Can a stove top steak have the smoky flavor and the char that a charcoal grilled steak has? Never! Can a stove top steak be just as delicious, flavorful and cooked to perfection? Absolutely! As a matter of fact, as the temperature on the stove is easier to control, it’s that much easier to consistently cook a perfect steak indoors.
Choice-grade steak is great and is reasonably priced. USDA Prime or Certified Black Angus steak is better, though more expensive. If possible, spring for Prime or Certified Black Angus. Make sure steaks are between 1-1/4 and 1-1/2 inch thick. Thinly cut steaks will dry out very easily and are practically impossible to cook perfectly.
Trim off excess fat. The fat adds flavor, but when cooking a steak indoors over high heat too much fat can create quite a bit of smoke in the kitchen. Regardless, make sure you have the range hood on when making steak on the stove.
Take your steak out of the fridge about 30 minutes before grilling to bring it to room temperature. This will allow it to cook more evenly. Pat dry with a paper towel just before seasoning. Wet surface will not get properly browned and caramelized.
A good steak does not need much seasoning. Coarse salt and pepper is all that is needed. You may add little bit of garlic or onion powder, but just a tiny bit, don’t overdo it. Season just before searing as salt will cause the steak to release water.
The best way to cook a steak indoors is to start with searing it over very high heat. Preheat a seasoned cast iron pan to 500F. Do not use nonstick pans as they start releasing toxins when heated over 500F. An infrared thermometer would be very helpful at this point. If you don’t have one, place a few drops of safflower oil in the pan. Safflower oil’s smoking point is 510F. As soon as you see it smoking, the pan is ready for searing. If you don’t have safflower oil, you may use extra light olive oil or grapeseed oil as your guide which start smoking at 468F and 485F respectively.
Sear the steak over high heat for 2 minutes. Flip on the other side, and sear for another 2 minutes. Do not touch it before the 2 minutes are up, otherwise the steak will stick to the pan.
This step is somewhat unexpected and not typical, but very crucial. I learned about it just recently and it made a dramatic difference. Before you finish cooking your steak in the oven, transfer it to a plate and let rest for 20 minutes. The reason is that meat is mostly muscle that will contract and tighten during the searing process. For a tender, juicy steak, you must let the muscle in the meat relax before you cook your steak at a lower temperature.
Here is where cooking the steak on the stove stops and moves inside the oven. While it’s possible to fry a perfect steak entirely on the skillet, it’s not that easy and not necessary. A far better method is to finish cooking the steak inside the oven.
Before you start searing, preheat the oven with a baking pan lined with aluminum foil to 410F. Transfer the seared steak to the hot baking pan.
Optionally, you may add a piece of butter on top of the steak for richer flavor.
Cook for 10 to 14 minutes to desired doneness, flipping the steak halfway through the baking and basting it in juices.
Checking for Doneness
After 8-9 minutes the steak will be rare to medium rare and this is a good time to check for doneness. The most accurate and reliable way is to use an instant thermometer in conjunction with this temperature chart. If you do not have one handy, use your finger. A rare steak feels soft and spongy, medium springs back a bit when pressed, and well-done feels firm. If the steak has not reached the desired doneness a this point, continue cooking for another minute or two and check again.
Here is what medium done steak pulled at 140F looks like – pink inside and springs back a bit when touched.
The Final Resting
Once your steak is out of the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing. This will allow the steak reabsorb the liquids and keep it moist and juicy.