A great steak begins with a great cut of meat. If you can't find Prime beef - the best cut available for retail - you might want to consider cooking chicken, fish or pork. Only about 2% of USA-produced beef is certified as USDA Prime. If you can acquire Prime dry-aged beef, so much the better.
The other item you'll need is a cast iron skillet. Don't try this method for cooking steak on a flimsy non-stick pan.
1-2 good quality beef steaks, bone-in or boneless
2 Tbs. olive oil or other cooking oil
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, peeled and lightly mashed
2 Tbs. butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Over high heat, get your skillet really, really hot.
Season the steak with your favorite seasoning. I prefer just fresh-cracked black pepper and kosher salt.
Add the olive oil to the hot pan. It'll probably smoke immediately. If not, wait until the oil begins to smoke.
Place the steak into the hot pan along with the thyme and garlic. Be sure to run your kitchen fan if you have one or open a window. There WILL be smoke!
An alternative to smoking up the kitchen is to use this same method, but cook the steak in a cast iron skillet on the barbecue grill.
Don't mess with the steak. Leave it unturned for 3-5 minutes, depending on how done you want it cooked.
Flip the steak once and cook until the level of doneness you prefer is reached. Most chefs I know like the "touch" method for determining a steak's doneness. Push on the steak with your fingers. For rare cooked steak, the meat should feel like the soft area of your palm between the thumb and index finger.
For medium cooked meat, the steak will feel like the slightly tougher part of your palm between the thumb and wrist.
And, for well-done, it'll feel like the part of the palm closest to the wrist.
Just before the steak has finished cooking to your liking, add the butter to the pan.
Spoon melted butter over the steak.
Place the steak on a serving plate and tent with tinfoil for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Photos by Ted Scheffler
As much as I like a steak cooked outside on the grill, I find that I actually have better success cooking steaks indoors on the stove top. Cooking in the kitchen allows for better temperature control, although you'll have to sacrifice those beautiful grill marks on the meat unless you have a ridged frying pan.