Based on the incredible response to my post on steak, plenty of you must also consider it a food group onto itself — and one that generates a lot of opinions/curiosity/confusion. From reading everyone’s comments, and emails I’ve received (comment, friends, comment!), I think there are a few main variables to address:
Cut of meat: I used a NY Strip, but to be honest, I don’t really know the difference between all the different cuts of meat (perhaps I will educate myself for another post). I just buy what looks good to me that day, in terms of freshness, size, bone-in or bone-out, etc.
Type of pan: At possible risk to my health, I suppose, I used a non-stick pan, which is all I have in my underfurnished apartment. As multiple comments have pointed out, cast-iron is really the way to go. But since I won’t be buying one any time soon, I wanted to show that a regular nonstick pan (or even a regular pan, with some olive oil) can do the job just fine. Certainly, though, if you are luck enough to have a well-seasoned cast-iron pan, you should use it at any and every opportunity.
Seasoning: The biggest question here seems to be dry rub vs. marinade. I tend to favor dry rubs, as I think they’re a lot more effective and a lot easier, and I agree with the posters who suggested saving marinades for cheaper, tougher cuts of meat. I also don’t know how well a marinade would work with pan-frying, as I imagine it might caramelize in a weird way (though I could be wrong about that). I actually like my steak best with just some kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, as I described. There are plenty of other spices you could add, though, particularly garlic (cut in half and rubbed on the steak) or a little bit of chili powder. I don’t know how I feel about this garlic salt suggestion, as I’m pretty sure if the devil disguised himself as a spice, he would come in the form of garlic salt. But whatever floats your boat.
Cooking time: I cooked my steak about 3-4 minutes on each side. Cooking time will depend on the steak’s temperature and thickness. Try to have your steak at about room temp, and cook it over a medium flame. To master meat cooking time, you really just need to experiment and practice, and it eventually becomes intuitive. Here‘s a good little explanation of the “poke test” method to see if meat is done. As I said, I usually just cook the crust to the level I want it, and then hope for the best for the middle.
Sauce: I don’t often make a sauce, as I’m a busy and hungry girl. One of my friends, though, chastised me in an email: “No sauce? No deglazing? Charles de Gaulle is rolling in his grave. Napoloen and Asterix too.” He also has a cast-iron pan, so he actually has scrapings to deglaze, which you probably won’t if you follow my non-stick route. I’m sure we’ll get into deglazing at a later date, but for now, a quick primer from Food Network. Deglazing will make you a delicious, rich sauce for your steak. Sometimes, though, you just feel like a piece of good, juicy meat.