4 Simple Steaks for Your Pan

September 12, 2014

Each week, Cara Nicoletti of The Meat Hook is helping us get to know our favorite cuts a little bit better – and introducing you to a few new ones, too. Read on, study up, then hightail it to your nearest butcher.

Today: Your pan called -- it wants to cook you some steak.

4 Steaks to Pan Sear

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Steaks are often thought of as summer fare, since so many of them do so well on the grill, but there are a number of cuts that do beautifully in a pan, as well. Four of my favorite pan steaks are chuck eye, blade, flatiron, and Denver. As an added bonus, these steaks are all from the shoulder, which means that they are so flavorful they need only a bare minimum of prep before cooking. When pan-searing steak, I stick to these rules:

  • Salt and pepper your steaks liberally and let them sit out at room temperature for about 40 minutes before cooking.
  • Drizzle some neutral oil with a high smoking point in your pan (I like using cast iron) and get it ripping hot.
  • Cook your steaks for the time recommended in each paragraph below, and let them rest about 10 minutes before slicing them against the grain

How's that for an easy steak dinner?

Chuck eye steak

Chuck eye:

At The Meat Hook we call this steak "Delmonico,” which is a name generally given to a boneless rib eye steak -- and also happens to sound a lot more appealing than "chuck eye". The rib eye and the chuck eye share the same major muscle: the longissimus dorsi. When this muscle, which is the eye of the rib eye steak, travels into the shoulder, it becomes the chuck eye, or Delmonico steak. What this means is that it has a lot in common with one of the most expensive steaks on the animal’s body, but costs about 1/3 of the price. The chuck eye won’t be as tender as the eye of your rib eye steak because it’s in a harder working area of the body, but it will have the same rich flavor and beautiful marbling. I like to cook Delmonico steak just slightly more towards medium than medium-rare, to give the fat and sinew time to render out -- about 6 to 7 minutes per side in a hot pan. 

More: Get better acquainted with rib eye, chuck eye's richer, fattier cousin.

Blade Steak


This steak is sometimes called the flatiron (which is the name of another steak we'll cover later on -- can someone please tell American butchers to start streamlining their steak names?). As you might've been able to guess, this steak peels off of the animal’s shoulder blade. It's lean and surprisingly tender for a shoulder steak, with an incredibly rich, beefy flavor. It’s great as a main dish steak, but because of its shape and thickness, it also makes a great steak to cut into strips for fajitas or steak salads. Blade steak is best cooked rare to medium-rare, which, because it’s so thin, takes only 2 to 3 minutes per side. 

Flatiron Steak


These steaks are commonly called “clod heart steaks” or “clod steaks.” They come from a major muscle called, you guessed it, “the clod heart.” Left whole, the clod heart (no relation to actual heart) makes a beautiful roast, but cut into steaks it's just as delicious. Like the blade, flatiron steaks are quite tender and have a really rich flavor. They're super lean, so be careful not to overcook them or you'll risk drying them out. I like to cook mine to rare or medium-rare -- about 4 to 5 minutes per side. 

Denver Steak


This cut was unveiled as a “new steak” a couple of years ago by Certified Angus Beef, who spent a ton of money and time trying to de-bunk the misconception that cuts from the leg and shoulder were only suitable for braising. Like all of the steaks mentioned here, Denver comes off the shoulder. It has gorgeous marbling and flavor, and just enough chew that it does best if it’s hit with a Jaccard tenderizer before cooking. Because of its long muscle strands, it is particularly important to cut this steak against the grain after cooking and resting it to make sure that it doesn’t get too tough. Cook it to medium-rare, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. 

4 Steaks to Pan Sear

Did we overlook your favorite steak to pan-sear? Tell us in the comments!

Photos by Mark Weinberg

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Cara Nicoletti is a butcher and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Cara started working in restaurants when she moved to New York in 2004, and was a baker and pastry chef for several years before following in her grandfather and great-grandfathers' footsteps and becoming a butcher. She is the writer behind the literary recipe blog,, and author of Voracious, which will be published by Little, Brown in 2015. She is currently a whole-animal butcher and sausage-making teacher at The Meat Hook in Williamsburg.


Angie S. September 22, 2014
I just pan seared four bacon-wrapped tenderloins last night, and they were fantastic! I love how a screaming hot cast iron skillet gives the flat surface of filets a gorgeous crust (which my grill can't do) and then I throw the whole pan in the oven for a few minutes if they are too rare. Usually, though, they are perfect without additional cooking time.
Adrian S. September 22, 2014
Great article. Looking forward to trying these cuts. Here's a way to create a great crust and add a lot of flavor while pan frying. Liberally sprinkle shiitake powder over the steaks. You will not believe the flavor boost. So easy to make too.
Mr A. September 21, 2014
While not as cheap, the New York Strip is great pan-broiled. The recipe I learned:
The steak should be about room temperature. Sprinkle liberally with fresh, coarse-ground black pepper, gently pressing it into both sides of the steak's surface after grinding it.
Using a dry, cast-iron skillet (no added oil), heat to pretty hot, till a drop of water dropped on the surface sizzles violently. Liberally sprinkle the bottom of the hot skillet with coarse Kosher salt or similarly coarse sea salt. Place the pepper-coated steak on top of the hot, salted pan, leave it four to five minutes, then turn it over for another four to five minutes. When turning, you may need to sprinkle a little more salt where the steak had been, because it begins to dissolve in the juices as the steak cooks. After the recommended time on the second side, remove to a plate and let it rest for a couple of minutes, then enjoy. The natural juices, along with the pepper and salt provide all the wonderful beefy flavor one could desire.
callen34 September 22, 2014
NY strip is way over-rated. Generally it is too chewy unless it is aged or tenderized. Chuck eye, discussed at the top of this post, is a better value with better flavor and it is more tender.
Mike V. September 23, 2014
While not as tender as rib eye, NY should be tender. Not sure where you're getting yours from, but the ones I've been buying from Costco - currently @ 10 bucks/pound - for the last decade have always been excellent. Their best value at the counter is probably the flank, though.
Shellen September 21, 2014
Thanks for this article. I always see clod steaks advertised but have been afraid to buy them. Now that I know what do do with them, I am going to try them.
phyllis F. September 21, 2014
Nice juicy rib eye
Barb168 September 21, 2014
Helpful article on the different cuts of steak. I have a couple of differences in pan searing, though, based on personal experience: I do let the steak come to room temp, but I don't add salt & pepper until just before cooking, otherwise the salt draws moisture from the steak and then you have to dab the steak dry with paper towels to get a good char. The other is that I add oil to the steak, not the pan - reduces smoke quite a bit.
KirstenS September 21, 2014
So my boneless sirloin looks not unlike the chuck eye. Are they the same thing? (She says, as the salt & peppered sirloin is hanging out coming to room temp...)
judit H. September 21, 2014
How about the tritip steak or roast, we love this cut. It is great marinated for a few hours. It is not readily available here in Canada, but I have foubd a butcher that carries it . Great either on the grill or in a pan.
Missy September 21, 2014
My grandparents owned a market in the 30's and the sold "Denver' steaks...nothing NEW about this cut of meat.
phip September 21, 2014
Super helpful. Thank You.
When I was ten years old My mom said I could cook dinner for me and my two sisters.
She said there was a steak in the fridge and some corn on the cob. Mom's friend "Aunt" Betty said, "Take it ( the steak) out of the fridge an hour before you cook it and sprinkle black pepper all over it. Use a cast iron pan (I had already perfected frying bacon) and sprinkle a lot of salt on the bottom of the pan after it has gotten very hot. Then cook it five minutes on each side." I did and it was great, my sisters ate it and I felt like quite the little man.
I still use this technique sixty years later but I still don't know why I salt the pan.
Walter S. September 21, 2014
During my apprenticeship, 1969-70. many chefs did that. They said it was to prevent the meat from sticking to the pan.

I have never read any science behind it, but it seemed to work. Also, if your cast iron pan is properly seasoned the meat shouldn't stick. I worked in places that used cast iron for almost everything and were so well seasones they'd cook eggs in them.

Solid move on getting the steaks to room temperature for an hour. You can also do that w/pork, lamb and even chicken.
phip September 21, 2014
Mr A. September 21, 2014
I had added my own comment before seeing your post. The salt in the bottom of the pan keeps the steaks surface just above the hot metal; it's broiled, but not fried. The coarser the salt, the better.
Walter S. September 21, 2014
I'm a Chef although I don't cook for a living.

Fine article and here's one more to the mix, Hanger Steak - VERY tender, need to cook it R-MR.
SANDY T. September 21, 2014
I am on an extremely tight budget. How can I cook a bottom round steak?
callen34 September 22, 2014
Have your butcher run it through a tenderizer then you cook it as any other steak.
Elaine C. September 21, 2014
My chef husband and I even pan-sear T-bones and rib-eyes. I have always thought the grill too violent, and besides, in a pan, there's no grate for the butter to drip through. Our steaks always provide the beginnings of many a sauce.
Missy September 21, 2014
Elaine I also pan-sear T-Bones, NY's and Rib-eye steaks. My Italian Grandmother, Mother and Aunts did not use grills to cook for their families. We use the Stove and Oven to cook.
skt4me September 21, 2014
How should I cook these meats if I want it to end up only slightly pink? Will cooing it more make this method create dried out meat? any other suggestions for using this method for a more well cooked steak? TIA!
Marcy September 21, 2014
Love everything that Cara writes about! This is such a great and timely article. Now that we have moved our weekly "Steak Sunday" indoors ( usually a sad time around here...)we have a whole new outlook on what to cook and how. Thanks Cara!
Mark K. September 21, 2014
I always use the side burner on my gas grill for hi temp iron skillet cooking.

LOTS of smoke..........
kimikoftokyo September 21, 2014
I love this guide. Thanks. I use chuck or (Filet mignon )in a pan and I use oil with a high smoke point. Not to mention I like it medium rare so there's not smoke for that long
MelissaMo September 21, 2014
I'm buying a cut that's called 'Teras Major', that my son-of-butcher husband says is from the shoulder. Is it similar to one of the ones mentioned above? I don't recognize it in any of the photos, as it looks more like a tenderloin. It's really delicious, tender and really juicy.
BurgeoningBaker September 15, 2014
Can one of you tell me how I'm supposed to prevent my fire alarm from going off when I pan sear this way? Is any of this time meant to be in the oven after searing on both sides?
seth10597 September 12, 2014
which steak is in the picture?
Cara N. September 12, 2014
I didn't cook it, but it looks like Denver!