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How to Prepare the Perfect Pan-Seared Round Steak

on March 27, 2016
Few meals are more elegant and satisfying than a perfectly cooked steak. With the proper equipment and a little attention to detail, you can cook the perfect round steak right on your stove top!  

What is Round Steak?

  Steak is a somewhat general term used to refer to cuts of beef. It can come from a variety of places on the cow and range considerably in quality based on what type of cow it is from, what part of the cow it is cut from, and how it is aged, packaged, and cooked. A round steak comes from the round, or rear leg, of the cow. It can be divided into separate cuts depending on where on the leg it is cut from, and it may or may not contain a bone. Round steak is lean, and its lack of fat can make it prone to dry out if not cooked properly. It is also a moderately tough cut of meat, so proper cooking is essential to achieving the best results. Many people like round steak because it is relatively cheap when compared with other cuts. It is also sometimes referred to as a London Broil, although technically this name relates to a finished dish rather than the cut of meat. Nutrition Information     A 4 ounce serving of top round steak contains around 210 calories. It contains 6.3 g of total fat of which 2.2 g are from saturated fats. It contains 86 mg of cholesterol which is 29% of the recommended daily allowance. Round steak is an excellent source of protein at 35.8 g per serving. It is also low in sodium and does not contain any sugars, carbohydrates, or fiber.  

How to Prepare a Round Steak on the Stovetop

  A perfectly cooked round steak can be achieved with just a few simple tools and your stove top in under an hour. Simply season the steak and sear in a skillet until it’s done.   Ingredients:
  • 14 oz round steak, at least ¾ inch thick
  • 1 tbsp ghee, coconut oil, or other high-temperature oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • If desired, aromatic herbs like thyme or rosemary and butter for basting
  Tools:
  • Thick-walled, heavy skillet such as aluminum or cast iron
  • Tongs for flipping the steak
  • Instant-read meat thermometer
   

10 Steps for Cooking Perfect Round Steak

  Step #1 Remove your steak from the refrigerator, place it on the countertop, and allow it to come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This will ensure your steak cooks more evenly. If you cook your steak straight from the refrigerator, it may be perfectly cooked on the outside but underdone on the inside.   Step #2 Use a paper towel to pat the steak dry on both sides. Removing the moisture ensures your steak will sear rather than steam. It is important your steak is as dry as possible and that your pan does not contain any water.   Step #3 Salt your steak immediately before cooking with kosher salt. Use your fingers to pat a thin layer of salt on both sides. This will result in a nice crust on your finished steak. Kosher salt is preferable to regular table salt because the larger grains will create a more even crust. Conversely, you could salt your steak anywhere from a few days to 40 minutes before cooking. The salt will draw out the natural juices in the meat and create a sort of brine which will help soften and break down the tough tissues in the round steak.   Step #4 Place your skillet on the stove top, add your cooking oil, and turn your stovetop to high heat. You will know the oil is ready when it begins to smoke. You want to use an oil with a high smoke point such as coconut oil, clarified butter or ghee, or vegetable oil. These types of oils work best for searing meats without imparting a burned or unpleasant flavor.     Step #5 Once your skillet is hot enough, add your steak. You should hear it begin to sear. A medium rare steak will take an average of around 6 minutes although this will vary depending on the thickness and size of your cut. You can sear the steak three minutes on one side, flip it with your tongs, and sear it three minutes on the other side. This method involves the least amount of work and will result in a nicely cooked steak.   If you don’t mind standing over the stovetop, you can flip the steak more often, as soon as every 15 seconds. This results in a more even color on both sides and cooks the steak faster since you are cooking it from both sides relatively simultaneously.   Step #6 If you desire, you can baste the steak. This involves just spooning the hot cooking liquid over the meat. If you want to add butter, add it to the pan halfway through your cooking time to ensure it does not burn. Allow it to melt and then baste your steak with it. Baste each time you flip. This will add flavor, decrease cooking time, and help achieve a more even and brown crust.   Step #7 If you wish to add more flavor to your steak, add shallots, garlic, rosemary, or thyme to the pan after the butter has melted. These will infuse the cooking fat with their flavor which you then baste over the meat. The result is a wonderfully moist and flavorful steak.   Step #8 The best way to ensure your round steak is cooked to perfection is to use a meat thermometer. Begin checking the temperature of your meat around 4 minutes. Just insert the probe into the meat. Be sure not to push it all the way through and hit the pan. For a medium rare steak, remove the meat from the pan when the internal temperature measures around 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The meat will continue to rise in temperature about 5 degrees while it rests.   Step #9 Place your steak on a cutting board, add freshly ground pepper to taste, and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a steak that is moist and juicy throughout.   Step #10 When ready to serve, slice the steak thinly across the grain, or perpendicular to the muscle fibers. Pieces should be no more than ½ inch thick. This breaks up the tough muscle fibers in the round steak and results in a perfect, tender bite.    

How to Choose the Perfect Round Steak

  A well-finished steak has to start with the best quality meat. The United States Department of Agriculture evaluates beef and ranks it into different grades based on their strict grading criteria. Prime is the highest quality beef you can buy, and it is sold in restaurants and high-end butcher shops. It contains a lot of fat throughout which is called marbling. Steak with a lot of marbling has the most flavor and is the most tender. Choice beef is the next grade. It is still high-quality meat, but it does not have the abundant marbling you find in Prime cuts. Select beef is more uniform in quality and leaner than Prime and Choice. Because of this, it can be less tender and prone to drying out if not cooked carefully. The lowest quality you can buy is Standard or Commercial. Its packaging will not be labeled with a grade or will be a store brand. While this meat will not be as tender and flavorful, it is an economical choice that can still result in a great tasting steak when cooked properly.   Beef also goes through a process called aging. This occurs after the cow is processed and the enzymes and microbes naturally present in the meat and the environment begin to break down the muscle and tissue. This tenderizes the meat. Most of the meat you find in the supermarket will be wet aged. This means that the meat is packaged in plastic wrap shortly after butchering and allowed to age in contact with its own blood. This can produce a slightly sour flavor, but most of us cannot really tell the difference, and buy it for its lower price. High-end butchers and restaurants generally sell dry aged beef. This type of aging is done by allowing air to contact the meat which allows the meat to breathe, loose water, and come in contact with the environment. This tends to produce a better-flavored steak. However, since round steak does not have much fat, it does not lend well to dry aging and is most likely to be wet aged.   When purchasing a steak of any grade, look for one that has a clear, red color. The interior of the meat will be a darker purple since it has not been exposed to oxygen. The steak should be firm to the touch and not have a smell to it. Inspect the packaging to make sure it does not have any punctures or tears and that you are purchasing the meat before its “sell by” date. Store meat immediately in a refrigerator that is 40 degrees or colder, and cook your steak as soon as possible after purchase for best flavor. If you cannot cook your steak within two days of purchase, you can freeze it until you are ready to eat. However, freezing degrades the flavor and texture of a steak.   There are different types of round steak you can buy. Top round steak is the most tender cut you can purchase and the best for cooking on the stove top. A full-cut round steak will have a round bone in the middle from the leg of the cow. This is a slightly less tender cut, and many people prefer not to skillet cook steak with a bone since the meat has a tendency to pull away. You can also purchase bottom round and round eye round steaks which are boneless but less tender than top round.  

Best Pairings for Round Steak

  A well-cooked piece of quality round steak speaks for itself and goes well with a simple side of roasted or grilled vegetables. Since the steak is already full of flavor, you do not need to pair it with an overly flavorful side dish such as something with a lot of spices or sauce.   A dark green vegetable like asparagus or broccoli is a popular choice. Prepare these by grilling, roasting, or broiling, and finish with a little bit of lemon juice and zest. Summer squash and zucchini also go well with steak and can be prepared the same way.   Many people enjoy potatoes with their steak for a filling meal. Potatoes can be mashed, diced and roasted, or baked whole. Try twice baked potatoes or Hasselback potatoes for a more elegant side dish.   Sweet potatoes or winter squash are just as filling but pack more nutrition than white potatoes. Sweet potatoes can be prepared just like regular potatoes, and winter squashes are delicious when diced and roasted with olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper.   Lastly, you cannot go wrong with a simple salad with your choice of dressing.   If you want to top your steak with a vegetable, try caramelized or sautéed onions. The robust flavor of sautéed mushrooms also makes them an excellent choice.   Red wines are the most popular to serve with steak. Red wine contains tannins which give them their full-bodied flavor and are an excellent complement to the protein of the steak. Since it is relatively lean, you will want to pair your pan-seared round steak with a medium bodied or more fruit-flavored red. The best choices are a Merlot or Australian Shiraz. A Cabernet Sauvignon is also a good choice.   If you prefer white wine, don’t fret! While reds best bring out the flavor in a steak, the adage of red with beef and white with fish and poultry is no longer the hard and fast rule it once was. A chilled glass of Riesling, Chardonnay, or Pinot Grigio is a perfect compliment to your steak on a warm summer night.  

Conclusion

  Few meals are more satisfying than a perfectly cooked pan-seared steak. Round steak is lean, tender, and an economical choice that is easy to cook at home with a few simple tools. Pair your steak with a simple grilled vegetable and a fruity red wine for a dinner that is sure to please on a regular weekday night or for any special occasion.
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