There is a reason that stainless steel pans are the go-to in commercial kitchens and even on Food Network. As more people are elevating their at-home cooking style, stainless steel is increasingly being sought after. But it may still be a bit daunting to go from cooking everything in a nonstick to opening up cookware horizons. But learning a few basic techniques and meals can make the transition that much easier.
Photo of Joshua Lanning is courtesy of Heritage Steel.
We asked professional chef and lover of Heritage Steel, Joshua Lanning, about how to make the perfect steak in a stainless steel pan. He spills his tips, tricks and hacks for using stainless pans, imparting the best flavor into the steak and how to ensure that cut of meat is cooked to perfection.
Q. Cast iron has long been the steak lovers go-to pan in the kitchen. How can stainless steel shift the conversation?
JL: The reason folks swear by a cast iron for searing meat is that when you preheat the cast iron, it holds heat. You almost don’t even need a flame to sear that first side of meat because the pan retains heat so well. Pre-heating the pan until it is ripping hot is the key to a good sear on a steak. To test if the pan is ready, dip your fingers in a bit of clean water and flick it into the pan. it should sizzle, bead up, dance around the pan and evaporate almost immediately.
Q. What should you cook your steak in when you use a stainless, butter, oil, ghee? What will impart the most flavor?
JL: You should always start with a high smoke point type of oil to sear your steak and be generous. This will enable an even sear. Use of a higher sided sauté pan is a good idea here, especially if you have a gas burner. This will help with some possible flare-ups. It’s a safer move to turn the flame off while you add your steak to the hot pan just in case you splatter oil. Because you are cooking at such high temperatures inside, you must be careful of grease fires. Also, you’ll probably set the fire alarm off. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Flavor begins with good quality meat, proper seasoning and good crust. I suggest pre-seasoning your steaks with kosher salt at least an hour before (although the day before is better!) you cook them. This enables the steak to ‘sweat’ and then reabsorb that liquid, effectively dry brining itself. Pat dry right before you sear.
Q. Inquiring minds want to know: Is it all about that baste?
JL: Butter basting is that romantic pan move we all see in the movies and chef shows. It certainly holds more of a purpose than just looking good. Butter is high in protein in the form of milk solids and proteins help with a better crust development. The butter itself certainly improves the flavor of the steak. You baste for two reasons:
- Even cooking: If you have a thick steak, even cooking is key. If you just put a steak in a very hot pan, sear it on one side, flip and sear again, the outside will be dark and the inside will be raw. But if you do that and after you’ve achieved a good sear, place a decent amount of butter into the pan and start basting and flipping, basting and flipping over and over, the steak will cook evenly on both sides. The proteins in the butter will caramelize on the outside of the steak giving it a better crust.
- Crust development: If you’ve ever seared a steak and got the spots that curved up or down and you can’t seem to get a good sear on that spot, butter basting can be a targeted sear to develop a better crust on that spot.
But it’s important not to add butter too early or else it will burn.
Q. What other herbs, blends, seasonings should you use and when should you season for best results?
JL: It is best to pre-season your steak with salt well before you cook, even the night before. The benefit of butter basting is the herbs and garlic and so on you add with the butter are transferred into that butter and onto the steak.
One secret move is to have an infused melted butter or beef fat mixture ready to go. Take fat, add chili flakes and garlic and whatever else you may want, have it hot and melted. As soon as you put the steak, whole or sliced, onto a plate, brush it with a little of that flavored melted fat for more cowbell.
Q. Bringing your meat up to room temperature before cooking – yes or no in a stainless and why?
JL: For me, this really depends on the thickness of the steak. Very thick steaks need to be tempered for sure. Thin steaks do not. Thick steaks need to be tempered because it takes so long for that interior temperature to rise. If the interior is at 40 degrees F, the outside will over cook before the inside even gets to medium rare.
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