How to Cook the Perfect Rib-Eye Steak
Cook a Great Rib-Eye Steak Every Time!
The rib-eye steak is a prime cut of beef. And it also one of the most expensive. Make the most of your investment with this straightforward method to preparing a perfectly cooked rib-eye steak -- indoors and in a pan.
Grilling is great, but there are times when it isn't convenient to fire up the outdoor grill. Just because you're not grilling outdoors doesn't mean that you can't cook up a great tasting steak. Just follow a few easy steps to sear a perfectly cooked rib-eye in a pan, complete with a tasty crust with a pink and juicy center. Then use all of those tasty brown bits left on the bottom of the pan to make a scrumptious sauce. So pick up a quality cut of meat and head into the kitchen.
There are lots of cookbooks and online articles outlining the basic technique for pan frying a great tasting rib-eye steak indoors: heat up a skillet, drop the steak into the pan to sear in the juices before finishing in the oven. What makes this a little different are the finishing steps for enjoying your steak: straight-up out of the pan, or add another layer of flavor with either a buttery jus or with a creamy cognac sauce.
How to Pan Fry the Perfect Rib-Eye Steak
- 1 1/2 inch thick Rib Eye Steak
- Sea Salt
- Freshly Cracked Pepper
- Canola Oil
Step 1: Preparation
About an hour before you're ready to cook, take the steak out of the frig and let it warm up to room temperature. Leave the meat wrapped in the butcher's paper. A steak at room temperature will cook more evenly (and create a better crust) than a cold cut of beef taken directly from the refrigerator thrown into the heat.
Rub on a little vegetable oil on both sides of the steak, and then season it with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. I prefer canola or vegetable oil rather than the more expensive olive oil for this application; the hot pan can cause the olive oil to smoke.
- Oven-proof Pan or Cast Iron Skillet
- Oven Mitt
- Aluminum Foil
Step 2: The Technique
On the stovetop, preheat a well seasoned cast iron skillet or heavy copper / stainless steel, ovenproof pan. To get that nice sear on the outside of the steak, make sure the pan is hot. Also, pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.
Add a tablespoon or two of canola oil into the pan, along with a tablespoon of butter. The canola oil raises the smoke point of the butter, and helps to prevent the butter from burning.
Drop the steak right into the middle of the hot skillet. If your rib-eye is about 1-1/2" thick, let it sear for two minutes. Don't move it around; just let it sit and sear in the hot pan. If your steak is a thinner cut (an 1" or less), the steak should only sear for about 90 seconds.
You might need to adjust the sear time based upon your cook top and the pan that you use. The goal is to get a nice golden brown sear on the surface of the steak, but without letting the meat burn. On my glass top electric range turned up to medium-high heat and using a heavy professional grade copper pan, it takes just about two minutes to reach the sear point on a thick cut rib-eye steak.
When is Your Rib-Eye Steak Cooked Perfectly?
Rare: very red and cool center
Medium Rare: red and warm center
Medium: pink and hot center
Medium Well: hint of pink with hot center
Well Done: no pink and hot center
Step 3: Turning the Steak
After two minutes, use a set of tongs to flip the steak over and sear the other side. Again, don't move the steak around in the pan. Just let it sit in the skillet to sear the second side, sealing in the juices. A tasty crust will form after searing nicely on each side for a couple of minutes, but a thick cut of meat will not be cooked all of the through yet. The cooking will finish in the oven.
Step 4: Off the Stove and into the Hot Box
Using an oven mitt to protect your hand from the hot handle, remove the skillet from the stovetop and place it into the center of the pre-heated oven. Let the steak cook for one to two minutes, and then flip the steak over and cook on the other side for another one to two minutes. Again, the exact time depends on your oven and the thickness of the cut of your rib-eye. With my oven, just about 90 seconds on each side delivers a perfectly cooked, medium-rare steak.
Use Tongs to Turn the Steak
Never use a fork to turn a steak. The tines of the fork will pierce the meat, allowing all of those tasty juices to run out of the steak and into the pan.
The Big Finish: Choose Your Sauce
Step 5A: The Buttery Jus
Let it Rest
Retrieve the skillet from the oven (don't forget to use the oven mitt), and transfer the steak to a plate. Let the rib-eye rest for at least five minutes before serving. The resting step is critical: cut into the steak too quickly, and the tasty juices will run out of the steak and on to the plate, leaving a dry hunk of meat. Resting before serving allows the steak to re-absorb all of those flavorful juices. Enjoy!
While the pan is still piping hot, add a tablespoon or two of butter to the pan. Stir the butter around in the hot pan, loosening any of the little brown bits from the bottom of the pan. The butter may foam up and will start to brown quickly, so work fast and keep the butter moving.
Pour the buttery sauce over the top of the steak, and cover it with a tent of aluminum foil.
Step 5B: The Cognac Cream Sauce
The buttery sauce is delicious, and serves the rib-eye well. But for an exceptionally special dish, those tasty bits in the bottom of the fry pan are the perfect foundation for making a cognac cream sauce. And it only takes a few minutes!
While the steak rests on the plate under foil, move the pan away from stove. When the pan is safely away from the flame, pour in a few ounces of cognac and whisk to loosen all of the little brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the pan to the stovetop, turn up the heat to medium and whisk in about 1/2 cup of heavy cream. The exact amount will vary and can be adjusted to suit your taste. Keep whisking, and the sauce will thicken as it simmers. Grind in some pepper and taste. If needed, add a bit of salt.
The sauce is ready when it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir in another splash of cognac (just to liven up the flavor) and pour the finished sauce over the steak. Reserve a little of sauce for dipping.
Just about any liquid can be used to deglaze the pan. Cognac is a personal favorite (along with wine), and adds a lot of flavor to sauce.
BE CAREFUL: Alcohol vapors are flammable, so be sure move the pan away from the stove before pouring in the cognac.
How Do You Like Your Steak Cooked?
The Right Pan for the Job
Every cook needs at least one heavy-duty pan that works double-duty from the sear on the stove top into the heat of the oven. My favorite pan features a thick copper exterior to heat up quickly and evenly, with a non-reactive stainless steel lining. The oven-proof handle is reinforced with rivets, making this the perfect workhorse for the kitchen -- and for cooking the perfect rib-eye steak.
Grilling a Ribeye Steak on Cast-Iron
© 2011 Anthony Altorenna