Stovetop Steak Basics

How to get a perfect sear without a grill

We love firing up the grill to cook the new beef cuts that have become available in recent years, but it's possible to achieve that perfect sear on the stovetop, too. Here's how:

1. Salt your steak well before cooking for the deepest seasoning and best browning. Salting overnight is best, but if you can't plan that far ahead, try seasoning your steak with kosher salt for at least an hour before cooking.

2. When it's time to cook, high heat is key to drive away surface moisture for a deeply browned crust. It's also best to use a cast-iron skillet or other heavy-duty pan that will retain heat once the steak hits the pan. Brush the skillet lightly with vegetable oil and heat it on the stove until wisps of smoke rise from the surface. Then place the steak in the center and sear it well on the top, bottom, and edges.

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3. There are many ways to guesstimate doneness, but the only truly reliable way is with a meat thermometer. It's well worth the investment.

4. When the steak is nearly done, you drop a knob of butter and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce into the pan and baste the meat continuously. The hot fat will crisp up the crust even more, add deep buttery flavor, and lend the steak an appealing luster.

5. Before you dig in, allow the steak to rest for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the cut; this will allow the juices to redistribute, for a more luscious steak. To serve, sprinkle the steak with coarse salt and cracked black pepper.

Update 10/27/2015: This story has been updated to reflect new research and recipe development.

How to grill the perfect steak indoors
How to grill the perfect steak indoorsMatt Taylor-Gross