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Jun 27, 2012 06:31 AM

The Kitchn How to Cook the Perfect Steak Method - Help

I am a big steak fan and have had good results with the following method: very hot pan - sear 2 minutes, turn heat down - cook 3 minutes, flip and repeat. However, I got a new cast iron skillet and the reviews for this method were so overwhelmingly positive that I decided to switch it up. I have tried it several times with various different cuts of meat. The meat is always medium-rare but it seems tougher and much harder to chew than usual...even the filet I cooked a few weeks ago turned out this way. Any tips? Or any other best methods to sear a simple steak?


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  1. Might help us if you told us how you cooked your steaks previous to using the sear-broil method.

    I've found the "reverse sear" method to actually be better. It's essentially the same steps except in reverse -- i.e., put it in the oven first, then sear on the cast iron to finish off.

    See my previous discussion here:

    2 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      "very hot pan - sear 2 minutes, turn heat down - cook 3 minutes, flip and repeat" that is how I used to cook the steaks - in a calphalon anodized pan on the stove without broiling at all.

      1. re: fldhkybnva

        Maybe the harder to chew sensation you are experiencing is from the crust that forms when you sear using the method you linked.

        Your previous method I'm assuming did not create a nice crust (or not one as crust-y) because you turn down the heat after two minutes, and then flip.

    2. I have cooked steaks over real charcoal, charcoal briquettes, gas grill, cast iron stove-top grill, cast iron frying pan/finish in oven, and every other method you can possibly think of. The way I cook all steaks now requires a financial investment to achieve perfection, but it is the absolute best method for meltingly tender steaks with maximum flavor. Sous vide the steak(s), then char with a kitchen torch. I've tried searing the medium rare sous vide steaks in a frying pan and on a cast iron grill, but that tightens up and toughens the outer fibers, whereas (for whatever magic reason) a kitchen torch does not. A Sous Vide water oven isn't cheap, but if you are a real devotee of GREAT steak, there is no better way. Think of it this way; the younger you are when you invest in one, the longer you're going to enjoy fantastic steaks!

      3 Replies
      1. re: Caroline1

        "Sous vide the steak(s), then char with a kitchen torch."


        1. re: Caroline1

          "Sous vide the steak(s), then char with a kitchen torch."


        2. I'm thinking Ipsedixit diagnosed your basic problem: the crust created by searing on an especially hot pan is chewier than a steak cooked without much crust formation; likewise, creating a crust tends to overcook some of the meat near the surface of the steak (but under the crust), leading to a chewier steak.

          What to do about it... that depends on exactly what effect you find you most prefer.

          If you like the effect of a browned crust on a steak and just want to keep that effect while minimizing the inherent chewiness, there are a couple options. You can buy thicker steaks, which maximize the ratio of non-overcooked meat to outer crust. Alternatively/additionally, you can try to make sure the heat from the crust doesn't penetrate the surface of the meat any more than it has to. A hotter pan can help, if possible. Flipping the steak often (maybe every 20-30 seconds) can also prevent the meat just under the surface from overcooking, though there is some minor effect on the quality of the crust you create (this also works best if you use a very high-smoke point oil rather than a dry pan - I use refined safflower oil). You can even try the following method, which starts with a frozen steak, and cooks for about an hour in a low-temp oven after creating the crust:

          If you want the most tender steak possible, but also want some of the maillard reaction(browning) flavors on the surface of the steak, Caroline's recommendation of cooking the steak sous vide and then browning with a blow torch might be ideal for you. I prefer hardware-store style blow torches to 'kitchen torches,' which are generally far under-powered. Dry the steak well before browning. When browning, keep the torch moving rather than trying to brown a single spot at a time. I find a blow torch doesn't quite create the depth of flavor I prefer from a nice pan-seared crust, but it is undeniably more tender, which might be a good compromise for you depending on your preferences. It's especially a good way to treat a steak that is particularly intense in its own beefiness, because you keep that beefy flavor upfront.

          Personally, my favorite day-to-day method is to cook over slightly-hotter-than-normal charcoal. You won't get the crusting you'd get from a pan-sear, so the steak stays more tender. You also don't quite get the maillard reaction on the steak that you get from a super hot pan, but any flavor lost from that deficiency is more than made up for by the flavorful smoke that bathes your steak as its juices drip onto the coals. There are a few ways where I part with the traditional logic when grilling a steak on charcoal. I think flipping the steak several times is a good idea. It makes the steak cook more evenly (translating to a more tender steak), and also encourages juices to drip down evenly onto the coals, keeping that flavorful smoke constant. Forget grill marks - the flavor is the important thing, and the flavor comes from the smoke. I don't think the steak should necessarily be dried before it goes on the grill - those juices dripping are key. In fact, a steak still a little wet from a marinade can help create a better smoky flavor, so this is hands down my favorite way to cook a marinaded steak. I also think it can help to have the lid down in between the fairly frequent flips, because that helps keep the steak in smoke and to limit flareups a bit. Yes, it also lowers the grill temp a bit, but that's why we started with such a hot grill.

          In the most basic sense, every cooking method involves some sort of compromise. The 'Perfect" steak is really just the steak that most perfectly suits your preferences.

          5 Replies
          1. re: cowboyardee

            "In the most basic sense, every cooking method involves some sort of compromise. The 'Perfect" steak is really just the steak that most perfectly suits your preferences."

            100% agreed.

            For me, it depends on the cut, the season, my laziness, how many steaks I'm serving up.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              One thing to add about the initial link to the cast iron method: part of the reason that the method you've linked to makes for a chewier steak is because of the high temperature of the oven after searing. It makes the steak cook less evenly, makes the meat near the surface more overcooked, and makes it harder to gauge doneness pre-resting.

              Try this - follow the steps in your link through the searing on the stove top. But instead of putting the steak back in a raging hot oven under a broiler, turn the temp down to 300 after you take the CI pan out, and open the oven door for a couple minutes to bring the temp down quickly. Put another pan or sheet tray in the oven. After searing the steak, place the steak in the cooler oven in the new pan. Cook to about 120-125 (for med rare) and then rest for 5-10 minutes.

              You'll still have the crust - which will still be chewy - but the interior of the steak should be more tender and evenly cooked.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                I think you hit the nail on the head. It does get a very crisp sear but I think it is the rim of "overcooked" meat that i most unenjoyable. When I did the cooktop method only, there was a sear - not as crisp- but the steak was much juicier. I definitely prefer the juicer complete steak experience than the quality of an excellent sear and thick crust. I will try another method and see if that makes a difference or just go back to my old method.

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  Honestly, the dry brine makes it so much juicier than just slapping them on the grill or in the pan. Try it on one steak and compare. You will not be disappointed.

              2. This pan-roasting method--sear in a cast-iron skillet and then put in a hot oven--and timing chart from Lobel's, a premier butcher in NYC, always works perfectly for me.


                1. Try dry brining your steaks for a day or two first. The drying out of the surface contributes to an excellent sear, no matter what method you end up cooking it. And the salt brine makes the end result super juicy, every time.