The Perfect (Pan Seared) Steak

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It all starts with the farm.

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This is Springfield Farm. A fine family farm that offers a variety of meats, dairy, and eggs.

Then, comes the cow.

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Nope… That’s a goose.

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Those are turkeys…

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There we go!  Cows! Now, these aren’t just cows. They are happy cows! Springfield cows are grass-fed (and hay, dried grass, in the winters).  They also have acres to roam on the farm.

This not only means that they are eating what they are meant to eat, and getting in their daily exercise, but it also increases the health benefits of their meat.  When cows are grass-fed they actually have better fat ratios.  Omega-3 fats are the good kinds, and omega-6 fatty acids are the not as good kind, and the ratio of 6:3 is important.  The thing to keep in mind is that the fat ratios in grass-fed beef are much better than grain fed.  Grass-fed is also higher in vitamins, and anti-oxidants.  Aside from the health benefits, there are taste benefits.  I swear the meat is more tender, and the fat tastes silky, almost like bacon fat.

Of course, if you don’t live near any farms you could stop by a local farmers market.  My favorites in Baltimore are the Baltimore Farmer’s Market & Bazaar and Waverly Farmer’s Market.  Some farmer’s markets will have meats, so you can always ask about their cows.  Grass-fed and grain-finished are more popular at the markets, but even grain-fed cows that have ample pasture are better than those factory farmed cows at the normal grocery store.

That being said, there are grocery store options.  Big name stores like, Wegmans, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and organic grocers like Mom’s Organic have organic and grass-fed meat.

They will be expensive, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  One, it allows you to cast your “vote” for what kind of animals you want to be eating and purchasing.  If you want happy cows, or put simply, you DON’T want tortured, or tormented cows that are packaged by the thousands, then stand up for the extra-mile farmers who are delivering quality food.  Two, it also allows you to eat less meat.  With less meat on your plate, it makes room for other things. Green leafy things.  Three, since grass-fed is not the norm, most places you can get it will know exactly where it came from.  You could visit your food.  I’ve mentioned before that I was a vegetarian for a long time, and knowing my food is important.  I can be thankful that the steak I’m eating was made from a happy cow, that lived a nice life.

Next up, the part of the cow worth searing.

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In a previous life, Ben worked at a butcher shop, so here are his recommendations for good steak cuts:

“The Steak Continuum is labeled as Tender on one end and Tasty on the other end. Of the common grilling or searing steaks, the ribeye and the strip steak fall near the middle of this continuum, which is where you want to be if you’re not doing something special. I don’t believe in tenderloins (filet), because they’re as far to the tender side of the spectrum as you can get. They’re all texture and little flavor. If you insist on getting a tenderloin, buy a porterhouse instead. The porterhouse includes the t-bone steak, a fine grilling steak, on one side of the bone with the tenderloin on the smaller side, and is significantly cheaper.”

So now you have the farm, the cow, and the cut.  What next?  The cooking.

Before you cook any meat, you should let your cut come to room temperature.

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This is our steak for dinner.  It is a ribeye with a big chunk of fat in the middle (normally, not desirable, but we didn’t mind it) and is more than enough for the two of us.  We put it on a plate, seasoned it with salt AND ONLY SALT (pepper will burn), and let it come to room temperature for about 30-45 minutes.  We also lightly sprayed it with olive oil to give it a better sear.

The pan.

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(You’ll have to excuse the mess; it is only indicative of use.)

The pan is cast iron.  They are relatively cheap, pre-seasoned (and only get better when you cook bacon), and are stove top/oven safe.

The pan for this recipe has been sitting in an oven, which has been pre-heating at 500 degrees F.  The burner is also turned to high to maintain the heat of the pan.  Keep in mind, every second the pan is out of the oven it is loosing heat, so be sure to be purposeful when the pan isn’t in the oven.

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Place the steak in the pan and do not touch it for 30 seconds. Don’t press on it, don’t shift it, don’t try to unstick it. It will smoke quite a bit.

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Flip it and, again, don’t touch it for 30 seconds.

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Make sure to sear the edges of the steak, especially if there are strips of delicious fat.

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Place the whole pan in the oven after lying the steak back down on one side. For a medium rare steak, also known as the only proper steak you can make, that is one inch thick, flip the steak in the oven after 2 minutes and remove it after another 2 minutes. For a steak that is 2 inches thick, each side should get 3 and a half minutes. Thinner steaks might not even have to go into the oven.


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Look at that freakin’ steak.

This timing will get you to about rare/medium rare.  I have cooked a lot of steaks and know what they feel like at different done-ness intervals.  There is a method I call the hand method that has turned out well for me.

One note on doneness.  Honestly, if you are going to spend a good amount of money (or any money, really) on a steak, you should enjoy it. Any preparation above medium is too done.  A chef once told Ben that if someone came into his restaurant and ordered a steak well done, they would give them the crappiest cut they had; the simple fact is that the longer you cook a steak, the more they are going to taste and take on the texture of shoe leather. You will not be able to tell that the steak was poor.  The cow is already dead, it isn’t gonna be any less a cow if you cook it until it’s gray.

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Let it rest on a plate under foil for 2-3 minutes to let it rest again, to let the juices redistribute.

If when you take the cover off and try your hand at the hand test (pun intended) and discover it isn’t done enough, you can put it back in the oven for about 2 minutes or more if it’s feeling raw.  Be sure to let it rest again before cutting.

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Enjoy dinner.

We paired the steak with sauteed mushrooms in butter on top of the steak, roasted broccoli, and mashed sweet potatoes, along with a dry Merlot. Don’t be afraid to eat the fat on this steak. Grass-fed fat melts in your mouth.


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Get to steakin’!

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