A Juicy Pan-Seared Steak

Few foods elicit such conflicting feels of bravado and insecurity as the humble steak. But cooking it is an uncomplicated affair, I promise you. Especially with thin-ish cuts like flank steak!

The humble flank steak is a relatively inexpensive cut with a reputation for being tough. This is due to its long muscle fibers, which contract and dry out when overcooked. We’ll avoid that, however, that by cooking it to a perfect, juicy medium-rare. Flank steak is also known for its rich beefy flavor, due to the nice marbling of fat throughout. That is truly what makes it one of my favorite cuts to cook.

If you can’t find a flank steak, you can substitute a skirt, flatiron, or hanger steak. All of these steaks have similar properties.

A side note on buying beef: not all steaks are made the same. if it’s within your budget, opt for a grass-fed, pasture-raised cow. I consider steak a decadent treat, and there’s no better way to honor the cow than by making sure it lived a good life.

Got your raw hunk o’ cow? Now let’s sear.

Tools Needed:

  • heavy-bottomed skillet cast iron or stainless steel are ideal
  • tongs

Ingredients Needed:

  • canola oil or other high-heat resistant oil like sunflower oil
  • flank steak 1 pound
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Lesson Gallery... Yum yum.

To submit your photo, send me an email!

  • Attempt 2! This time I used a flatiron steak from Whole Foods. I cooked it for 4 minutes on one side and 3 on the other side, after which the internal temperature was 90 degrees. I threw it back on the pan for another 1-2 minutes per side until the fire alarm went off, forcing the cooking to an end. Now the steak was 115 degrees, which went up to 125 after 10 minutes of rest. This resulted in a steak that was a little too rare for me and got cold very quickly after carving, probably because it wasn’t very hot to begin with. Nonetheless, it was tasty and tender, with a nice crust. The biggest lesson learned was to be very careful in finding steak with the right width!

  • This looks very summery and delicious! As I mentioned in Michelle’s comment, smoke is actually a good thing. You should expect a lot of smoke. That means your pan is very hot and you’ll get a nice dark crust, which from the looks of your photo, you achieved! Yay! Also, nice job being creative and finding an alternative cut. Chuck is also very flavorful—it has a good deal of fat marbling but also quite a bit of collagen, which is why it’s not usually used for steaks (collagen can be tough unless you cook it low and slow). I wonder, was your steak chewy at all? Anyhow, it looks perfectly pink inside. My mouth is watering. You get 4 points for completing the mission: +1 for creativity, +1 for helpfulness, +1 for making me giggle (#steakwarriorprincess, hah!), and +1 for doing the mission. You win ALL TEH POINTZ!

  • In my apartment, if the fire alarm doesn’t go off, it means my pan isn’t hot enough. ;) Your results may vary, but judging from the color of your steak, you could perhaps stand to get your pan even hotter before throwing that steak in. :) The inside looks perfect however. Nicely done! (But not well done… ahahaha… sorry.) You earned 3 points: +1 for doing the mission, +1 for helpfulness, and +1 for making me giggle with the rain comment.

  • I was 95% ready to upload a picture of raw beef in the rain, because every other time we’ve tried cooking steak in our apartment, the fire alarm has gone off (and it’s not one of those forgiving, there’s-a-button-to-pause-this types). But to my surprise, this only smoked a reasonable amount, and maybe ended up a little overdone in places. Did it have to do with being a thinner cut of meat? Less oil? Tina magic? We shall never know.

  • Steak with sweet potato fries and corn. A delicious meal for a #steakwarriorprincess. Anyway, we’re not very good at following directions. We ended up buying a chuck steak because it was on sale (and none of the listed options were available at our local Whole Foods). Then during seasoning we added a whole lot more than salt — pepper, lemon pepper, garlic powder, basil, thyme, pretty much anything in the spice cabinet that seemed delicious at the time. I ended up searing 3 minutes on the first side and about 4 minutes on the second (at 2 minutes I was only at about 90 F). Would have been better if I’d kept it to 3 minutes per side because I soared passed 125 F all the way to 145-150 F. I knew I’d over cooked it when my smoke turned into pretty thick smoke from the burning meat instead of the typical thinner smoke from the super hot oil. So measure frequently fellow #steakwarriors. We ended up with a delicious medium. Will definitely try this again. Next time I’m going to cut deeper when I score because I was rather timid and didn’t end up with the nice etched pattern that #steakwarriorTina managed in the example photo.

  • Ah bummer! My guess is the thinness was the main culprit here. Still, it looks like you got some nice browning on the edges! Do you have a Whole Foods or local butcher in your area? They might carry some of these less well-known steak cuts. If all else fails, I would try this mission again with a normal thicker cut of steak (like porterhouse or ribeye), but after searing pop it in the oven at 400 degrees F for 5 minute intervals to cook the inside to the desired doneness (since thicker steaks take longer to cook). Either way you earned 3 points: +1 for being first, +1 for doing the mission, and +1 for being helpful! :)

  • Stop & Shop did not have flank steak or any of the listed substitutes (skirt, flatiron, or hanger steak). I used thin-cut top round steak, which was only about 1/3 inch thick. I reduced the cooking time to 2 minutes on the first side and 90 seconds on the other side. Still, the steak ended up cooked all the way through and pretty tough. The steaks also had cooled down completely halfway through dinner. I would try again only if I could find the right cut of meat.

  • I hid it all inside a pita! The caramelized veggies tasted great with the steak and made for a nice simple lunch. This made the entire floor at work smell like fajitas, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it).