How to: Sear a Steak
For all the power and glory of red meat, turning out a great steak is a delicately precise process. Before the steak goes in, the bottom of the skillet must be filmed with enough oil to lightly coat the surface of the skillet—without pooling—typically no more than two tablespoons. At the correct temperature, that oil slick will glisten and gently ripple across the hot surface. This intuitive cooking state, known as "almost smoking," is the pan's heat cap. That's when you lay the steak in the pan. If the oil exceeds its smoke point, you'll be the first to know.
The transfer to preheated oven (for thorough cooking of even the thickest cuts) is done in the same pan as the searing because it's already hot and jumpstarts the roasting process. When working from a recipe, adhere to the specific searing time and preheated oven temperature. They are designed to work together to achieve a desired degree of doneness, typically medium rare.
Resting the steaks after cooking is necessary to even out the temperature and redistribute the juices throughout the meat. In anticipation of carryover cooking (internal temperature rising while meat rests), always work with the minimal time specified. There's no graceful way back from well-done.
Lodge cast iron cookware makes a heavy oven-proof skillet that will last a lifetime. The 10-inch is a practical size for the home cook. $23, at Lodge Cast Iron.
A sturdy set of tongs with scalloped edges that won't tear the meat. Long enough to keep your hand out of the heat and short enough to rotate a heavy steak without bowing. $13, at OXO.com.