Tips for the perfect pan-fried steak
- Use a thick cut of steak.We’ve used 2cm-thick ribeye steak in this recipe (above) as it has a good amount of marbling (or fat) running through the meat, which creates more flavour. Sirloin or rump steak would also work well.
- Pat the meat dry.This is a key step in achieving a beautiful crust. Getting rid of any residual moisture ensures the outside of the steak crisps up nicely and caramelises as soon as it hits the hot pan (see below for heating the pan). Up to 8 hours before cooking, pat the steaks dry with kitchen paper, before seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep in the fridge until about half an hour before cooking.
- Season generously. Don’t skimp on the salt and pepper as this contributes to the flavour, plus the seasoning will stick to the surface, helping to create a crust. Season both sides of the steak liberally before frying.
- Get the pan very hot. Heatthe pan for 5 minutes before adding the steak. It should be hot enough that the oil is shimmering (but not smoking). Any cooler will mean the steak steams instead of sears, so you won’t achieve that deep brown crust.
- Don’t move or prod the steaks. It may feel counterintuitive but it’s important to leave the steaks alone to let them caramelise properly. Don’t be tempted to prod and shuffle them around the pan any more than necessary; searing and turning them every 30 seconds to a minute is all that’s needed. If you move them around too much, they’ll stew in their own juices and turn grey instead of caramelising.
- Resting the meat. As tempting as it may be to cut into a steak as soon as it’s cooked, leave it to rest for around 5 minutes on a warmed plate or a board (not in the pan or it will keep cooking). This will allow the muscles to relax and release the juices, so the end result is more succulent. Loosely cover the steak with foil while resting it, to prevent it drying out. The foil also keeps it warm.
- Slicing. You can serve steak whole or slice it. Avoid slicing too thinly, however, or it will cool too quickly and become dry and chewy. Slice thickly at an angle and against the grain using a sharp knife for the best presentation.
How long does it take to cook steak in a frying pan?
As a rough guide, 4 mins in total for rare, 5-6 mins in total for medium and 8-10 mins for well done. When cooking, we recommend searing and turning every 30 seconds to a minute with a pair of tongs, to achieve the brown crust. For this method to work, it’s essential that the starting temperature of the pan is very hot. When you first turn the steak, it should already be nicely browned underneath.
What should the internal temperature of the cooked steak be?
If you have a digital cooking thermometer, the temperatures you're looking for in the middle of the steak are 50C for rare, 60C for medium or 70C for well done.
Which pan is best for cooking steak?
We recommend using a medium-large, heavy-based frying pan as this will help distribute the heat evenly. It’s important to use a large enough pan – there should still be room around the steak. If you overcrowd the pan, the temperature will drop too quickly and the steaks will steam and stew rather than sear and brown.
Can I use a griddle pan?
Yes, a griddle pan generally works well, but not for the recipe on this page due to the butter and garlic. If using a griddle pan, it’s better to just oil and season the steak.
Why cook steak in butter?
Cooking and basting the meat with butter is a good idea because it deepens the colour of the crust and the flavour. If you’re worried about the butter burning, use clarified butter or even lard or beef dripping.
I’m cooking steak for four people – what’s the best way to do this?
You can either have two pans on the go at the same time or cook them in batches, which is a less stressful approach. Once you know how everyone likes their steaks you can cook the most well-done steaks first, then transfer them to a warm plate and cover loosely with foil while you cook the rest of the steaks. For this recipe, give the frying pan a wipe with kitchen paper and replace the garlic and thyme with fresh between each batch (garlic burns easily and could spoil the taste of the steaks).
What can I serve with steak?
- In this recipe, we recommend making a classic red wine sauce to go with the steak, as the richness complements the red meat. However, it would also be complemented by a range of other sauces, including classic peppercorn sauce, chimichurri or béarnaise. Check out our collection of steak sauce recipes for more inspiration.
- For restaurant-style steak, serve with truffle oil pomme purée (you can leave out the truffle oil, if you prefer), basic fondant potatoes or our garlicky green beans.
- For a more homely meal, try our chunky oven chips, best ever creamy mashed potatoes or celeriac & potato mash.
- A gratin makes a great accompaniment and will sit happily in the oven while you cook your steaks. Try our creamy dauphinoise potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli & kale gratin or herby root vegetable gratin.
- Roasted herby mushrooms also make a great side and a simple quick garden salad will cut through the richness of the steak nicely.
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