there any definitive guidelines to pan searing and oven finishing, or stead fast times I can use?

Tired of spending hard earned money on nice cuts of beef only to over-cook them. All suggestions are appreciated. Thanks.

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  1. For thicker cuts of beef, I prefer the "reverse-sear" method.

    Read more about it here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/635214

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      I've done a reverse method as well. I start in a very low oven until the meat get's to about 95* then sear in a very hot pan to develop a crust. Very even med/rare from edge to edge

    2. In case you not only refer to the threads built by those far more skilled than I, but peek back at this one, I'll tell you how we do it.

      We like our steaks on the rare side, and have found that the oven is never part of the equation, even with the thickest cuts. We put butter in the pan. Sometimes oil, if the cuts are thick enough to make us worry that the butter will scorch. We do sear for longer on the first side than the second. My boyfriend has taught me that the steak should never 'tear' away from the pan, and by the time it 'let's go', then not only has enough fat been released into the pan to help the second side along (rendered fat is a gift), but the second side needs only a fraction of the amount of time to the first.

      1 Reply
      1. re: onceadaylily

        This doesn't make any sense. The point of searing/grilling is to put a crust on the meat/caramelize the meat, and to char/give the meat some bitter notes. Once this is achieved, there is no need to grill/sear the meat any longer, and it is much easier to evenly cook/control the cooking process in the oven. If you are using butter and not oil, your pan is clearly not hot enough (Smoke point of butter is relatively low). The best method is to sear the steak with clarified/canola oil and baste the steak with a little butter near the end. Unless its a really thin steak, you significantly increase the likelihood of having a good final product by controlling the cooking in the oven. Once the steak has my desired crust, I like to finish it on sheet tray/cooling rack in the oven.

      2. I'm a fan of rare steaks too, and I've come out with chewy steaks with the oven method lots of times. The last time I did it, however, I followed Alton Brown's method to the second and the steaks came out great. It made a big difference for me to actually be timing the process and doing exactly as he described. I think one of the important parts is to actually take the cast iron skillet out of the oven and flip the steak. That way you don't have the issue of one side being more done than the other.

        2 Replies
        1. re: collegekitchen

          CollegeKitchen....do you have the times for AB's methods, or do you have a link for his methods?

          Thanks.

          1. re: collegekitchen

            Would you mind sharing the Alton Brown technique?

          2. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6899...

            This post of jfood's and others has started me down the sear/oven route. If you read down it, you'll see that I keep using it overand over for different things.

            If you're getting different amounts of searing, my guess is that on side one the skillet hasn't come all the way up to heat. And I don't sear by time but by looks.

            1. The most important tip I learned from my son, a recovering chef. It's the finger tip method. Forget times, everything is different. Use the tip of your index finger and press it into thhe steak like you're poking it, "Hey steak, get moving!" It takes some practice, but really soft poke is very rare; medium soft is rare; getting harder, medium; hard is well done. It is fool proof, once learned.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Passadumkeg

                This thread and so many others like it remind me just how easy life must be for those who not only like their steaks well-done, but cooked until not a single drop of blood is left within a 1 mile radius.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  But I think it's sad that they're doomed to die from a broken heart.

                2. re: Passadumkeg

                  "A recovering chef". God, that made me laugh, Passa.