How to Sear a Steak in 5 Simple Steps

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You don't have to bust your chops in the kitchen to learn how to sear a steak. It's easier than it looks!

It’s safe to say that steak is classic dish, popping up everywhere from the finest steakhouses to the all day menu at your local diner. It helps that it’s so versatile, with plenty of different types of steak to choose from and endless ways to serve all of those cuts.

But whether you’re making steak tacos or serving a ribeye with some homemade steak sauce, the most important thing is that your steak is cooked just right.This might seem daunting, but it’s definitely possible to do.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll be searing like a pro in no time!

How to Sear Steak: Step By Step

Step 1: Salt your steak

salting the steak to prepare for searingJamie Thrower for Taste of Home

Season your steak evenly with a big pinch of kosher salt. Make sure to get all sides of the steak. I also like to hit it with a good crack of fresh black pepper.

Step 2: Rest your steak before cooking

letting the steak rest on a cutting board to prepare for searingJamie Thrower for Taste of Home

Place your seasoned steak on a plate or baking tray and let it rest out at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour. You never want to sear cold meat! If you have a particularly thick cut of meat, then now is a good time to preheat your oven to 375°F so you can finish your steak in the oven.

Step 3: Preheat the pan

preheating pan on stove for searing steakJamie Thrower for Taste of Home

About 5 minutes before you’re ready to cook your steak, start heating your pan on medium heat. I like to cook my steak in either a cast-iron pan or a stainless steel pan like an All-Clad. Whatever the pan, make sure it gets nice and hot first.

Step 4: Hard sear in oil

hard searing the steak in oilJamie Thrower for Taste of Home

Pour a small splash of oil in the hot pan and gently place the steak down. Let it cook undisturbed for around 4 to 5 minutes while a good sear forms. The steak will tell you when it’s ready to move because it will release its grip on the pan, and you shouldn’t have to force it. When it’s seared to a deep brown, flip and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes.

Thinner cuts like flat iron or flank and skirt steak will cook rather quickly and can be cooked through on the stovetop. If your steak is a thick-cut, then you can finish it in the oven for a few minutes. Make sure your pan is oven-safe, though!

How do I know when my steak is done? The best method is to take its temperature with an instant-read thermometer like this. The temperature will rise pretty quickly toward the end so keep a good eye on it. You’re looking for the following readings:

  • Medium-Rare: 135°F
  • Medium: 140°F
  • Medium-Well: 145°F

Step 5: Rest, then cut against the grain

cutting steak against the grainJamie Thrower for Taste of Home

Let your steak rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting into it, longer for a thicker cut of meat. Cut your slices against the grain with a sharp knife and finish with a sprinkle of flake salt before serving. Learn more about how to cut steak the right way.

How to Reheat Your Steak

If you happen to have leftovers, make sure to check out these steps to reheat your steak in the tastiest way possible.

finished and sliced seared steak on cutting boardJamie Thrower for Taste of Home

Tips for Searing Steak

Salt before and after

Seasoning meat is a crucial step! I like to use kosher salt for the first seasoning and flake salt like Maldon as a finishing salt. To season, make sure you sprinkle the kosher salt “high and dry,” with your hand a few inches above the meat so the salt granules can disperse evenly. When your steak is done and cut and you’re ready to serve, sprinkle a few flake salt granules on it to really bring out the flavor.

Rest your steak before and after cooking

Before cooking, let your steak rest out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to assure a good sear. The minute a steak hits a hot pan, it begins caramelizing the surface on the outside, but it can’t do that if either the steak or the pan are cold. Those caramelized bits build up complex flavor and make your steak look and taste more delicious.

It’s just as important to let your steak rest after cooking. This gives the steak a chance to absorb all its juices before being cut into, resulting in a tastier finished product.

Preheat your pan

As you can tell by now, temperatures are important in cooking a good steak. Avoid putting meat in a cold pan for the same reason you let your steak rest before cooking it—a cold pan will make it impossible to get a good sear and it will cook the steak unevenly.

Finish with butter

One delicious way to finish your steak is to toss a slab of butter in the pan in the last couple of minutes of cooking. Basting the steak with the butter will give you a bit of a sauce to pour over the finished product, and will lend an even richer and more complex flavor. This is only one ingredient that takes your steak from good to great!

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Risa Lichtman
Risa Lichtman is a chef and writer living in Portland, Oregon. She is the owner/chef of Lepage Food & Drinks, a small food company featuring Jewish seasonal foods, providing takeaway all around Portland. She has previously published poems in Poetica Magazine, the anthology The Art of Bicycling, Maggid: A Journal of Jewish Literature, and The Dos Passos Review. She lives with her wife Jamie, their dog Isaac, and their cat Sylvia. Follow her at @risaexpizza, or find her delicious food offerings on @lepagefoodanddrinks.