Mastering the art of cooking a steak is something that is talked about everywhere you look in the culinary universe. What kind of meat, how to season and how much, what kind of pan, proper finishing temperature, and how to treat that piece of meat with the utmost respect. I, too, have wrestled with all those questions and have had a few failures when it comes to presenting and cooking the perfect steak.
Today…..that is all about to change. With change comes new insight, new discoveries, and sometimes a little bit of faith. I will say right up front that this method of cooking will break a lot of the standard steak cooking conventions. However this method, if done correctly, will produce an unbelievably delicious steak. I discovered this method from what is becoming my new favorite cookbook, The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez Alt. I am not receiving any kind of financial endorsement from recommending this book. However, I strongly suggest checking it out because it is changing the way I am thinking about food. You can find it on your favorite online book store and you might even be able to find a sample as well. If you want Kenji’s online bible of steak cookery from his website Serious Eats then click here. If you are ready to get your steak on then let’s do this!
Pan Roasted Steak with Herbs
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ribeye or strip steak, thick cut, preferably bone-in (1-1/4 to 2 inches)
fresh ground pepper
1 half stick of butter
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
First up, you have to season your steak. The seasoning doesn’t change in that you want to season aggressively. As I have mentioned before, a lot of the salt you apply won’t adhere or will fall off the steak as you flip it over. So, don’t be shy with the salt.
Okay, here is the first change we are going to talk about. You want to make sure that you season the steak at least 40 minutes prior to cooking. It turns out the steak goes through three steps in the seasoning process. First, the salt is absorbed into the steak, the liquid is drawn to the surface by the salt, and then it is reabsorbed, which pulls the seasoned liquid back into the steak producing a better flavor.
But wait, why aren’t you talking about that this allows the meat to come to room temperature? Because of how we are going to apply heat in this cooking method we will allow the steak to cook more evenly internally. Therefore, letting the steak coming to room temp is less of a problem. Let’s get into that right now.
Take a deep breath! I know I have broken the big rule of steak cooking, which is not allowing the steak to form a crust before I flipped it. This is were you are just going to have to stay with me on this. This was my first turn after about 30 seconds of the steak in a cold pan, which is set on medium heat. Make sure you have enough fat in the pan so your steak doesn’t stick when you turn it over. This will make more sense as we go along, I promise.
So, I have been turning the steak every 30 seconds at this point. Notice that we are starting to a little color and carmelization on our steak. This is exactly what we should be seeing at this point in the cook.
The caption pretty well covers it, but we want to make sure that we render the fat cap. We are going to put that fat to work later!
I have continued to flip the steak about every 30 seconds. Except this might have been where I took a little longer because I was refreshing my drink. What?? I was thirsty and had to make sure my supply of whiskey was still good!
Okay, now we are going to take this steak to a whole new level. We are going super cheffy style! Yes, that is a technical term.
After a few more turns, now comes the flavor. To the pan, add about a half stick of butter. Yes, I am channeling my inner Paula Deen for a few minutes. Butter makes this better! Keep in mind, I am using a two inch thick bone-in ribeye for this recipe. Next, add two to three sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme. Now. let the butter get hot, brown and foamy. You should also notice an aroma of the thyme and rosemary in the air and that is a good thing. Now, spoon that butter all over the steak. We are accomplishing two things here. First, the hot butter carmelizes the exterior of the steak and helps develop an amazing crust. Secondly, the essential oils of those herbs that have cooked in that butter will now flavor the exterior of the steak. In the worlds of Alton Brown, “This a good thing.”
Now, you have reached the point the where it is time to take the steak off and let it rest. Yes, don’t forget to let the steak rest. But there is one more thing you want to do….Make sure your sound is on! 🙂
You don’t want to waste any of that beautiful butter infused with those herbs. So, make sure you pour it all over the steak just before you let it rest. If nothing else it is impressive if you are making this for guests.
Once rested, you should have a perfectly cooked mid rare steak. I think I let this rest for a full ten minutes before I sliced it to serve.
Remember at the top of the post, I said you needed to trust the cooking method? Let me remind you why I made that statement. If you look carefully you will notice that mid rare part of the steak pretty well makes up the entire inside of the steak. Think back to when you hard sear a steak and you get that gray band right underneath the surface before the meat becomes mid rare? Might look something like this.
You can see the grey band on the meat here. Now look back at the ribeye in the photo just above this one. You can see the distinct difference between the two cooking applications here. I am aware that the flank is a thinner cut and doesn’t have the bone to help protect a bit from overcooking. I just wanted you to see what I saw when I read all this in Kenji’s book. Also, I would happily shove both of those pieces of meat in my face at a rapid rate despite the slight difference in cooking method. In fact, since I cooked and ate them both, I can say there is no wrong way to cook a nice hefty steak or piece of meat. I was stunned, however, with the difference and that the practice of hard searing a steak wasn’t the only way to skin this cat.
Here are a few of my final takeaways about this cooking method:
First, this isn’t something you will make every night. It is pricey to buy a nice hefty steak and everything in moderation is key as I have noted before. Hence the reason I don’t channel my inner Paula Deen very often. It is a little more time consuming to cook a steak this way since you have to be attending the steak most of the way through the cooking process. I would guess this will take about a half an hour in order finish this properly. Let’s face it, sometimes that just isn’t practical.
This cooking method has produced the most flavorful steak I’ve ever had at home. This method is very cheffy, inventive, and can be impressive for friends and family watching you cook. You will astonish your foodie friends when you tell them that this application works! There is nothing better than a waterfall of hot butter all over a big steak. I will let you hold that image in your mind for a few minutes.
Finally, check out Kenji’s online article about pan seared steaks or check out the Food Lab. This is quickly becoming my go to cookbook for all things food. It is totally worth checking out!
Let me know what you think by sending me an email, leaving a comment or sharing your experience trying out this recipe.