These steaks get their deliciously browned crust through the power of the Maillard reaction.
Place steaks on large plate. Use paper towels to pat both sides of steak dry; discard paper towels. Sprinkle steaks evenly with half of pepper. Flip steaks over and sprinkle evenly with remaining pepper.
Reduce heat to medium. Flip steaks and continue to cook, flipping steaks every 2 minutes, until well browned and meat registers 120 to 125 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (see photo, below, for how to use thermometer), 4 to 10 minutes longer. (Steaks should be sizzling gently in pan; if not, increase heat slightly. If skillet starts to smoke, turn heat down.)
Pan searing is a great way to create a tasty crust on the outside of meat. The Maillard reaction begins on the surface of the meat, as it dries out in the heat of the pan. The proteins begin to break down into amino acids, and interact with the heat and sugars to create new flavor compounds (see the Building a Better Butter experiment). The meat cooks from the outside in, so a layer of dark brown crust forms on the outside, while the inside stays pink. In this recipe, we start the steaks in a cold pan and flip them over every two minutes. This means that the meat’s temperature rises gradually, allowing more time for nice browning to build up on the outside without overcooking the inside. (This slow start also keeps the steaks from smoking and splattering on the stove!)