Searing a steak in a skillet on the stove top, and then moving to the oven to finish, is a method of cooking called pan roasting, or, broiling. Both terms are correct and are interchangeable. The pan does the broiling, and the oven does the roasting. Its like “roast” and “bake.” We say “bake” when we refer to goods like breads and pastries, and “roast” when we refer to baking meat and vegetables. The terms are interchangeable. The pan broiling method is appropriate for steaks from about 3/4″ to 2″ thick. Thinner steaks cook better cooked only on the stove top, and thicker steaks are really closer to a roast than a steak. This method works so well because the pan continues delivering heat during the move from stove top to oven without interrupting the cooking process. This method delivers a juicy steak with sealed sides caused by the “Maillard reaction.” At 375 F most beef steaks cook to medium rare at a rate of 12 minutes-per-pound, less the time for the sear (-3 minutes).
Here’s how to apply the basic pan roasting method:
1. Remove the steak(s) from the refrigerator, unwrap, season as desired, and set aside. Allow 30-60 minutes to come to room temperature. If your steak is over an inch thick, plan on at least two hours. Why does this matter? If you dive right from the fridge into the pan, you’re risking an under-cooked steak with an unappealing gray exterior.
2. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
3. Heat the pan to just under your cooking oil’s smoke point (read the label). (Some chefs don’t use oil for pan roasting, at all.)
4. Lay the seasoned steak in the pan, and sear the first side over medium-high heat (About two minutes).
5. After 90 seconds, check to see if the side is seared by shaking the pan. If the steak unsticks itself from the pan, turn it over. If not, cook another 30 seconds and try again. If it doesn’t release, give it another 30 seconds, and if that doesn’t work, you’ll have to push it loose.
6. Cook the second side for between 45 and 60 seconds. Then put the pan, steak and all in the oven, and close the door.
7. Remove the pan from the oven and place on the stove top, over a cold burner. (The steak should be at or just under 120F, and will continue internal cooking for 8-10 minutes, arriving at medium-rare during the rest.) The proper temperature to cook a medium-rare steak is 130°-135° F. However, according to foodsafety.gov, beef, lamb, and pork should be cooked to at least 145° (medium). Ground meat must be cooked to at least 160° F. Ground poultry must be cooked to at least 165°. Fully cooked hams should be heated to at least 140° F.
Notice all those little bits of goodness stuck in the bottom of the skillet after you take out the steaks? That’s called fond. It is some of the seasoning that came off the steak, and tiny bits of the steak itself, that have now been roasted to perfection for creating a pan sauce or gravy. We have a recipe for making a Red Wine Reduction in a matter of a few minutes, and it can be made while your pan is still hot, and the steaks are resting. You’ll find the recipe here. Use a good quality metal or cast iron pan with an oven proof handle. A non-stick pan won’t sear correctly, won’t create fond properly, and can’t handle the beating it gets when you’re making a pan reduction.