Pan Frying Steak

Guidelines for Pan Frying Steak

Oh, the aroma of seared beef; that succulent bark that forms on the outer edges of the meat when pan frying steak is enough to set any mouth to watering.  Though many might advocate grilling as the best means of cooking beef, it is possible to achieve the same or even better results on the stovetop when grilling is not an option.

Types of steak

When looking at the steak section in the grocery or butcher store, you will be faced with a dizzying number of choices.  Sirloin, New York strip, porterhouse or ribeye steaks are some of the most common steaks to feature a prominent place on the dinner plate.  One of the important things to note on the packaging is the grade of the beef.  There are 3 major grades of beef; prime, choice and select.   Prime cuts are the most delicious and tender on their own, due to tiny flecks of white marbling throughout the meat.  Choice has less marbling, but is still flavorful and can be quite tender.  Cuts of beef that are graded as select will need a bit of help to bring out the flavor and tenderness, since they lack the dispersion of fat marbling throughout the flesh.  As can be imagined, prime cuts will have the higher price tags, while select is more affordable.

Cooking techniques

Beef can be grilled, pan fried, braised, roasted and broiled.  Certain cuts attain the optimal flavor and texture when they are prepared in specific methods.  The less fat that a cut possesses the more attention must be paid to the meat; flank or skirt steak, for example, contain very little fat and so will benefit from marinades.  Grilling is the best option for prime cuts, which contain their own internal flavor shots from the marbled fat.

Pan frying steak is one of the few methods that work well for all cuts of steak.  There are several advantages for cooking beef in this manner.  First, the delicious meat juices that naturally are extracted during the cooking process are caught in the pan and can be put to use as a sauce to be served along with the prepared steak.  There are several ingredients that can be added to further enhance the flavor of the meat juices, such as brandy, red wine, butter, balsamic vinegar and beef broth.  When grilling, those precious meat juices are lost to the drip pan at the bottom of the grill.

Another benefit is that a high heat can be applied to the steak to produce a fast crust on the exterior of the steak without heating and cooking the interior too quickly.  This “bark” that forms on the steak increases the flavor of the meat as well as provides a base in the pan for later making the sauce.  The best technique for cooking beef in this manner is to quickly sear both sides of the steak in an iron skillet or other oven ready pan before removing it from direct heat and placing it in a hot oven to finish cooking to the desired doneness; usually about 5 minutes.

A cook can be as creative or as simple as they wish when pan frying steak.  The beef may be the main feature on the plate; providing an eye catching and mouthwatering effect all on its own with its crusty brown bark.  Sautéed onions, peppers or mushrooms can be added to bring more flavors into the dish, along with a smooth sauce.  Some people even enjoy a cheesy finish to their steak.

Grilling is not the only option for cooking steak; pan frying is not only an easy technique but a tasty one as well.  No matter what the cut of beef, a pan can be the perfect tool to turn out a delicious dinner.