The Reason You Shouldn't Cut Steak Too Thinly When Pan Searing

A pan seared steak is a classic example of easy to do, easy to mess up. On the surface, searing requires nothing but a hot pan and some salt and pepper to produce a perfectly cooked steak. High temperature cooking creates the ideal environment for producing a browned, textural exterior while leaving the center tender. But as you learn after cutting into a tough, flavorless steak, there's more to it than that. Searing is an excellent method for making a steak, but you have to prepare the meat properly before you start cooking, and be precise during every step to avoid ruining your meal. One of the most important details to be wary of is the thickness of your steak, because in a high-heat situation like searing, a steak that is too thin can get overcooked on the inside long before the outside is properly browned.

There is not one perfect thickness for pan-seared steak, but the best range is from 1 ½ to 2 inches thick, with the former being the most ideal. Searing steak is all about getting the contrast between a crispy exterior and a rare to medium rare interior, and even steaks that are prepared properly and patted dry will need some time to achieve the perfectly cooked crust that makes them great. With a steak that's too thin, the interior will absorb more heat, and jump past medium rare far too quickly for a properly cooked cut of beef.

Steak that is cut too thin can still be salvaged for a pan sear

If your steak is thinner than 1 ½ inches you can still make it work, but there are a couple things you should do that will help prevent the downsides of possible overcooking. If you have time, try dry brining your steak by salting the outside and letting it sit in the fridge for at least a few hours. Salt from dry brining helps break down proteins; this keeps the steak more tender and moist, and helps protect a thin steak. You can also use a digital thermometer to exactly track the internal temperature of your steak so you aren't caught off guard by how quickly it's done.

Once you're ready to cook, preheat your pan over high heat, as you want to cook your steak quickly to prevent it from drying out. Pat your steak as dry as possible to maximize browning in the short window. A steak thinner than 1 ½ inches will cook in less than three minutes per side, so keep your eye on the browning and be ready to pull the meat off the heat as soon as it looks good. You may still end up with a steak a little more done than you like, but it should taste great and be plenty juicy.