Due to their rich marbling and big beefy flavor, rib eyes are one of the most flavorful steak cuts and can turn out beautifully rich and delicious when pan-fried. Before pan-frying rib eye, however, it is important to select a pan than can adequately handle the job. Generally, you want to use a pan that can get very hot, and retain that heat, to deliver a quality sear.
Cast Iron Is King
The hands-down best pan for pan-frying steaks is a cast iron skillet. The primary reason is that the heft and make-up of these pans allow them to store up significantly more thermal energy than other pans. These pans hold their heat very well and, thus, are able to deliver more thermal energy to a sear. Another benefit of these pans is that, unlike other pans, they can be pre-heated empty and dry to very high temperatures without warping, allowing you to start cooking with an extremely hot pan.
If you do not have a cast iron pan, the next best alternative is a stainless steel pan with a heavy bottom and a copper or aluminum core. The cores of these pans help evenly distribute heat, and the heavier weight helps with heat retention. What you particularly want to avoid are nonstick pans coated with materials like Teflon. When pre-heated to a proper temperature to pan-sear a steak, the nonstick coating on these pans can break down and release toxic fumes into your kitchen.
- Cooking Issues: Heavy Metal: the Science of Cast Iron Cooking
- Serious Eats: Equipment: The All-Clad vs. Tramontina Skillet Showdown
- New York Times: Ever So Humble, Cast Iron Outshines the Fancy Pans
- Lobels: Lobel's Guide to Cooking the Perfect Steak
- Cooks Illustrated: May/June 1997; Panfried Steaks; Stephanie Lyness
- Sara Moulton: Kitchen Revelations -- My Favorite Pans
- WebMD: Nervous About Nonstick?
Kurt Schrader has been writing professionally since 2005. He has also worked in the hospitality and travel industries for more than 10 years. Schrader holds a bachelor's degree in management, a master's degree in information studies and a Juris Doctor from Florida State University.