How to Pan Fry a Great Steak

1. Choose grass-fed beef.

Grass-fed beef is rich in conjugated linoleic acid, beta carotene, iron, zinc and B vitamins making it a nutritional powerhouse.   Moreover, grass-fed beef contains less saturated fat and offers a higher proportion of omega 3 fatty acids than its grain-finished counterpart.   Moreover, grass-finishing respects cattle’s natural diet and keeps animals healthy.   Grass-fed cattle are considerably less likely to be infected with acid resistant e. coli than grain-finished animals, thus reducing consumer’s risk of infecton.   In short, healthy animals produce healthy meat, and . (Learn more about why you should eat red meat.) If you can’t source grass-fed beef locally, you can always order it online (see sources for grass-fed beef).

2. Age the steak in the fridge for a day or two.

Grass-fed beef suffers an unfortunate reputation of being tough, though, in my experience that is not always the case. While you can purchase aged steaks, you can mirror the process to some degree at home.   Simply oil your steak with unrefined extra virgin olive oil and wrap it in a clean kitchen towel.   Set it on clean plate in the coolest part of your fridge.   Every day for three days, flip the steak and give it a new towel.   Traditionally, steaks were aged for a minimum of fourteen days under conditions much more controlled than your refrigerator, but a little bit of aging can do some good to make your steak tender.

A simple note of caution if you wish to age your steak: use common sense.   If you notice a rancid smell or the meat appears otherwise unpalatable after aging, toss it.

3. Allow the steak to come to room temperature before cooking.

Don’t cook your steak cold.   Instead, set it on a plate on your countertop, covered with a dish towel, for a few hours before suppertime.   Putting a cold steak straight from the fridge and into a hot pan results in uneven cooking and the loss of the beef’s flavorful juices.

4. Use a nice dry rub.

Instead of marinating our steaks, I prefer a nice dry spice rub massaged into the meat.   A combination of   black pepper, dried onion, garlic and other spices that suit your tastes can do wonders for a grass-finished steak.   Don’t add salt to the dry rub, instead salt your steak to taste after it has been cooked.

5.   Oil or lard the steak.

Rub the steak with butter, ghee or unrefined extra virgin olive oil before you toss it into the pan.   By oiling the steak instead of the pan, you’re able to get the pan really hot for a nice good searing and keep the steak from sticking at the same time.

6. Use a preheated cast iron skillet.

Preheat a cast iron over a high flame while you oil and rub the steak.   By using a very hot skillet, you’ll be able to sear the steak nicely without overcooking the meat – thus preserving many of its natural heat sensitive nutrients.

7. Use tongs.

When cooking the steak, use tongs instead of a knife or fork to turn the meat.   By using tongs, you prevent puncturing the meat and thus losing valuable and flavorful juices.

8. Cook steak hot and quick.

Grass-finished meat should be cooked more quickly than grain-finished meat as it contains less fat and more protein which can leave make it tough if cooked to long.   Instead, simply cook it on high heat for about 1 minute per side until it is seared, but not cooked through.   If you prefer a well-done steak, and don’t mind losing valuable micronutrients in the process, finish the steak in a hot oven until it’s done to your liking.

9. Let it rest a bit.

After your steak is cooked to your liking, let it rest for a few minutes.   Allowing the steak to rest gives time for the juices to redistribute themselves among the meat.   A steak that has rested before being served will be juicier than one that has not rested.

10. Finish it right.

While the steak rests, you can take the time to ensure that you finish the steak just right.   Deglaze the pan with red wine and sharp herbs or beef stock and caramelized onions to create nice reduction sauce to serve along side the meat.

Photo by Crankin at SXC.

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What people are saying

  1. Dawn @ Small Footprint Family says

    Wow! Thanks! My husband always makes our grassfed steaks because he was a line chef at a fancy farm-to-table restaurant in D.C. back in the day. As a former vegetarian, I’ve always been pretty ignorant about how to cook meat. No more. Now I can make a steak that rivals my honey’s and do the family proud!

  2. says

    Our steaks come aged all ready and are SUPER yummy. I never knew how good steak tasted until we started getting grass feed beef lol! Next time I will try your lard tip, never done that before, we always use butter :) Thanks!

  3. says

    As a recovering vegetarian (gave up after my last b-day with a 0), I was appaled at myself for forgetting how to do this simple but delish dish. Thanks, Jenny, for recovering the memory with thesimple guidelines.
    If I may be so bold to suggest,try thowing in some mushrooms when you deglaze–they help absorb even more of the good stuff. And if you want to gild the lily, throw in a dab of Dijon and a little cream.
    I’m going to take a cold shower now ;).

  4. says

    Very nice! This is such a great, organized way description of cooking a steak. And that photo looks delicious – it’s been a while since we’ve made steak, but it’s going to have to go on the weekend menu.

  5. says

    I might miss it or maybe it is covered somewhere but how long should I cook? Is 2/3 minutes on super hot pan for each side enough? Appreciate the tips tho..

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