Tips on pan frying your steaks to perfection

It’s good to know how to pan fry steak.

You maybe caught on a stunning island (Waiheke Island) in New Zealand having to cook steak on a beach while you wait to watch the sunset!

But if you’re at home (and back to reality), here’s a few basic rules and tips to ensure you’re steak gets the best treatment.

A few things to remember

As with much cooking, it depends on various elements in the method and the produce itself.

So with steak, the length of cooking is dependent on the thickness and cut of steak.

Plus how many steaks you’re cooking, the weight of the frying pan and the degree of heat.

Blue, rare, medium-rare, medium

To brown the meat you need a very high heat, and then slightly lower it to cook the meat to your taste.

For a blue or rare steak, keep the heat reasonably fierce for the whole time.

For medium-rare or medium steaks, lower the temperature to medium after the initial browning.


Bring your steak to room temperature for 30 – 45 mins before cooking.

Use a heavy-based frying pan.

Season just before you add to the pan.

Only use a small quantity of oil (or butter).

Ensure that the oil is hot before adding your steak.

Sear each side quickly to seal in juices.

Only turn your steaks once during cooking; leaving them to cook untouched will produce juicier results.

Your steak should not be turned if it feels ‘stuck’ to the pan… it should be able to be turned once it can easily be lifted off the pan.

If you use a griddle pan add a little oil on both sides of your steak and make sure the dry pan is really hot before frying.

Rest your steak for 5 – 10 minutes after cooking under some foil.

While resting, you could whip up a nice sauce to go alongside – check out my top 4 steak sauces, here.

Cooking the fat layer

Steaks such as rump and sirloin have a fat layer around one side which adds flavour and moisture.

When you cook the steak, first hold the fat side down in the hot pan with tongs, to render and brown the fat before cooking the steak.

This will produce much tastier results.

Cooking times

This is just a guideline as it depends on the size of your steaks.

Sirloin, rump, rib-eye Blue 1 – 1 ½ mins per side
(for 2cm thick) Rare 1 ½ – 2 mins per side
  Medium-rare 2 – 3 mins per side
  Medium 3 – 4 mins per side
Fillet Blue 1 ½ – 2 mins per side
(for 2 ½cm thick) Rare 2 ½ – 3 ½ mins per side
  Medium-rare 3 ½ – 4 ½ mins per side
  Medium 4 ½ – 5 ½ mins per side

Interesting ways to tell if your steak is cooked

1. Face test

I found this on Food52 as an alternative way to test if your steak is could to your preference.

Source: Food52
  • If you’d like your steak medium-rare, it should feel like your cheek: tender and soft but still fleshy (as opposed to raw, which would be just soft).
  • If you want a medium steak, touch your chin: The steak should still be tender, but with some resistance.
  • For a medium-well steak, it should feel like your forehead: fleshy but with a good deal of resistance.

2. Finger test

Another, more common method is the finger test…

Source: Simply Recipes

3. Internal temperature guide

Or failing this… use a meat thermometer!

Celsius Fahrenheit
Rare 52° C 125.6° F
Medium-rare 57.2° C 135° F
Medium 60° C 140° F
Medium-well 68.3° C 155° F
Well-done 71° C 159.8° F

It’s a fine art but you can master it

Ultimately, it’s just about practice and getting to understand how different cuts cook.

Then it’s down to you and what you prefer to eat.

But this gives a quick overview of some of the key components that will give you confidence next time you cook a steak.

Pan frying steak on Waiheke Island

If you have any great tips on pan-frying steak, leave a comment.

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