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How to Pan-Fry Steak

3 Steps to Pan-Frying Steak

Pan-frying is similar to sautéing and stir-frying but is often used to cook larger cuts of meat like steak.

Step 1: Pan Plan of Attack

Choose a frying or sauté pan large enough to hold the steak comfortably – a steak in a pan that’s too small won’t brown well. Season both sides of the steak with salt and pepper.


Make sure the pan is fairly heavy so the steak forms an evenly browned crust – a cast iron skillet is perfect choice but a heavy stainless steel pan is good too. For the best browning, avoid nonstick pans.

Step 2: Get Set to Sear

Heat the pan over medium-high. After a few minutes, hold your palm over the surface of the pan. If you can feel the heat radiating off the bottom, add 2 or 3 tbsp. of oil, swirl to coat the bottom, then add the seasoned steak.

Use an inexpensive, neutral-tasting oil like vegetable, peanut or canola for pan-frying. Save expensive, more flavorful oils for other applications where their flavor will shine.

Step 3: Brown, Baby, Brown

Pan-fry the steak on one side until a rich, brown crust forms. Use tongs to turn the steak over and cook until it’s done to your liking, about 120°F. on an instant-read thermometer for medium-rare.

Resist the urge to move the steak very much as it sears – prolonged contact with the pan’s surface will create the best crust.