If you know how to sear and baste a piece of meat, you are 50% of the way to an amazing meal. By following these steps, you will be able to cook anything perfectly, from steak, to fish, to pork, same method and steps, just change in and out the protein, aromatics, and basting fat.
Proteins: beef, veal, bison, lamb, venison, pork, boar, chicken, rabbit, duck, pheasant, halibut, cod, snapper, salmon, tuna
Aromatics: thyme, bay leaves, rosemary, lemongrass, mint, sorrel, tarragon, epazote, garlic, shallot, chili peppers, fresh horseradish, lemon, lime, orange, cinnamon, clove, star anise, cardamon, szechuan peppercorns, fresh turmeric, annatto seed
Basting fat: butter, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, duck fat, goose fat, chicken fat, lard, tallow, ghee, clarified butter, cocoa butter, sesame oil
Highlighted above are the choices used in this article.
Step 1 - Start by letting your steak sit out for an hour
You want the meat to come up closer to room temperature. I would follow this same advice if I were cooking lamb, or veal, as well as beef. Pork chops I would let sit out for about 30 minutes before cooking, and if it was fish, or chicken, I would not let it sit outside for all that long before cooking.
Step 2 - Pat your steak dry with a paper towel
It is important to pat your protein down with a paper towel, to get rid of all excess surface moisture. If you try searing a piece of meat with moisture on the outside, it is just going to steam, and you aren't going to get that nice colour you are looking for.
Step 3 - Season heavily with salt and pepper
When seasoning your meat, it takes a lot more than you think, so season liberally. When cooking the perfect steak, salt and pepper is the only thing you need, this would be the same for lamb, or heavier game. If it is chicken, or fish you are cooking I would omit the black pepper, if you want to add a subtle spice, replace with white pepper, there is nothing worse then seeing black flecks on a nicely seared piece of white meat.
Step 4 - Choose your aromatics
For my steaks I like the combination of fresh thyme, garlic and a bay leaf. You could use the fresh thyme, and garlic for just about any protein out there, it is very versatile. If I were doing lamb, or a heavier game meat, I may add rosemary to the party as well as the above. If it were fish I was cooking, I may want to go with a softer herb closer to the finish of basting (i.e. tarragon, sorrel).
Step 5 - Heat your pan
You want to make sure that your pan is quite hot, usually a medium high heat for a few minutes will do it.
Step 6 - Add an oil to your pan
Here you are going to want to use an oil with a higher smoke point, and neutral flavour. Usually vegetable or canola oil are just fine, and neutral enough. You want to make sure that you are using a decent amount of oil here, as you do not want the meat to stick to the pan, usually a tablespoon is good.
Step 7 - Carefully place your meat into the hot oiled pan
When you place your meat into the pan, start by holding one end of the meat, and slowly drop the other side down to the pan, and gently lay the meat down away from your body. This will ensure that if any oil is to splatter, it will not be in your direction.
Step 8 - Let meat sit to get a nice hard sear on each side
Let the hot pan do the work here, let your meat sit until it has a nice crust on it. If you go to turn your meat over and it is sticking to the pan, it can mean two things, the meat hasn't finished browning, when it does, it will release itself from the pan, or you have not added enough oil into the pan.
Step 9 - Sear the side of the steak
It is imperative that you render all of the fat off the protein you are cooking, so you need to flip the steak on its side to render out the fat cap, and crisp it up.
Step 10 - Add in your aromatics
Add the aromatics you have chosen to the pan, the heat gets them to start releasing their oils into the pan. If you are using soft herbs like tarragon, or sorrel, I would wait till closer to the end of the basting process.
Step 11 - Add in your butter
Its flavour time!!! Here is when you add around a tablespoon's worth of butter to the pan. Make sure you get the herbs and garlic into the melted butter to infuse all of its flavour.
Step 12 - Baste your meat like you mean it
Taking spoonfuls of the infused butter, repeatedly pour it over the protein. This is where the love comes in, the more attention you pay to your protein, the more it will repay you when it comes to sinking your teeth in. When it comes to steak, don't be afraid to flip the steak numerous times, unlike the old adage where you only flip your steak once, in reality every time you flip the steak over, it is essentially basting itself from the inside (think of all the juices on the bottom of the meat due to gravity, when you flip that over the juices are now on the top, and work themselves down through the steak to the bottom again). So while you are basting on the outside, you can be basting on the inside at the same time. I like to keep my pan on the stovetop the entire time, as I like having total control of whats going on, but if you have a really thick steak, or double pork chop, this is the point where it would go in the oven at 350F to finish the cooking process.
Step 13 - Rest your meat
It is crucial that you let your meat rest, let it sit for 10 minutes before serving. This will give the meat a chance to redistribute its juices back throughout the meat, so that when you cut into your meat, they don't just spill out all over the plate. It is also important to make sure there is sufficient air underneath your steak when it is resting. If your steak is resting on a flat surface, then it is steaming itself from the bottom, and you will end up with a tough piece of meat.
Step 14 - Enjoy the fruits of your labour