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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?


          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.

                3. Cutting back on on the 2nd side stovetop sear should help, since as you note, it will continue to get high heat from the pan.

                  A couple of things may be different in restaurants:
                  - higher heat on the stove top burners
                  - use of aluminum pans, which cool down to oven temperatures faster
                  - greater practice in judging when to pull the meat from the oven.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: paulj

                    "aluminum pans" for what, for finishing the meat in the oven? Nah, but restaurant stoves do have higher btu's and chefs much more practice judging degree of doneness.

                    In a restaurant the steak or filet or whatever stays in the saute pan when it goes into the oven. The fond in the pan may be needed to finish the sauce. Really, the only time I finished anything in the oven in a restaurant was a filet cut at least 2 inches thick, a double thick pork shop or a rack of lamb. These cuts would be flipped half way through cooking, for an evenly crusted exterior and an evenly cooked interior. Steaks in restaurants (ribeye, sirloin, hangar, even porterhouse) tend to be cooked on grills.

                    It depends on steak thickness as to how I finish it at home, usually just stove top. The reverse sear method is a sound one but so is searing first and then into the oven. I wouldn't bother putting a steak in the oven if I wanted a rare or medium rare outcome, unless you'ge got a two inch sirloin or something like that. A instant thermometer is very helpful. I use the finger touch method, described by Passadumkeg upthread and that does take some experience to get right, but I cooked steaks in restaurants for many years and gots lots of practice. Don't forget to let your steak rest for a few minutes, depending on thickness. Tent with foil.

                  2. I pan sear mine then put them on a drain rack in jelly roll pan in the preheated oven but I stick a digital thermometer probe in the one coming out last and use the temperature to determine which and when I take out of the oven. When I take a steak out of the oven I wrap it in foil and let it rest for 10 minutes.

                    I have heard that Cook's Illustrated is advocating heating in the oven then pan searing. It makes sense but I keep using my old method.

                    1. I posted this link in the jfood thread, but it's worth repeating. It's a link to How to Cook the Perfect Steak from the Lobel's meat market Web site. Scroll down to the secion on Pan Roastin and then below that for the timing chart.


                      I find the timing for the various thicknesses to be absolutely spot-on.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: JoanN

                        I like to cook my steak at 600 or so degrees, whether it's cooked on the grill or in a cast iron pan. If you finish in the oven or do a reverse sear you lose out on some of the charing. That is to say you will have a lighter crust. The only reason I can see for a lighter crust is if you are finishing the steak in a pan with a sauce. In that case a darker crust would dirty the sauce.

                        Yes you may be able to get a small increase in tenderness with a reverse sear but you lose the darker char which gives you more flavor. Besides the cut of meat will determine the tenderness more than modifying time temperature. This assumes that you ARE cooking at high heat AND you are not overcooking the steak.

                        Here is a video comparing reverse sear and the sear and slide on a grill.


                        I actually disagree with both methods because I like a darker char. I added it here because it's a good side by side comparison and because I know not everyone would agree with me about a darker char.

                        1. re: cajundave

                          Sorry. Can't come out and play. I'm speaking from the perspective of a Manhattan apartment with an oven that's pushing it's temperature limit at something less than 550. Yes, I would prefer a darker char over charcoal. I also wish I had a salamander. But if all you've got is a cast iron pan and a normal oven, the Lobel instructions turn out a damned fine steak.

                          1. re: JoanN

                            Sorry Joan, I hit the wrong reply button, I meant my reply to address the OP in general.

                        2. re: JoanN

                          I like that link. I copied and pasted the whole article onto my hard drive then I printed the two cooking times tables to put on my fridge with a magnet.

                        3. Last night I added 1T butter to a med-hot quality pan then seared 2-8 oz filets 2 mins per side & then transferred the steaks to a cast iron pan that went into a preheated 425 over for 8 minutes. After resting for about 8 mins the steaks were a bit rare in the center (for my taste they could've used another 2 mins). This method has never failed me. Good luck Titus!

                          1. How hot of an oven are you using? Try lowering your heat by 25 degrees at a time and play with the thickness of the cut. I've been using this technique for years with huge success in poultry, meat and fish.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: fongpei

                              Doesn't really matter, finishing it in the oven, promotes even cooking, and will lead to a much more consistent product. I usually finish with the oven at 375

                            2. You only sear side 1 on the cooktop, flip and finish side 2 in the oven to desired internal temperature.

                                1. I often sear beef tenderloin steaks on the stove and then finish them in the oven. Two things are key: After I sear the meat, I transfer it from the hot pan to a foil covered baking sheet. And I always use a thermometer, the kind that broadcasts the temperature of the meat to a receiver on the counter top.

                                  The first step keeps the side on the hot pan from overcooking, and it also allows me to use the pan to make a sauce for the meat while the meat finishes.

                                  The thermometer allows me to pull the meat out of the oven at 105, which after resting a few minutes yields beautiful rare steak. It will throw off some juice in the meantime, which I add to the sauce I am making.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: bitchincook

                                    I get the same result by just keeping it in the CI skillet after I turn it. That way both sides get that deep brown, almost crust. While there are some VERY experienced steak cookers on the site who can tell by the touch when it's rare etc., the rest of us do depend on our thermometers.

                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                        As we get older, it's funny the things we love, scube :)