Slideshow: The Food Lab's Complete Guide To Pan-Seared Steaks

Deep Brown and Delicious
Deep Brown and Delicious
A perfectly cooked pan-seared steak with an even brown crust.
Start Thick
Start Thick
Thick cut and well-marbled is the way to go, like this dry-aged porterhouse.
Season Liberally
Season Liberally
Season well. Very well. Weller than you think needs to be done. With a thick steak, all that seasoning on the outside needs to carry the flavor of the unseasoned portions in the middle, so compensate. It's best to season either immediately before cooking, or at least 45 minutes in advance. Nothing in between.
Add steak carefully
Add steak carefully
Hot oil can sense fear, so be very careful when you add your steak. Carefully lay it in the pan, starting with the ends closest to you, laying it backwards. That way, if you accidentally drop it, hot oil goes flying over the stove instead of into your face.
We're off!
We're off!
It should sizzle violently as it cooks. This is not the cleanest cooking method, by the way. You will have some oil splatter to tend to after dinner.
Flip Frequently
Flip Frequently
Use tongs or a spatula to flip your meat, and do it frequently. This will help it cook more evenly and a little faster. Make sure to grip the bone with the tongs, NOT the meat, which can cause it to tear away from the bone.
Add butter
Add butter
Add butter to help flavor and improve browning for the last few minutes of cooking.
And aromatics
And aromatics
Aromatics like thyme and shallots will add subtle flavor to your meat.
Baste away!
Baste away!
Basting will help distribute that flavor, help your meat cook faster, and help you to brown the paler parts that don'y come in contact with the pan. Start by tilting the pan to allow the hot butter to collect near the handle. Scoop some up with a spoon.
Steady as she goes
Steady as she goes
You may find that as the steak cooks, it becomes more delicate. I use tongs and a spoon or tongs and a spatula to carefully flip at this stage.
Use a thermometer!
Use a thermometer!
I can't stress this enough. Use a thermometer. Use a thermometer. Use a thermometer. It's the only way to guarantee perfectly cooked meat. For medium-rare, your steak should be between 120 and 125°F when it comes out of the skillet to rest.
Get the edges
Get the edges
Right before it comes out, make sure to get those edges crisp and colored.
Start carving
Start carving
Serve as-is, or to carve for a group, start by cutting along one side of the rib bone.
Finish
Finish
Keep going until the strip steak is completely detached from the rib.
Turn and cut
Turn and cut
Turn the steak 90 degrees and cut through the smaller section of the bone.
Repeat
Repeat
Turn the steak and cut along the other side of the rib bone.
And remove
And remove
Remove the second side completely.
Carve
Carve
With both sides removed, slice each half into bite-sized piece. Not too thin, not too thick. If you value presentation, slice at a bias to make nice, fannable slices.