Chef Chris Shepherd breaks down his step-by-step method.

By Bridget Hallinan
Updated April 01, 2020

There are several ways to cook steak, from throwing it on the grill to going the sous vide route. In a video from our “The Best Way” series, chef/owner Chris Shepherd of Underbelly Hospitality in Houston, Texas, advocates for the skillet, and demonstrates his method for cooking perfect steak every single time. All you need is a pan, some oil, seasonings, and a little bit of patience—plus the steak, of course. Read on for his key tips.

Let it sit

With a thick-cut steak like the ribeye Shepherd uses in the video, you want to temper it and leave it out on your counter on a plate.

Season it aggressively 

Salt both sides of the steak generously, and season it with pepper as well. Shepherd notes that people tend to think if you pepper steak, the pepper starts to turn bitter as you sear at high heat, but he doesn’t believe that to be true. Once the steak is seasoned, let it sit for a second, but “not too long.”

Grab the other seasonings

Shepherd smashes some garlic cloves to separate them from the head, but notes to leave the skins on—as they cook with the steak, you can pop off the skin for some nice roasted garlic. He also grabs a handful of thyme sprigs.

Get the pan hot—really hot

You want your pan to be “really, really" hot to cook the steak, according to Shepherd. When you place the steak in, make sure you’re placing it away from you so you don’t cause oil to splatter on yourself.

Don’t mess with it

Once the steak is in the pan, don’t fiddle with it yet. You want to let a crust form and for the steak to brown, as Shepherd demonstrates when he turns the steak over.

Turn on the hood vent

The pan is going to smoke as the steak cooks, so you might want to turn on your hood vent above the stove. If the smoke alarm goes off, you’re doing a good job, Shepherd jokes.

Baste it

It might seem like you’re adding a lot of butter to the pan, but it’s going to be used to baste the steak, adding flavor and juiciness. Pull the pan back from the fire a little bit, tilt the pan slightly, and use a spoon to baste with the liquid for four minutes. You’ll develop the crust you want and infuse it with thyme and garlic flavor.

Let it rest—again

To check for doneness, Shepherd pokes the steak with a spoon—if it gives a little bit, you're still good, he says. Then, he takes it off the heat and lets it sit again. The proteins have been worked so hard that the steak needs to rest.

Slice and serve

There’s no need for further seasoning or tweaking—just cut the steak and get ready to eat. As he slices, Shepherd notes that the best part of the steak is the spinalis, the outer edge that he traces with his finger. 

Local restaurants and small businesses need your help 

Shepherd's Southern Smoke Foundation operates an emergency relief fund to help food and beverage professionals in crisis. It's one of many organizations trying to support workers as the coronavirus spreads and restaurants across the country close, either by state mandate or voluntarily—and donations are needed. You can find a full list of resources and relief funds in our roundup, as well as a guide for more ways you can help restaurants during this time.

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