Pan seared ribeye and the steak mystique

Seared ribeye tempts and tantalizes many of us. Great steak, paired with a salad and an exceptional glass of red wine, is rapturous. Cook it with respect, and it become a celebration shared by many. It’s like participating in an act shared by the collective consciousness.

The steak mystique

Steak symbolizes the good life to many people. A friend in grade school huffed, “Company dropped by and the adults ate all the steaks. We kids had to have hot dogs!”

Steak MEANS something, even to children.

I’ve often heard “those with more” berate “those with less” for daring to eat steak. Dammit don’t they know they know that they are only allowed hamburger and some type of limp, over-cooked starch and canned green beans? Won’t those insolent peasants ever learn their place? (Myself, I think that the poor have very little power over their lives, and are at least entitled to unfettered choice over what they eat whether it is prudently frugal or not.

Steak represents success and indulgence to many people. Pair it with lobster and you are golden.

My timeline to pan seared ribeye nirvana

Going to Ponderosa for steaks with my grandparents was a big deal. Grandpa worked hard for the money, and he was proud to take his family out for steak. I was proud of him.

Cut to my twenties in Connecticut. My dear friend Sam and I would broil a steak every Friday night, and pair it with salad and vodka martinis. Then we would go cocktailing in the sweet little towns along the Essex River. Such good times those were.

But I never really became a FIEND for steak until I met Frankie. He grills them. He does it attentively, and mindfully, and they are perfect and succulent and decadent.

The path to pan seared ribeye nirvana

Here is what I have learned about preparing a memorable steak:

  • Only buy obscenely super-thick steaks. Thin steaks are problematic.
  • Only buy rib eyes. Raw New York strips or sirloins may look good in the store, but they never cook up the same. You will live to regret non-ribeye purchases.
  • Marbling matters. You want lots of it.
  • Mediocre steak should be avoided. Save your pennies to buy fantastic meat, even if it means only eating steak rarely. Quality is worth the wait.
  • Investigate whether you prefer grass-fed or grain-fed beef. They differ.
  • Don’t desecrate a great piece of meat with marinade. It is steak murder. Sam’s ex-boyfriend marinated steak in Italian salad dressing and she is scarred for life. Marination is for cheap, tough cuts of meat.
  • Seasoning: Salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder. Period.

Properly pan seared ribeye

Grilled steak is best. However, sometimes uncooperative weather drives us indoors.  Though it will never produce the flavor nuances of a grill, I have adapted a reliable method for cooking a medium-rare steak indoors from Alton Brown. Here it is:

  1. Bring the steak to room temperature. Really. Putting a cold steak in a hot pan will shock it and it will protest by constricting into a tough meat wad.
  2. Put a dry cast iron skillet in the oven.
  3. Set the oven for 500 degrees.
  4. When the oven reaches 500 degrees, remove the pan.
  5. Put pan on a stove burner.
  6. Turn the burner to high and wait five minutes.
  7. Rub olive oil on both sides of the steak, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.
  8. Sear steak for 30 seconds. Do not move it, mess with it, or breathe on it during those thirty seconds.
  9. Flip steak, taking care not to pierce. Use tongs or a spatula.
  10. Cook the reverse side for 30 seconds without moving it.
  11. Stick the pan in the hot oven and set the timer for 2-3 minutes. You need to adjust this time according to the thickness of the steak. The thicker the steak, the longer the cook time. 
  12. Flip the steak and cook for 2-3 additional minutes.
  13. Remove pan from oven.
  14. Move steak to a cutting board with tongs or spatula.
  15. Do not stick a fork in it. Do not cut it.  Wait two minutes.
  16. Now you may eat your properly pan seared ribeye.

In parting

First, make these edible moments great. Then slow down and truly savor them. After all, a truly great steak is a monumental occasion.

For further reading, Wikepedia has an excellent information on the history of all things steak: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steak.