That smoky taste and aroma you get from grilling a high-quality steak can't be matched by any other method, but if you have the right kind of steak and the right equipment, you may not need a grill at all. Although it sounds a little too simple, pan-frying a steak can yield some of the most impressive results, provided you use a suitable cut and follow the right process.
The Right Cut
For a juicy and tender pan-fried steak, it is important to choose cuts from areas of the cow that aren't used a lot in its day-to-day activities. Steaks from the rib or loin sections have less connective tissue and don't need a lot of time to break down during cooking. These include tenderloin, porterhouse, rib-eye, T-bone and top sirloin. The round steak and flank steak will also provide a tender pan-fried steak if you marinate ahead of time.
The Right Pan
Using a cast-iron pan to pan fry the steak will help bring out the flavor of the meat and develop a nice crust on both sides. The crust will be even over the surface of the steak and you can place a cast-iron pan in the oven if you choose to finish it that way. Provided you have chosen a cut from the rib, loin or round sections, heat your cast iron pan on the stovetop over medium heat before you start cooking.
The thickness of your pan-fried steak is entirely up to you, but if you use a tender cut it won't require as much time in the pan so you can increase the thickness. Because you can cook them quickly, steaks that are between 1 and 2 inches thick allow you to develop the crust you want on the outside without overcooking them on the inside. A thinner steak pan-fried using a quality cut of beef is still a treat, but if you have the choice and the right ingredients and equipment, make it a little thicker.
If the real results are in the details, you should follow a few important ones for pan-frying the perfect steak. The food safety element is important, stating that the internal temperature of your steak should be at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit, which is medium-rare. You should also avoid covering the pan while you're cooking the steak, even if you have a thick cut and finish it in the oven. Covering it will create steam and trap water, affecting the taste. Take the time to baste your steak in the pan as it cooks to develop the flavors further. Use the steak's own juices, or add a pad of butter halfway through the cooking process.