Tips for the Perfect Stove-Top Steak

We love firing up the grill to cook the new beef cuts that have become available in recent years, but it's possible to achieve that perfect sear on the stove-top, too. Here's how:

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1. Never begin with a stone-cold steak: The outer portions will overcook by the time the center comes up to temperature. Instead, remove the meat from the refrigerator, liberally season it with salt and pepper, and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

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2. When it's time to cook, high heat is key: Large amounts of energy are required to alter the structure of the surface proteins, and that's what produces complex flavor and a caramelized crust. It's also best to use a cast-iron skillet or other heavy-duty pan that will retain heat evenly. Brush the skillet lightly with vegetable oil and keep it on the stove until wisps of smoke rise from the surface. Place the steak in the center and sear it well on the top, bottom, and edges.

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3. To test doneness, use the point of a sharp knife to nick the steak and assess the color inside: red for rare, rosy-pink for medium rare.

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4. When the steak is nearly done, you may opt to drop a knob of butter and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce into the pan and baste the meat continuously. The hot fat will enrich the exterior crust and lend the finished steak an appealing luster.

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5. Before you dig in, allow the steak to rest for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the cut. This will allow the juices to redistribute, for a more luscious steak. To serve, sprinkle the steak with coarse salt and cracked black pepper, or top with a pat of chive butter (recipe below). -Hilary Merzbacher

Recipe: Chive Butter Topping for Pan-Fried Steak
This butter topping for steak also tastes great smeared over warm, crusty bread. Make a double batch and store in the freezer for up to six months; slice off what you need for an instant adornment for meat or poultry.

MAKES ENOUGH FOR 6-8 STEAKS

INGREDIENTS
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tbsp)
1 bunch chives, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
¼ tsp. kosher or other flaky salt
½ tsp. dijon mustard
¼ tsp. fresh lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Beat softened butter in a medium bowl with a rubber spatula until smooth.

2. Place chives, salt, and mustard, and lemon juice in a small food processor. Purée until smooth. Add purée to the softened butter and stir to combine.

3. Transfer chive butter to a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap and roll into a log. Pinch the ends like a tootsie roll and chill in the refrigerator until firm. (Alternately, spoon into an air-tight container and refrigerate until firm.)

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