Before we get to this Pan Seared Steak, let us start by talking about one misbelief. People often think that steak is best on the grill. They can’t even imagine it being prepared any other way.

two strip steaks in a cast iron pan with butter


 

The best at home Pan Fried Steak Recipe

How to make a Pan Seared Steak at home is easier than you think with my step-by-step instructions and easy steak seasoning.

Well, your favorite 5-star steak house doesn’t have the chef de cuisine out back on a Charbroil flipping steaks. They are either under a flaming hot broiler or searing in a ridiculously hot pan.

At home, your broiler probably doesn’t reach the 800 degree temps that a commercial broiler will, but you CAN achieve that perfect pan fried steak.

close up of garlic on a steak

What is Pan Fried Steak?

The magic of steak in a frying pan is from the Maillard reaction. A chemical reaction that occurs when food is seared at a high temperature when amino acids and reducing sugars give food a nice brown crust and develop a different flavor.

While it is most prominently seen in meat recipes, the maillard reaction also occurs in other foods like a charred marshmallow, fried dumplings or dough or any other recipe that requires browning before or after (the reverse sear method) cooking.

steak and potatoes on a white serving dish

I know sometimes it seems like a skippable step, but recipes that call for browning should be followed or you risk not achieving the intended flavor. However, when they claims this “seals in the juices” they are lying. Nothing seals in the juice.

Pan fried steaks have a crispy crust, also known to avid steak eaters as “bark” with a tender and juicy interior. Since they produce a wildly tasty flavor by themselves, you won’t need a terrible amount of seasoning. But if you insist, they tend to pair well with a nice steak sauce or compound butter.

Let’s go through what you need to make steak on the stovetop.

slice of medium rare steak with butter

What pan should I use to Pan Sear Steak?

What pan should I use to fry steak? I find the best type of pan for a fried steak is cast iron. The benefits of cast iron are a high heat threshold and even heating.

If seasoned well and properly, a cast iron pan will also be relatively stick free without a ton of extra oil and also add seasoning when seared. Here are instructions on how to season and clean your cast iron.

overhead of two steaks in a pan

You can also use a stainless steel pan. In order for this to work you will absolutely need a thin layer of oil and very hot heat. Make sure it is a heavy bottom skillet to evenly distribute heat. Heat will actually prevent sticking.

Pan Seared Steak ingredients

  • Strip Steaks– Strip steaks, also known as a NY Strip or ambassador steak, are ideal for a quick, high heat sear because they are ribboned with fat specks and are already a tender cut of meat. You can also use a ribeye, t-bone or beef tenderloin medallions (filet mignon) for this recipe.
  • Coarse Kosher salt- Coarse kosher will dissolve fast and give the least salty taste. Do not use a fine sea salt or table salt, it will be too salty.
  • Ground black pepper– Use freshly ground for optimal flavor.
  • Garlic powder & onion powder– We use powders instead of fresh garlic and onion because they will burn and turn bitter. Ground spices have the best flavor if used within 6 months of opening.
  • Garlic– Fresh garlic is added to infuse the butter. Smashing it lightly will provide garlic essence without being overpowering.
  • Peanut oil– Peanut oil has a high smoke point (it won’t burn). Other high smoke point oils can be swapped. You don’t need much, just enough to accelerate the rate of cooking and lubricate the pan.
  • Unsalted butter– Because we are also using salt on the beef and possibly for finishing, unsalted butter is the best choice to prevent being too salty.

What type of oil should I use for Seared Steak?

Most novice steak searers think they should be using butter because many times the end results is topped with a melty slab of flavored butter. But regular butter is probably one of the worst things you can use because the smoke point isn’t very high.

What is a smoke point? The smoke point is the temperature at which a particular substance will start to burn, produce smoke and cause fire.

close up of a seared steak with garlic and butter

Butter has a smoke point of 350°F. That isn’t very hot considering what you are trying to achieve. The reason is the milk solids start to burn. However, clarified butter, also known as ghee, has a smoke point of 470°F, much higher.

The best oils to fry with have the highest smoke points which are all 450°F or above. These include peanut oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, palm oil and avocado oil. I generally use peanut or sunflower oil.

PRO TIP: To sear a steak, your pan should reach a temperature of 400-450 degrees. If using cast iron, you can also place you pan in a preheated oven to ensure it is exactly the correct temperature before setting it on the stove.

Keep in mind that to sear a steak you aren’t deep fat frying, you’ll only need a very thin layer of oil to prevent sticking and only in a non-stick pan. Literally just a teaspoon for a 12-inch pan. Another trick is to heat the pan before you add the oil.

sliced steak on a serving platter

What to serve with Seared Steak

Because of the maillard reaction, your steak will develop deep, rich flavor without any seasoning at all, but I do like to add just a little of my homemade steak seasoning.

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper are probably the most widely used. I like to blend mine with a little garlic powder and onion powder. I let it sit on my meat before searing so it flavors the exterior and when it falls off in the pan, it still leaves behind the essence.

bowl of steak seasoning with wooden spoon

Some feel like this burns too much, but I like it brings out a deep caramel flavor and tastes delicious. I also make my steaks rare to medium rare, so it isn’t in the pan for as long to burn as it might be for a well done piece of meat.

You can, however, use other types of seasonings to mix it up. My Turkey Seasoning is another option, as is Taco Seasoning or Fajita seasoning for a little spice.

How to Pan Fry a Steak

  1. Choose your cut wisely. For a technique like this, a thick cut of quality steak is best. This way you can develope a nice bark, but still have a red inside. A thin cut will cook too fast to allow it to have any pink on the inside.

    Look for a well marbled piece of meat. The fat will also help prevent sticking and develop flavor. Ribeyes, strip steaks and T-bones are all good choices. Thick cut filet mignon also work well, but have less fat.
seasoned steaks in a cast iron skillet
  1. Add the Seasoning. Seasoning pan fried steaks has two theories. The first that you should wait until ready to cook to season because the salt draws liquid out and then they aren’t dry enough to brown.

    The second that it adds flavor and when done in advance, the liquid has enough time to reabsorb back into the meat.

    I like the later of the options because I think it gives the most flavor. Also, I only use powdered herbs and spices. I find that fresh aromatics tend to burn off and taste ashy. Salt and pepper are by far the most popular for any cast iron skillet steak. Whatever you do, generously season.

    Make sure you dab your piece of meat dry with a paper towel before seasoning. This helps it stick, but also moisture is the enemy of browning so trying to get rid of any and all of it before you even start is best.
  1. Get the pan smoking hot. HOT is the name of the game. Heat it with a small amount of oil to 400-450 degrees.

    Make sure you are using a pan large enough to not crowd the pan fried steak. There should be a minimum of 1-2 inches between each piece of meat and the sides of the pan.
  1. Cook it! Now is the hardest part of the whole recipe: you must resist the urge to touch, move or check your steak. It needs to hit heat uninterrupted for the maillard reaction to work properly.

    The time will vary greatly depending on the cut of meat. For a 2-inch steak to reach an internal temperature of 125 degrees (rare) it will take about 8 minutes total, 4 minutes on each side.

    Please use a digital meat thermometer, it is the only reliable way to test your pan fried steak, and it sucks to ruin such a glorious piece of meat by over cooking it.

    What flavors does it develop? Every meat will have its own distinct set of flavors, but many describe the flavors that come from beef as being savory, nutty and caramelized.

Remove the meat from the pan about 3-5 degrees before your desired doneness because it will continue to cook slightly while resting from residual heat.

Beef Degrees of Doneness

  • Rare – 125°F (cool red center)
  • Medium Rare- 135°F (warm red center)
  • Medium- 145°F (rosy pink center)
  • Medium Well- 150°F (slightly pink center)
  • Well Done- 160°F (little to no pink)
beef temp cooking guide
  1. Butter It. If you are planning to use a flavored compound butter like cowboy butter, wait until the steak is almost done cooking, turn off the heat and then top it in the last minute, spooning the flavors over the steak.

    You can also add butter while resting or right before serving for maximum wow effect. You can use fresh herbs or a garlic butter.
seared steak with butter and garlic in a cast iron pan
  1. Allow your pan fried steak to rest. Not allowing a piece of meat to rest means the juices won’t distribute and when you cut into it, they will just all flow away.

    Won’t the meat get cold if it rests for the that long? You just cooked it in a 400 degree skillet and it is a good conductor of heat. I promise you, it will be fine. If it makes you feel better, tent it with aluminum foil, but I honestly don’t think it makes much of a differen

This isn’t the type of meal you can make ahead. Make everything that goes with your meal ahead of time and do the meat last. Serve them whole or slice them into strips.

You can finish your steak off with any of my 15+ compound butters, creamy horseradish sauce, steak sauce or my mushroom sauce for steak or balsamic caramelized mushrooms to add in those fresh flavors. It is also good on its own and doesn’t really need any of these. Blue cheese sauce and Bearnaise Sauce are also amazing.

ball of butter on top of a steak

What to serve with Pan Seared Steak

In my world, nearly anything can be served with a steak, but here are a few favorites. And of course, many of them are potatoes because steak and potatoes just go together!

overhead of a spoon in a bowl of mushrooms

How to store Seared Steak

Make Ahead & Storage: I don’t recommend making steak for serving ahead of time. You can, however, season it ahead of time and get all of the items ready to go.

Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Steak can be reheated with a quick sear in a hot pan or in the oven. Use the microwave at your own risk!

Can I make these from frozen steaks? If your steaks are thawed, yes, but do not try to make this recipe with frozen solid beef.

Cooked meat can be frozen and thawed in the fridge overnight to be used in other recipes that call for cooked beef.

collage of pan fried steaks recipe for pinterest

How to Pan Fry Steak FAQs

Is it better to sear steak in butter or oil?

Seared steak needs to use oil because it has a higher smoke point. You can use ghee, also known as clarified butter because the milk solids have been removed.

How long do you cook a steak in a frying pan?

This is dependent on how thick the beef was cut and how you like your steak cooked. For most, a strip steak is about 1-2 inches thick and is recommended to be cooked to medium-rare, which would mean about 8 minutes total, 4 minutes on each side.

How hot should pan be to sear steak?

Many recipes will say “until smoking” which is usually medium-high heat and requires the use of a cast iron or stainless steel skillet. If using stainless steel, make sure there is enough oil to cover the bottom. The higher the heat, the less likely the beef is to stick.

More Beef Recipes

Jessica literally wrote the book on cooking beef, so it comes as no surprise that we also have really delicious beef main dish recipes!

overhead shot of cube steak on plate with mashed potatoes and green beans

Cubed Steak and Gravy

4.65 from 34 votes
Cooking dinner every night can be challenging, but save both time and money with this easy Cube Steak Recipe with Mushroom Gravy!
See The Recipe!
close up of beef stroganoff over wide egg noodles

Easy Beef Stroganoff Recipe

4.82 from 50 votes
This easy Beef Stroganoff recipe uses yogurt instead of sour cream for a creamy tang that adds to the gravy along with peas and spinach.
See The Recipe!
straight on shot of slow cooker beef stew

Slow Cooker Beef Stew Recipe

4.58 from 19 votes
Beef Stew is one of the most iconic comfort foods and this version features tender beef, onions, potatoes, fire roasted tomatoes in a rich herb filled stew. This recipe can be made in the slow cooker or Dutch oven.
See The Recipe!
overhead of two steaks in a pan

Pan Fried Steak

4.41 from 25 votes
How to make a Pan Fried Steak at home is easier than you think with my step-by-step instructions and easy steak seasoning!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Resting time (before and after cooking): 50 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, mix together Kosher salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Set aside.
  • Pat steaks dry with a paper towel. Season steaks with salt mixture. Allow to sit, uncovered, on the counter for 30 minute prior to searing.
  • When ready to cook, heat a large cast iron pan over high heat. Place peanut oil into the pan.
  • When oil looks slick and glimmers, add steaks, being careful to not allow them to touch.
  • If the correct thickness, cook 3-4 minutes on each side to reach an internal temperature of 125 degrees (or desired doneness). Half way through, add smashed garlic cloves. Remove from heat and place butter in the pan. Allow it to melt and spoon over steaks.
  • Remove to cutting board to rest. Do not allow to rest in the pan because they will just continue to cook.
  • Rest for 5 a minimum of 5 minutes, but maximum of 10 minutes.
  • If you have tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.

Nutrition

Calories: 649 kcal, Carbohydrates: 2 g, Protein: 47 g, Fat: 49 g, Saturated Fat: 22 g, Cholesterol: 211 mg, Sodium: 3608 mg, Potassium: 707 mg, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g, Vitamin A: 350 IU, Calcium: 52 mg, Iron: 3 mg
Calories: 649
Course: Main Course, Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pan fried steak, pan seared steak
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
overhead of steaks in a cast iron skillet with butter and garlic
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal and more!

Read More About Jessica

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Questions and Reviews

    1. Hi Danielle, you can still use cast iron on a glass stovetop just don’t drag it to prevent scratching. I had a glass top in our old house and never had issues using cast iron. You can also use a stainless steel pan, but make sure it isn’t warped (totally flat bottom) and has a heavy/thick bottom to evenly distribute heat. If the pan as hot/cold spots, you’ll have uneven cooking.

  1. 5 stars
    We love pan frying steaks in our cast iron skillet! It’s definitely my favourite way to cook them.

  2. 5 stars
    Those steaks look absolutely perfect! I have such a hard time pan frying steak even though I’ve done it a million times and rarely have trouble with anything else in the kitchen. So I am very grateful for this guide and will save it for future reference!

  3. 5 stars
    I’m so glad I came across this recipe! I love steak all year long, but it’s definitely a bit too chilly to comfortably grill. So perfect for these cold months!