Skip to main content
Cooking Tips

Baste Your Steak in Sizzling Butter

Butter basting is the best way to get restaurant-quality steak at home. And it’s easy to do. 
By Published Dec. 20, 2022

Steaks can be cooked every which way: grilled, cold-seared, cooked sous vide and then pan-seared, smoked, cooked from frozen, or—if you’re feeling adventurous—grilled over a charcoal chimney.

There is no one way to cook steak. But without question, one of the most satisfying methods out there is butter basting a thick-cut rib eye in a skillet. 

Butter basting may sound intimidating. Or it may seem like it’s a lot of work.

It’s neither. With just a few minutes of flipping and spooning the sizzling fat over the meat, you can have a restaurant-quality butter-basted steak cooked to perfection. 

Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter

The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.

What Does It Mean to Baste a Steak? 

Basting involves continuously spooning (or brushing) hot fat or sauce over the item that is being cooked. In this case, a delicious rib eye. Sometimes the fat comes from the meat itself, but with this technique, we use butter. 

Why Should You Butter Baste Steak? 

In the traditional method of pan searing a steak in a screaming hot skillet, you cook each side of the meat just once, waiting to flip it until the side in contact with the pan has formed a thick browned crust. But this approach can also lead to a gray band of overcooked meat just below the crust. 

Butter basting while searing means the steak cooks on both sides simultaneously so that it comes up to temperature faster and doesn’t have chance to overcook beneath the crust. (Flipping the steak continually as we cook also helps keep it rosy from edge to edge.) 

In addition, our hot basting liquid of choice—butter with shallot, garlic, and thyme—helps deliver a beautiful evenly browned crust because you can focus the butter on paler areas that could use a little boost. 

The final bonus of this method: You’re left with an aromatic browned-butter sauce that you can drizzle over the steak.

Butter-Basted Rib-Eye Steak

Forget your white noise machine and listen to the sweet sounds of butter-basted beef.
Get the Recipe

How to Butter Baste Better

1. Salt steak and let sit on wire rack for 45 minutes. When salt is applied to meat, the juices inside are drawn to the surface. The salt then dissolves in the exuded liquid, forming a brine that is reabsorbed by the meat, seasoning it throughout. The 45-minute mark is when the brine starts moving back into the steak. 

2. Sear first in oil and then add butter. Starting the steak in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil gives it a nice initial crust. Waiting to add the butter until the steak has been seared for about 4 minutes helps prevent it from burning. 

3. Add aromatics to butter. Once butter has melted and begun to foam, adding aromatics such as shallots, garlic, and herb sprigs brings additional flavor.

 4. Flip steak every 30 seconds. Though unconventional, we repeatedly flip the steak as it sears. This allows for the steak to warm through more evenly because no one side is ever left on the heat long enough for the meat to overcook right under the crust.

5. Baste quickly. Use a metal spoon to rapidly spoon the hot butter and aromatics over the steak, concentrating on areas where the crust is less browned, until the steak registers 120 degrees. 

6.Use butter as finishing sauce. Discard the aromatics and transfer the browned butter to a small bowl. Drizzle it over the sliced steak as a delicious finish. 

120+ Foolproof Recipes

Cook It In Cast Iron

With 120+ recipes you'll learn how to shop for, season, care for, and clean cast-iron cookware. Full-color photos show you how your dish will turn out, and guide you every step of the way.

Watch Senior Editor Steve Dunn share three key tips and demonstrate this technique, so you can butter baste like a pro.

0 Comments

Try All-Access Membership to Unlock the Comments
Don't miss the conversation. Our test cooks and editors jump in to answer your questions, and our members are curious, opinionated, and respectful.
Membership includes instant access to everything on our sites:
  • 10,000+ foolproof recipes and why they work
  • Taste Tests of supermarket ingredients
  • Equipment Reviews save you money and time
  • Videos including full episodes and clips
  • Live Q&A with Test Kitchen experts
Start Free Trial
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.