Pan-seared steaks in pan sauce

Examine my whole rant on pan-searing beef here. There is a great deal of useful information especially if you wish to understand the reasons behind this recipe. Included are comments about aging beef for better flavor concentration.

For pepper-encrusted steaks, see recipe The Steak under “tenderloin.”

Your steaks should be at least 1" thick. Length and width aren’t prime considerations, but if you’re preparing for several people you need experience. 4 people is what this recipe covers because that’s how many you can do conveniently without either more skillets or thinking hard about what you’re doing to get all of them to come out at the same time. Getting dinner to the table in a timely and orderly fashion is one of the greatest challenges of cooking. (This difficulty is what forces many Americans to resort to that food travesty known as the casserole.)

This recipe consists of preparing the steaks, cooking them and then preparing and executing the pan sauce afterward.


0. Purchase steaks that are either the right shape or that can be cut to the right shape. You can purchase New York strips and cut them in half or thirds. Similarly, ribeye steaks can be bought thick and big, but split to serve more than one. I have purchased carefully chosen cross-rib roasts and hacked them into perfect steaks for pan searing.

1. Age the meat in the refrigerator, in a container that allows air to be exchanged so that your modern refrigerator, which is frost-free and therefore able to remove humidity, can reduce the moisture content. A Tupperware® container with holes punched in its lid works well. If you can raise the meat from the bottom of the container, you will not need to turn it over the aging process.

2. Remove the meat from the refrigerator a couple of hours before needing to cook it. Wash and trim it to remove areas that have dried out (there should be some edges, etc.). Dry the meat thoroughly with paper towels.

If your steaks were not precut, do this now. You are looking for filet mignon-shaped cuts. The problems to solve here are principally being able to fit 4 in your skillet without them being too close to each other, health (limiting red meat quantity is considered to be better for you) and economy (smaller steaks make less impact on the pocket book).

3. Season steaks with salt, pepper and/or other spices you desire. Do not put any kind of oil, butter or lubricating spray on them!

4. Arrange the steaks on a baking sheet, meat pan, etc. and insert a remote temperature probe into one. Set the temperature alarm to go off at according to the following doneness chart, about 20-30 minutes. Do not be alarmed: these are not final temperatures.

  Rare/medium rare 90-90°
  Medium 100-105°
  Well done (Click the close box of your browser and please don’t ever come back to

Place steaks in oven and set to 275° oven until the alarm goes off or until the surface appears dry. The steaks are now ready for searing. They should be seared immediately. (I have not experimented with setting them aside for any length of time before searing.)

5. Heat 1 tbsp high-temperature oil (peanut is good) in a heavy 12" skillet over a high flame until smoking. Sear the meat 1½ to 2 minutes until well browned and crusty. Lift each steak briefly off the bottom halfway through to ensure that cooking oil and expiring fats remain underneath the cuts all through the sear. If any bits that come off the meat begin to blacken the bottom of the pan during cooking, reduce the heat.

6. Turn the cuts over and sear on the other side, 2 to 2½ minutes. Remove to a clean plate or rack, then return one or two at a time to sear all around the sides by holding one or two steaks in turn between tongs against the hot pan bottom. Take care, however, not to squeeze the juices out by applying too much grip to the tongs.

7. Tent the steaks on their plate or rack with foil for 10 minutes before serving. Pour off excess fat from pan. During this time, deglaze the skillet to make a wine and butter pan sauce.

Wine and mushroom pan sauce


This is for 4 steaks.

  1 tbsp vegetable oil
  ½ lb mushrooms, sliced
  1 small shallot, minced
  6 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  ½ cup dry, red wine*
  1 cup chicken stock
  1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  1 tsp mustard
  2 tbsp cold butter
  1 tsp fresh thyme leaves


1. After removing the meat and draining off excess fats and oil, return skillet nearly to smoking point with the new oil in it.

2. Add in the mushrooms, stir and reduce moisture to dry—about 5 minutes in a hot pan. If mushrooms begin to burn, turn down heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook for 1 minute.

3. Bring heat back up to high and add wine and stock to deglaze, scraping fond from bottom and sides of pan. Reduce to 1 cup of liquid—about 5 minutes.

Note: Chicken stock is used to lighten the sauce; beef stock would make it a little overbearing, particularly since the wine may already be very strong. Some recipes use a full cup of wine, but I find red too strong in that quantity.

4. Add in remaining ingredients except butter. Also, add in any juices that have dripped from the steaks. Vigorously whip in butter bit by bit to thicken sauce. Add in thyme as well as season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over the meat.

Port reduction sauce

  1½ cups Port wine
  dried, red cherries
  1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  2 tbsp cold butter

Proceed as for other pan sauces.