Come summer, the path to the grill gets well worn, especially when steak is on the menu. But there are times when I get such a hankering for the uniform and beautifully browned crust on a perfectly seared steak that I stay put in the kitchen and heat up a cast-iron pan. In fact, some of my favorite steak dinners include little more than a good cut of beef, some salt and pepper, and a hot sauté pan.
Start with the right steak
In order to get that good sear and keep the meat rare (the way I like it), I need steaks that are at least 1 inch thick, preferably 1-1/2 inches. If you don’t see such a steak packaged at the supermarket, ask the butcher behind the counter to custom cut one for you. My favorite cuts for sautéing include rib-eye, New York strip, and filet.
Filet, a.k.a. filet mignon.
This exceedingly tender steak is cut from the tenderloin. Ask for center-cut filets, rather than ones from the tail or head; 6 to 8 oz. per person is a good serving. Filet has a bit less flavor than other cuts, but it’s perfectly suited for the sauté pan, especially because its tender texture is an excellent match for a rich pan sauce. Serve this cut rare or medium rare; when cooked past that, its flavor can become livery.