From America's Test Kitchen Season 2: Steak Frites
The flavor of a juicy, grilled steak is hard to beat. We wanted to produce outstanding steaks—indoors—that were every bit as good as those cooked on the grill, with a flavorful crust and perfectly cooked, rosy meat.
We found that heating a heavy-bottomed skillet until very hot is essential for a good sear and, thus, a good crust. Thoroughly drying the steaks is also key—soggy steaks will steam, not sear. For best flavor, we seasoned the steaks with salt and pepper prior to cooking. And we reduced the heat before adding the steaks—the skillet was still hot, but not so hot that it burned the fond (the brown bits left in the pan), which we used to make a pan sauce. After removing the steaks from the pan, we let them rest for five minutes, enough time to prepare the pan sauce and allow the juices in the meat to redistribute.
To cook two steaks instead of four, use a 10-inch skillet and halve the sauce ingredient quantities. Pan sauces cook quickly, so prepare the ingredients before you begin cooking the steaks. Use a heavy skillet with a nonreactive cooking surface.