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How to Cook a Well-Done Steak without Burning it: Explained

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How to Cook a Well-Done Steak without Burning it

The best way to cook a well-done steak is by pan-searing it in a skillet. Then, follow the searing by placing it in the oven. Placing the skillet in an oven allows the inside of the steak to finish cooking without burning your steak altogether. 

*A great thing to remember is to never keep your steak on direct heat for more than 3 minutes. Anything longer than that will burn your steak. 

If you are new to cooking steak, (or even if you’re not!) and looking to take your well-done steak to the next level – I’m the article you have been looking for! Continue on to learn more tips and tricks to make the *best* well-done steak without the burn.

What You Will Needed

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? To make a great well-done steak you will need a steak, a skillet, salt, vegetable oil, butter, and thyme.

Steak. That’s an easy one! I like to choose a steak that’s around 8 – 12 ounces for a single serving. Something to keep in mind is the thickness of the steak is incredibly important in this process. A 1 – 1.5 inch steak is a great place to start. 

To ensure the steak does not turn out dry, I would look for a highly marbled steak. Marbling is the fat seen running through the steak. The more marbling, the juicier the steak. (Rib-eye, New York Strips, & T-bones are great choices.)

Skillet. Cast Iron is the best.

Salt. Pepper too, if desired. I’ll discuss how to use salt for the best results in the next section.

Vegetable Oil. A nice splash in the skillet. (1.5 tbsp)

Butter. Because, who doesn’t love butter? (2-3 tbsp)

Thyme. (optional) Adds a nice flavor, but is not needed to make a great steak. (1-2)

How to Prep the Steak

To prepare your steak for success, remove the steak from the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking. Then, pat dry with a paper towel and coat the steak with salt. 

Patting down a steak is an important step that I will never skip. Removing the excess moisture on the outside ensures a few things. First, the heat won’t be wasted. If there is some moisture left, the steak will likely cook unevenly. Second, it keeps the natural flavors inside the meat. If the steak is free of moisture, the sear will create a flavorful, deep-brown crust. 

After patting dry the steak, I will season it with salt. I don’t recommend an exact amount here, but feel free to be generous. A lot of it will be absorbed in the 30-minute rest time before cooking. The salt creates a dry surface on the steak which helps to create a nice sear. 

Pan and Oven Preparation

Pour 1.5 tbsp of vegetable oil into the skillet on high heat. While this is warming up, preheat your oven to 400°F.

For the best results, I prefer to wait until the oil starts to smoke just a little. (If it gets burned, start over) On high heat, this usually takes around 2-3 minutes to get just right. 

*If you do not have an iron skillet, set aside an oven-safe dish to transfer the steak into once the searing is complete. 

I make sure the oven is set to 400°F before I start searing. This way I am sure there will be no rest time between searing and placing the steak in the oven. 

How to Sear the Steak (without burning)

Set the steak in the skillet and sear for 2-3 minutes. Flip the steak to the other side and sear for 2-3 minutes. Lastly, add in the butter and baste your steak for 2 minutes. 

When the oil starts smoking, the steak should be put in the skillet. Let it sear for 2-3 minutes. 

I said it once, and I will say it again: Do NOT leave the steak searing for longer than 3 minutes. This is when your steak will burn.

Once the time is up, the steak shouldn’t stick to the pan when picked up and will be a light brown. 

*Quick tip: using a fork to flip your steak punctures it and releases juices, resulting in a dryer steak. Shoot for tongs or a spatula.

Flip the steak and let the other side sear for 2-3 minutes. 

Flip your steak one last time, and add 2 – 3 tbsp of butter. The butter adds some moisture to the steak as it sears, providing a juicier steak that’s cooked well-done. At this point, if thyme is desired, add that to your skillet. Baste your steak with the butter for 2 minutes.

How much Oven Time

The exact time in the oven is dependent on the size and thickness of the steak, but a good estimate for a well-done steak is 12 minutes. 

I would recommend checking the steak’s temperature rather than setting a specific time in the oven. Check the thickest part of the steak when measuring, and if it reads 165°F, take them out. If it is less, put them back in. 

How Long Should the Steak Rest

Once the steak is out of the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes.

Letting the steak rest after pulling it out of the oven allows the juices to redistribute throughout the steak, resulting in a juicier finish. 

And, voilà! The perfect well-done steak, without the burns. 

Final Thoughts

Pan-searing and then finishing in the oven is the best way to cook a well-done steak without burning. 

Never place steak on direct heat for longer than 3 minutes.

Placing steak in the oven after searing allows the steak to cook fully through.