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Cooking Tips

Do You Cold-Sear? Learn Our New Favorite Way to Cook Steaks and Chops

For a rich crust and evenly juicy interior—without smoke or splatter—forget everything you know about pan-searing.

Published Apr. 1, 2022.

Searing steaks and chops on the stovetop inevitably causes smoke to billow and grease to splatter. Plus, every approach to pan-searing runs up against the same fundamental challenge: how to ensure that the exterior of the meat develops a deeply browned crust just as the interior comes up to temperature. Pulling it off is tricky because the outside needs lots of heat to brown, while the inside can’t take more than minimal heat before it overcooks.

That’s why the classic approach—blasting each side of the meat with heat in a well-oiled, ripping-hot pan—doesn’t work well. While it’s fast and produces a great crust, a wide band of gray, overcooked meat can form just below the crust. What’s more, the combination of all that high heat and fat is exactly what causes smoke and splatter.

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We put every step of the conventional method under a microscope—and came away with a game-changing method that’s fast, mess-free, and produces an evenly rosy interior and deeply browned crust. You can read more about how it applies to steak here and to chops here, but these are the big takeaways.

Cook in Nonstick or Carbon Steel, not Stainless Steel

Slick nonstick or carbon steel surfaces prevent the steaks from sticking without oil and allow more savory browning to stick to the meat, not the pan.

Don’t Add Oil to the Pan

Fat smokes and splatters at high temperatures; minimizing the amount in the skillet is the best way to avoid those problems. (This is especially true of well-marbled strip and rib-eye steaks, which exude plenty of their own fat during cooking.)

Don’t Preheat

Adding steaks and chops to a “cold” (not preheated) pan allows their interiors to heat up gradually and evenly.

Start High; Then Go Low(er)

An initial burst of high heat drives off moisture so that the meat sears; lowering the heat ensures that the interior and exterior finish cooking at the same time and prevents smoking.

Flip Often

Flipping the meat every 2 minutes cooks it from the bottom up and the top down, so its interior warms evenly and its crust builds up gradually.

Cold-Searing on an Electric Stovetop

Electric stoves can be slow to respond to a cook’s commands. This can pose a problem with our cold-searing method, which requires an initial blast of high heat followed by a quick turndown to medium heat. However, there’s a simple work-around: As you cook your steaks or chops on high heat on one burner, preheat a second burner to medium heat. After the initial sear, transfer the pan to the medium-heat burner and continue cooking.


Pan-Seared Strip Steaks

How do you pan-sear strip or rib eye without making a grease-splattered mess and setting off your smoke alarm? First, forget everything you know about steak cookery.
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