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Kitchen Basics: How to Sear a Steak

Learn how to sear a steak and lock in its flavorful juices by following this step-by-step guide.

By Julie Miltenberger

steak
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Yunhee Kim

Searing is a crucial step in cooking a succulent steak. It draws moisture from the outside layer, creating a caramelized crust that seals in juices. A stainless steel skillet is essential, as it can withstand higher heat than a nonstick one. Once the steak seems cooked, don't prematurely slice into it to check for doneness. Use an instant-read thermometer, or try the finger test (on the next page), a technique favored by chefs.

Directions

Step 1
Season sirloin with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Bring to room temperature (leave out for up to an hour).

Step 2
Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable or grapeseed oil in a stainless steel (not nonstick) skillet over medium-high to high heat.

Step 3
Place steak in pan and cook for 3 minutes without moving it around.

Step 4
Use tongs to flip over steak and cook for another 3 minutes—again, no touching.

Step 5
If steak is more than an inch thick, finish in a 325° oven until cooked to desired doneness. Meat should register 130° on an instant-read thermometer for rare—the temperature will rise 5° while it rests—or use the finger test (next slide). Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

How to Check If Meat Is Done Using the Finger Test
finger test
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Illustration by Alan Witschonke

On your non-dominant hand, hold the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. With your other hand, press on the pad of your thumb near the palm—this is what a rare steak feels like. For medium-rare, switch to the second finger. Ring finger is medium; pinky is well done.

Originally published in the October 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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