How to Cook the Perfect Steak
Let the Maillard reaction bring a smile to your face
The masters at America’s Test Kitchen share their secret for how to cook the perfect steak. As the cool weather sets in, you can stay warm in your cozy kitchen while still achieving beef perfection. Who needs a grill?!
Pan searing is a great way to create a tasty crust on the outside of meat. The Maillard reaction begins on the surface of the meat, as it dries out in the heat of the pan. The proteins begin to break down into amino acids, and interact with the heat and sugars to create new flavor compounds.
The meat cooks from the outside in, so a layer of dark brown crust forms on the outside, while the inside stays pink. In this recipe, we start the steaks in a cold pan and flip them over every two minutes. This means that the meat’s temperature rises gradually, allowing more time for nice browning to build up on the outside without overcooking the inside. (This slow start also keeps the steaks from smoking and splattering on the stove!)
Pan-Seared Strip Steaks
- 2 (12-ounce) boneless strip steaks, about 1 1/2 inches thick
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Place the steaks on a large plate. Use paper towels to pat both sides of the steak dry. Sprinkle steaks evenly with half of the pepper. Flip them over and sprinkle evenly with the remaining pepper.
- Place the steaks 1 inch apart in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Turn the heat to high and cook for 2 minutes. Use tongs to flip the steaks and cook for 2 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Flip the steaks and continue to cook, flipping steaks every 2 minutes, until well browned and the meat registers 120 to 125 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 4 to 10 minutes longer. (Steaks should be sizzling gently in the pan; if not, increase the heat slightly. If the skillet starts to smoke, turn the heat down.)
- Transfer the steaks to a cutting board. Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes. Slice crosswise into thin strips. Sprinkle sliced steak evenly with salt. Serve.
You can also use rib-eye steaks for this recipe, if you prefer.
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