How to Cook Steak Evenly in a Skillet

Published Categorized as Cooking Tips
A photo of a steak in a skilletkarandaev /123RF

You’ll cook, cook, cook, cook tonight with our guide for making delicious steak!

Steak is one of the most enticing cuts of meat for meat lovers to cook and eat. Mentioning the word alone makes the mouth water, and whether grilling, cooking in the oven, or stovetop in your favorite skillet, you absolutely can have the perfectly cooked steak.

But how do you cook it even when you want it done stovetop in your favorite skillet? 

To cook the best steak, remove the meat from the fridge, salt it, and rest for 30-40 minutes before frying. Preheat your skillet, sear it for up to a minute on both sides, then lower the heat and finish cooking low and slow to your desired level of doneness.

How many times you flip the meat does not matter, as long as you let it cook uninterrupted for at least a few minutes per side. You will know it is done when it reaches the minimum temperature for the desired degree of doneness, which we will get to discussing in a jiff.

When it comes to cookware, there are pans with non-stick (some know them as “PTFE” pans) and ceramic coatings that heat up quickly and keep the steak from sticking, but don’t sear as well as the others.

Then there are cast iron skillets and their lightweight cousins, carbon steel skillets. These cooking vessels need to be preheated for a good 4-5 minutes. But once hot, they hold the heat well and produce a steak with good browning and a tasty crust.

Last but not least are the stainless steel skillets. If they are well-made (when in doubt, opt for a tri-ply or five-ply model), they get hot relatively quickly and distribute heat evenly.

Meat sticks to stainless steel, but that browned residue yields the most delicious pan sauce when you add beer or wine to the pan and simmer it down with garlic a few herbs after the steak is done cooking (this cooking technique, for the curious, is known as deglazing).

Steps for Cooking Steak in a Skillet

One of the most beautiful sounds is slapping a fresh steak on a hot skillet and watching it smoke and sizzle. In these steps, we will show you how to cook your steak evenly to get it perfectly cooked to your preference, from medium rare to well done. 

Step 1. Prep the steak for cooking

Remove the steak from the fridge and bring it to room temperature by resting it on the counters for at least 15 minutes.

Season the meat with a good amount of kosher salt (or fine sea salt) and freshly-cracked black pepper. You can also use rubs or your favorite seasonings and herbs if you choose, but careful not to burn them.

There are two schools of thought here:

Some cooks salt their steak and let it brine, thanks to the power of osmosis, for 30-40 minutes before they get cooking. The salt pulls juices from the meat and dissolves in them to form a salty brine, which eventually gets reabsorbed by the protein.

Others season the steak right before putting it in the pan. Though both ways work, the former develops flavor like no other.

Step 2. Preheat your skillet

Oil up the skillet with a high-smoking-point, neutral-flavor cooking oil such as avocado oil or rice bran oil. (If you use medium heat, you can use extra virgin olive oil or a generous stick of butter). Turn the burner on medium-high on the stovetop and place the skillet on the stove.

Non-stick and ceramic fry pans should be preheated for 50-60 seconds, whereas carbon steel, cast iron, and stainless steel skillets take 4-5 minutes to get up to heat.

Step 3: Put the steak in the pan

Place the steak flat on the skillet and make sure nothing is folded over. It will leave a sizzling sound as the steam rises from the skillet, and the prep time for the steak is all the time you need to preheat the skillet.

Sear the steak for 50-60 seconds on one side, then flip it over to the other. Get it nicely browned, then turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking low and slow so that the protein has time to cook through on the inside (and the outside doesn’t burn).

Brown the steak, don’t cook it with steam:

Do not cook a frozen steak and never add water to the skillet. This will steam cook the steaks, not brown them. The objective is to almost fry sear each side to brownness while the middle cooks to specification. Try to bring the steak as close to room temperature as possible for the best results. 

Step 4: Mind the cooking time

Cooking times vary according to the thickness of the steak. These steps will cover an inch-thick steak medium but will have examples for each size and cooking preference later in this article.

The total time for a medium steak is 14 minutes, so, 4 minutes in after the sear, flip the steak for the first time.

Step 5: Flip the steak a second time

Cook this side of the steak for another 4 minutes, then flip it over again. 

Step 6: Flip the steak after three minutes

Flip the steak over again after three minutes while ensuring all the sides and outside of the meat are cooked enough. 

Step 7: Flip the steak a final time now

Do the same thing to the other side of the steak and cook it for another three minutes.

If you know your stove really well and you’ve cooked more steaks than you can count in your skillet, you can reduce the number of post-sear flips to two. That said, four flips make it easier to get evenly-cooked steak, especially for the beginner cook.

Special Note on Doneness: To get a medium-rare steak, subtract two minutes from the final two flips. If you want the next grades up, add two minutes per cooking level to the last two flip times.  

Step 8: Take the steak off the heat and rest it

Once the time limits are met, the steak is done medium according to these steps. Remove the steak from the skillet and set it off to the side. Allow ten to 15 minutes before cutting into the steaks and serving.

Another Note: This will hold the juices inside while it cools down a bit. Keep in mind that the meat’s inside is still cooking while you take the meat off the skillet.

Step 9: Enjoy Every Bite!!  

It is now time to serve the steak. Whether you are eating it by yourself or you have guests over, this is the best step of all! We are even excited!!

How to Measure Doneness

Each individual has their preference as to how they want their steak cooked. It is advised by the USDA to cook a steak to 145°F for safety reasons, and anything less is risking food poisoning. This would be medium, but some people like it medium-rare while others want it well done.

You can measure the steak to your preference listed below using an instant-read thermometer. A thermometer will give a more accurate reading. If a thermometer is unavailable, you can look at the color of the meat listed to tell if it is done:  

  • Rare: 125°F – The center of the steak is bright red while the outside is pinkish; 
  • Medium-Rare: 135°F – It has a pink center while the outside is lightly browned;
  • Medium: 145°F – The inside has a little pinkish tint with browned outside. 
  • Medium-Well: 155°F – The middle is lightly pink mixed with brown, and the outside is a darker brown
  • Well-Done: 165°F – Brown throughout with blackened crisp edges. 

Cooking Time Limits for Steak Boneless and Bone-In

When you are cooking steak in the skillet, times will vary according to the thickness and whether there is a bone or not. These bullet points will help you determine how long to cook each steak.

Listed first are the boneless steaks: 

Rare

  • One inch: 6-11 minutes;
  • 1 1/2 inches: 12-14 minutes.

Medium-Rare

  • One inch: 8-13 minutes;
  • 1 1/2 inches: 12-14 minutes.

Medium 

  • One inch: 9-14 minutes;
  • 1 1/2 inches: 15-17 minutes.

Medium-Well

  • One inch: 11-16 minutes;
  • 1 1/2 inches: 17-19 minutes.

There are steaks sold with the bone inside, and it adds a little more beefy flavor. It is fun for those who love to clean the bone.

Listed next are the bone-in steaks: 

Rare

  • One inch: 11-13 minutes;
  • 1 1/2 inches: 13-15 minutes.

Medium-Rare

  • One inch: 13-15 minutes;
  • 1 1/2 inches: 15-17 minutes.

Medium 

  • One inch: 14-16 minutes;
  • 1 1/2 inches: 16-18 minutes.

Medium-Well

  • One inch: 15-17 minutes;
  • 1 1/2 inches: 17-19 minutes.

We Hope This Information Helps

We would like to send out a warning on rare meats. We strongly advise not to eat rare meat, which can cause severe illness and, in severe cases, death.

They say that whole-cut beef is safer with pink in the middle than other meats, but bloody raw meat is unsafe and risky. Please be safe—and be sure to cook the steaks thoroughly.

We hope you found excellent value in this information and wish you the best in cooking the perfect steak. The only definition of the ideal steak is getting it cooked to your preference between medium-rare to well done. 

Each individual likes it cooked their way, and there is nothing wrong with that.