How to Sear Perfect Steaks

July 15, 2011

With a great piece of meat and perfect technique it is virtually impossible to fall anywhere short of delicious when you cook steak. A&M tip us off to a few tricks -- a generous salt-and-sit before searing and post-pan-peppering -- that will ensure said perfection. It's just that good.

For more on the science behind brining (and why you should always do it, if you've got 45 minutes to spare) don't miss Kenji Lopez-Alt's super thorough Food Lab steak guide over on Serious Eats.

This week's videos were once again shot and edited our videographer Elena Parker (who now produces our bi-weekly Dinner & a Movie column as well!).

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Igor D. August 27, 2015
Great tips! I use a very similar method, but one key difference. I pat the steak dry first, salt both sides, and place it upon a cooling rack... and into the fridge. You can use a plate if you dont have a rack, but remember to flip the steak after the moisture which the salt draws out is re-absorbed into the meat.

This forms sort of a pellicle like you would want when smoking fish. That pellicle ensures a perfect, almost crunchy sear. Give it a shot, you may like it!
Denise January 26, 2015
Thanks for another great teaching video! The suggestion was made that the steak could be finished in the oven. What temperature is recommended?
mjdelcas July 17, 2012
I love it that I end up craving a steak at 9:00 in the AM after watching this.

I have question--I took a grilling class where the instructor suggested pouring a little olive oil and a pinch more salt immediately after taking the steak off the grill. The logic is that when the meat is hot, it will absorb some of the oil and salt while it rests and cools, making the meat more moist. I do it all the time now and think it is great. Anyone else do this?
Amanda H. July 17, 2012
Great tip -- and totally new to me. Thanks for sharing it with us. Will give it a try!
familydinners August 2, 2011
I always enjoy your videos, but can't hear them. I turn the volume up to max, turn off everything else in the room. I just try to guess what you are saying. I still watch the videos, silently. Thanks
pkemery July 20, 2011
Was the video deleted? Nothing shows but a black box and scrolling over it does not produce any control buttons.
Amanda H. July 21, 2011
Strange. It wasn't deleted and is working for me, but there seems to be some kind of problem because there have been some other reports of issues. Can you let us know if you use Windows/Mac and which browser? Feel free to answer here or email us at [email protected]
pkemery July 20, 2011
Was the video deleted? There is nothing showing on the web page but a black box. Scolling over thye box does not produce any contol buttons to allow viewing

Philip K
saltandserenity July 19, 2011
So would you say you do not need to salt kosher steaks and chicken, or just use a little less salt?

Loved the video! Thanks for doing this.

Don't know if you caught this month's Bon Appetit, they also do a feature on the perfect steak and recommend salting at least 3 hours ahead of time and placing on a cooling rack in the fridge, so it is sort of like dry aging I guess.
Amanda H. July 21, 2011
We haven't tested kosher steaks and chicken with this method, so I can't say. Would like to try it -- thanks for the idea!
Sly B. July 18, 2011
Girls! I don't usually have a problem with the volume of your video, but this time I had to turn the volume up as high as I could and still had a problem hearing you, don't think it was my computer?! Just an FYI for ya! Keep up the great work!
davidpdx July 18, 2011
Ditto; no audio when I played it on my computer.
elenakathryn July 19, 2011
Thanks for pointing that out. I'll see what I can do for the next one. For now... Headphones definitely help.
Amanda H. July 21, 2011
Sorry about the issues -- can you let us know here or by email ([email protected]) whether you're on a Mac or Windows, and which browser? Thanks!
SouffleBombay July 18, 2011
I never knew about they drying...thanks!! Now I am hungry for a good steak lol!!
MarieR July 18, 2011
Do you salt the meat for forty-five minutes if you are going to use a liquid marinade?Thank you!
Kristen M. July 18, 2011
No need if you have salt in your marinade -- in that case, the marinade is essentially acting like a flavorful wet brine.
thekoshertomato July 18, 2011
That was a great informative video. Interesting how kosher poultry and beef is soaked and salted ahead of time. Although there are many reasons involved for that process, it is good to know that it is advised in general. I agree, it makes the meat taste delicious. The post peppering is genius.

Last year I wrote this post (below) on outdoor steak. I love how in the video above, it is indoors and you use the ever perfect cast iron pan! It is the ideal candidate for this searing relationship :)
Amanda H. July 21, 2011
Thanks for weighing in and for the link to your post.
Inspire M. July 17, 2011
I just tried this with some rib eyes. OMG! The best steaks I've ever cooked! Let the salt soak in, bring to room temp before cooking and let it rest after. So simple, but so important.
Amanda H. July 21, 2011
Nathana July 17, 2011
I marinade my steaks in a liquid marinade and cook them in a broiler to get them to rare, then cut my piece off and toss it back in for my daughter's medium rare. So far, we love them. But I don't dry it before I cook it, do you suggest I dry off the steak before I broil it ?? Would that make them better?

I broil rib eyes, with the bone, and skirt steaks, this way.
Amanda H. July 17, 2011
Yes, I'd try drying it -- should allow the meat to get more of a crust when it broils.
marynn July 17, 2011
Sam1148--Great new rule of thumb for me! Kind of like an engine oil meat mantra: 10 W(ait, not weight) 40.

I, too, have to give a very appreciative, king- size thumbs up to Kenji, his unceasing curiosity, generosity, imagination, and precision. If I am not food52-ing, I am reading up on K L-A's latest exploits and figuring out what I need to do.
rlb4 July 16, 2011
Sounds good for people who don't have blood pressure problems, for those who do that is not thewy to go.
Sam1148 July 16, 2011
I'm a big fan of the technique in the "Serious Food Guide". When I salted steaks and THEN fired up the grill for 15mins I never got a good seasoning. The rule of thumb there was 10 mins---or 40 mins. Anything in between removes liquid from the meat. At 40mins the moisture retreats back into the meat seasoning it and holding in moisture. That works for me well as that's about the time they reach room temp and grill is blazing hot. The long seasoning and rest works very, very well.
ATG117 July 15, 2011
I was wondering the exact same thing regarding the salting and peppering of just one side.
Amanda H. July 15, 2011
Sorry -- lost on the cutting room floor! We salted both sides. Glad you both asked -- thanks.
EmilyC July 15, 2011
Enjoyed the video. Curious, why do you only salt one side of the steak? Like your suggestion of post-peppering.