The Best Way to Cook a T-Bone Steak on a Frying Pan

by A.J. Andrews

Dry, Flip and Fry Your Way to a Succulent Steak

You come across enough ways to cook a pan-fried T-bone steak to get your wheels spinning. How can you choose the "best" way when everyone claims their way is the best? Easy – by doing what the pros do. High-end restaurants prized for their superior steaks always start by pan-frying in oil and finish by pan-basting with butter – the oil develops a nice, hard sear, and the butter helps the steak cook evenly while complementing the flavor. So the best method used to cook a T-bone steak on the stove doesn't differ much from the method used at fine restaurants. Restaurant kitchens deal with higher volume and have more cooking capacity, of course, but the technique – salting early, drying the steak and frequently flipping – is the same.

Total Time: 15 minutes to 1 day, 20 minutes | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Serves: 1

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 or 6 sprigs of fresh herbs

Directions:

  1. Season the T-bone to taste on all sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Let the steak rest, uncovered, at room temperature for about 45 minutes, or in the refrigerator for 24 hours to three days.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan or cast-iron skillet on the stove over high heat. You'll see wisps of smoke wafting from the oil when it's ready.
  3. Pat the T-bone dry with paper towels. Gently lay the steak in the pan.
  4. Pan-fry the steak until it develops a golden-brown crust, flipping frequently, about 4 minutes. Lower the heat to medium; add the butter and herbs (if using).
  5. Continue cooking, flipping the steak occasionally, about 8 minutes for medium-rare (120F to 125F on a meat thermometer) and 10 minutes for medium (130F). Baste the steak as it cooks by tilting the pan toward you and ladling the butter over it using a spoon. Focus basting on the lighter spots of the steak to help it cook evenly.
  6. Take the steak out of the pan and set it on a plate. Drizzle the pan juices over the steak, and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving or serving.

Tips

  • This method works for all thick-cut steaks (as well as chicken and fish).

    The difference between salting the steak 45 minutes before cooking and salting 24 hours before cooking are slight but worth it; the longer the wait time, the deeper the penetration of the seasoning. Salting for a day or more (up to 36 hours) also helps tenderize the steak by breaking down the protein fibers, similar to how curing "cooks" meat through enzyme action.

    If you choose to use herbs, hardy varieties like rosemary and thyme work best. If you want to use soft-leaf herbs, such as basil or tarragon, add them to the hot pan juices after you take the steak out of the pan. Let the herbs sit in the pan for 20 to 30 seconds, and then spoon the juices over the steak.

About the Author

A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.