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How to sear a steak without smoking up the house? (Explained)

If you’re a meat lover, you know nothing compares to cooking and eating a fat, juicy steak. However, when preparing a thick cut of meat in your house, you could wind up with lots of unintentional smoke from searing. But is there a way to enjoy the fruits of your labor without the messy side effects? 

The short answer is yes, but let’s find out how to make that happen. 

What is Searing? 

Searing is a cooking process when you heat the surface of a particular dish until a brown crust forms. Searing requires high heat to achieve the crust without burning the inside of the meat.

With steak, the purpose is to deliver a better mouthfeel while creating a juicier and better-tasting dish. 

As you can imagine, cooking steak at such high temperatures can burn other elements, such as oil, fat, and seasoning. An unfortunate side effect is lots of smoke that can take over your kitchen. Even with a hood over your stove, this smoke can billow out pretty quickly. 

Thankfully, there are some methods to avoid too much smoke, such as: 

Option One: Reduce Your Pan Size

The size of your pan can affect the amount of smoke because your steak only takes up a small portion of it. So, the larger the pan, the more fat and grease collect on the side, making them more likely to smoke.

Using a pan that fits your steak perfectly can eliminate a lot of this extra juice. Instead, it will collect on the bottom so it won’t burn. 

Option Two: Use a Standing Fan

No matter what option you try, searing a steak creates smoke and steam. So, to help your hood not work as hard, you can use a standing fan to blow the smoke out a window.

This option only works if you have a window close to the stove, and you need to ensure the fan doesn’t blow too hard so it blows other things around the room. 

Option Three: Use Fat or Oil With a High Smoke Point

The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which it starts to burn. Some oils, like olive oil, have a relatively low smoke point.

In this case, you’ll start burning it before reaching the proper sear on your steak, making extra smoke. So one easy way to reduce the smoke is to use an oil with a higher rating. Some examples of oils with high smoke points include: 

  • Avocado Oil – This option burns at 520 degrees Fahrenheit, making it ideal for searing. Also, avocados have healthy fats, so you can make your steak marginally healthier for your body. 
  • Clarified Butter – Ghee is an example of clarified butter, and it smokes at 482 degrees Fahrenheit. An added benefit of using this type of butter is making your steak taste richer. 
  • Peanut Oil – This option may not be suitable for all steaks because it adds a unique flavor to the meat. But, it burns at around 445 degrees Fahrenheit, so it takes a while to smoke. 

Option Four: Prep Your Steak Beforehand

If the mood for steak strikes, you may not want to spend hours prepping your meat before cooking it. However, if you plan ahead, you can make your steak less likely to burn and smoke. Some tactics include: 

  • Marinating the Meat – Soaking your steak in a delicious marinade makes it less likely to dry out and burn. Doing this can take a little longer to sear, but it yields better-tasting results. 
  • Keep at Room Temperature – While you don’t want to store your steak at room temperature, you should take it out of the fridge about an hour or two before cooking. This way, the outside won’t burn too quickly while leaving the inside raw and cold. 
  • Don’t Overdo the Seasonings – Searing is designed to give you a crunchy and flavorful crust. So, adding too many seasonings means they’ll burn and throw off the flavor. Instead, it’s better to add them once the steak is done or to cut slices into the meat and tuck them inside before cooking. 

Option Five: Cook Your Steak in the Oven First

One of the primary reasons why searing creates smoke is that you have to leave it on the pan for too long, waiting for the center to cook properly.

If you like rare steak, this problem is less significant, but if you prefer medium or medium-well meat, you’ll likely get a lot of smoke. 

To avoid this issue, you can cook your steak in the oven, then finish it on the stove. While adding an extra step, you can save a lot of hassle, especially if you use an oven-safe pan. However, keep in mind that steak cooks even after you take it off the heat, so if it still looks a little too pink, it will get browner once it’s on the plate. 

Bottom Line

Cooking steak is a mixture of art and science since everyone has their own preferences.

As with other meat dishes, there’s a bit of trial and error, so experiment with different methods to see what works best. Also, consider the type of steak you’re cooking and how well it can handle searing. Happy cooking!