Recipe Review

Reviews of recipes from a variety of sources including books, TV Shows, and Internet recipe databases.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pan Seared Rib Eye Steak

Source: Alton Brown
Food network’s "Good Eats" – episode: "Steak Your Claim"

When it comes to culinary pursuits, virtually nothing was sacred in my household growing up. Peas were served from a can, macaroni and cheese came from a box, there was always a stock of Velveeta sitting in the crisper and Little Debbie’s stacked on top of the fridge. The oven was used for baking Christmas cookies, the stovetop for frying eggs, and everything else went in the microwave. If it couldn’t be prepared in 1-2 minutes on high, it wasn’t worth the effort. There was, however, one dish that our kitchen just wasn’t good enough for. Not only was our kitchen not sufficiently sacrosanct for it’s preparation but my mother would reverently step aside while my father gravely assumed the preparation duties in a complex ritual involving animal flesh sacrificed to a fire carefully lit atop mount Weber.

The meal in question was, of course, steak. Steak could not be prepared by mere woman in the confines of a kitchen. It required manly labor in the outdoor air – charcoal, lighter fluid, large forks that could take out an eye and knives that were so sharp I wasn’t allowed to touch them. Imagine my surprise when I saw Alton Brown from FoodTV’s Good Eats do the unthinkable – cook steak in a pan.

It was shocking. How dare he? Steak on the stovetop? It railed against everything I knew in my soul about the nature of the universe.

It did look intriguing though. It certainly was fast. It didn’t require spending time outside in the middle of the winter. I could have steak and stay dry even if it was raining outside.

Eventually, I let go of my long held superstitions and broke out the cast iron. Here is my review of Alton Brown’s Pan Seared Rib Eye:

First off, I recommend watching the Episode in question if possible. The episode is available on DVD from the Food Network store. If you don’t want to pay $39.95 for a 3 DVD set, episodes are also generally pretty easy to find via P2P networks such as Gnutella or Bit Torrent. I think the DVD’s are a good value though. Each DVD has 3 episodes in addition to a special segment where Alton Brown answers viewer questions.

On to the ingredients:
1 boneless rib eye steak, 1 1/2-inch thick
Canola oil to coat
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

I’ve substituted Safflower oil for the Canola oil many times. This recipe requires an oil with a very high smoke point though. Do not use normal vegetable oil or butter for this. It’ll be ugly if you do. Also, don’t use table salt for this. You really want to use kosher salt.

The other things you’ll need for this recipe are a cast iron pan, a pair of tongs, a little aluminum foil, and your oven. The cast iron pan is critical. Don’t try this with anything else.

If you don’t have a cast iron pan, go out and buy one at a local retail store or order one online. Cast iron pans must be seasoned before use. This is also very important. Your pan should have come with directions. If it didn't, or if you want a second opinion, you can also search google for “season cast iron”.

Now that you have everything you need collected, toss the cast iron pan into your oven and preheat the oven to 500. While that is preheating, take the steak and coat it liberally on both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use more salt here than you think you need to. Put a tablespoon or so of oil on the steak and toss it around on a plate until both sides are evenly coated.

Once your oven is preheated, move the cast iron skillet to a burner set to the highest setting. Keep in mind, every single inch of that pan is now insanely hot. Make sure you use a good potholder or pair of oven mitts to remove it. Let the cast iron pan sit on the burner for 5 minutes to get even hotter*.

Finally it’s time to cook the steak. Drop it into the pan for 30 seconds. Let it smoke and sizzle. Do not touch it. After 30 seconds, flip it over and give it another 30 seconds. Next, take the whole pan and toss it into the over for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, flip the steak over and cook for another 2 minutes.

Remove the steak from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes covered by aluminum foil before eating. Alton Brown rests the steak on a small saucer turned upside-down on a plate to allow grease to drain away from the steak.

At this point you should have a juicy, perfectly seared, medium-rare steak that is the equal of just about any steak you’ve ever grilled - all in about a third of the time it would have taken for the charcoal to be ready.

Ease of preparation: 5/5
Speed of preparation: 5/5
Taste: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

* This is one place where I’ve had to deviate from Alton Brown’s recipe slightly. You may need to as well. If I leave the pan on my stove’s burner for 5 minutes, it actually gets TOO hot. The first time I did this, I filled my entire condo with thick smoke and burned the edges of the steak to charcoal black. I leave the pan on the my burner for about 3 minutes.


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