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As the seasons change, so does my cookware. In the winter my Dutch oven gets all the action, slowly simmering stews on the stovetop or lazily braising meat in a low oven. Now that it’s warmed up, I’ve packed away all my earthenware along with the winter coats, and I've turned to high-heat, quick-cooking methods. Summer is the season for sheet-tray dinners made under the broiler and one-pan stovetop suppers, so you can get out of the kitchen fast and enjoy that patio weather sooner.
This flank steak follows the blueprint I use for dinner most summer weeknights: I start by pan-searing my protein in a hot skillet, developing a hard sear on the meat and loads of tasty browned bits along the bottom of the pan. While the meat rests, I cook up some vegetables in the same pan, scraping up all the fond, which adds deep and rich flavor to even the fastest meal. Using one pan not only keeps cleanup simple but also ensures that no meaty flavor goes to waste.
For a meal that’s ready in about 15 minutes, I opt for ingredients that pack a punch, so I can still bring plenty of flavor to the party. Flank steak is a tough but flavorful cut, ideal for quick-cooking and simple preparations. I pair the steak with bitter dandelion greens, which have an assertive flavor that can easily match such a meaty steak. To take the edge off the greens, wedges of juicy and sweet peach mellow everything out, while bright Calabrian chilies and fresh lemon juice balance the bitterness.
To make the dish, I start with the steak. Although there are good reasons to reverse-sear or sous vide a steak, both those methods require a longer cook time and additional equipment, and so are designed for planners. On a Thursday evening, after a long day hard at work styling popsicles, I need quick fuel, because you can bet that I’ve had just popsicles for both breakfast and lunch. Those nights are when I need the shortest route from steak to stomach, and pan-searing is always the way to go. (For an in-depth dive into pan-searing steaks, check out this guide.)
Whenever you're pan-searing steak, it’s vital to start in a ripping-hot pan to ensure a richly brown sear and fond, the crust that forms on the pan. A cast iron pan or heavy-gauge skillet will provide you with the high, even heat that’s required.
While the pan preheats, I liberally season the steak with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. It’s important to go heavy on the salt because we aren’t preseasoning the meat, and much of the salt will be lost to the pan.
Once the pan is hot, I add a neutral oil and heat it until I see wisps of smoke before carefully lowering the steak into the pan, placing it down away from me. Flank steak tends to have a tapered end, which will cook much faster than the rest of the steak. To minimize uneven cooking, it helps to put some weight on the thicker end of the steak, by pressing down with either an offset spatula or a smaller heavy pan.
I flip the steak every 30 seconds or so until it's about 15°F away from my desired final internal temperature. I prefer to cook flank steak to medium, about 140°F (60°C), because it can be tough at lower temperatures. I then add butter to the pan, which immediately cools it down, then lower the heat to medium before adding some thyme and garlic cloves. These flavor the fat, which I then use to baste the steak for the last few degrees of cooking. I focus the basting toward the thicker end of the steak so I can cook it more evenly, for a uniform internal temperature throughout.
When it’s five degrees away from being done, I remove the steak from the pan and transfer it to a rimmed quarter-sheet tray fitted with a wire rack. Finally, I pour the fat and aromatics over the steak before allowing it to rest; it'll then continue to cook the rest of the way from residual heat.
While the steak rests, I return the pan to high heat, pressing the cut sides of the peach wedges along the darker patches of fond. The moisture from the peaches prevents the fond from burning, while the peaches take on some toasty caramelization.
I then deglaze the pan with a splash of water, which helps scrape up and dissolve the fond. Although any liquid can work here—beer, wine, or chicken stock—I’ve always got water around, and it does the job without adding any distracting flavors, keeping the dish bright and clean. I scrape up and dissolve every bit of fond before adding a spoonful of chopped Calabrian chilies, lemon juice, and some of the steak drippings. I simmer everything until it comes together into a glossy pan sauce, adding more water if it simmers too long and breaks.
To turn this simple steak and sauce into a complete meal, I toss a bunch of dandelion greens into the pan. They'll quickly wilt from the heat, while becoming fully glazed with the spicy, tart, and sweet sauce.
The greens and peaches come together in the same amount of time it takes to rest the steak. All that’s left is to slice the steak against the grain and plate it up, along with the garlic cloves that were used to baste the steak, which will have grown tender and mild. Any extra drippings are great for sopping up with crusty bread.
Although I’m using flank steak here, this basic recipe is adaptable to any protein/vegetable combo. I always stick to quick-cooking proteins, such as boneless chicken thighs, fish fillets, pork and lamb chops, and steaks. Likewise, the dandelion greens can be swapped out for other bold and bitter greens, such as leaves of hearty kale or stems of broccolini, for a meal that’s totally customizable. The quick and high heat develops a delicious fond that'll bring deep, long-cooked flavor to anything in a flash.
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