Butter basted steak is one of those foods that looks super fancy, but it’s really not that hard. We’ve all seen chefs on tv or on YouTube pouring that hot, bubbly butter all over a perfectly seared steak. It’s a great visual. It’s also fun to do, and you can do it too!
Now, while butter basting a steak really is not hard, there are steps you need to follow, and the timing is important. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Preparing Your Steaks
Fist thing’s first, pick out your steaks! For butter basted steak, you’re going to need thick-cut steaks. I recommend 1 and 1/2 inches thick. I have used this method with New York strip steaks, and ribeye steaks. The ribeyes were pretty perfect. They were tender, soft in the center, and had a hard, buttery sear on the outside. Both types of steaks take on the flavors of the herbs you add to the butter, but I feel like the ribeye steaks took on more of this flavor, probably due to the marbling.
That said, the New York strips were delicious, just not quite as flavorful as the ribeyes. They’re also quite a bit cheaper than ribeyes, so there’s that, too. I get my steaks at Costco. Their quality is very good, and the price is about half as expensive per pound as my local specialty grocer.
After you’ve got your steaks picked out, take them out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you’d like to start cooking. Season both sides with kosher salt. I added pepper, but I actually think it would be better to pepper the steaks right before they come out of the pan. The pepper kind of gets lost in the high heat cooking (the heat breaks down the pepper). Let the steaks sit on the counter and let the salt do its thing while you prep everything else. This is the dry brining method described in this post about roasting chicken.
Getting Your Ducks in a Row is the Key to Success
Now that your steaks are resting and seasoning, it’s time to prepare everything else. First thing’s first, if you don’t have either a probe or instant read thermometer, you’re going to have a very hard time knowing when your steak is done. Unless you have cooked hundreds of steaks, you just aren’t going to be able to tell by pressing it, unless it’s well done, in which case it will feel very hard and sad. I’m obsessed with ThermoWorks thermometers (not an ad, although I would advertise for them any day. I love them). I used my ThermoWorks instant read thermometer and my probe thermometer in this recipe, but you really only need one. I recommend this affordable instant read thermometer if you don’t have one.
Now that you’ve got your thermometer at the ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. It isn’t always necessary to finish the steaks in the oven, but I often need to, so it’s best to be prepared.
Next, preheat your pan. You can use any heavy bottomed pan for butter basted steaks, but cast iron is a classic for a reason. It holds the heat really well for an even sear. Whatever you do, make sure your pan is oven safe. Preheat your pan over medium heat until very hot.
While your pan is preheating, get out your stick of unsalted butter, garlic cloves, and rosemary (or any other woody herb you’d like). Also have a cutting board standing by. Once you start cooking, this goes pretty fast.
Cooking Your Butter Basted Steaks
Before you start cooking, decide how done you’d like your steaks. Here is a doneness guide I got from certifiedangusbeef.com.
Keep in mind that you will need to pull your steaks and let them rest on the cutting board when they reach five degrees below your desired doneness temperature. For example, if I’m going for a steak cooked to medium, I need to pull it at 140 degrees. This accounts for carryover cooking.
You’ll also need 1 stick of butter (I use unsalted, but salted would be fine too), fresh cracked pepper, several peeled cloves of garlic, and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. Thyme is also very nice.
When everything is ready you will do the following:
- Pat your steaks dry with a paper towel. This helps get a good sear.
- Carefully add a few tablespoons of olive oil to your hot pan. Swirl it around. It might smoke. This is ok.
- Add your steaks. Using tongs, grab the steak by one end, and lay the steak on the pan in the direction away from your body. Repeat with the other steak.
- Do not touch them for 4 minutes. Let them sear.
- After 4 minutes, lift one up to check the sear. If you’re happy with it, flip the steaks. You want a dark, crusty sear.
- Insert your instant read thermometer, if using.
- Let the other side sear for 2-3 minutes.
- Add 1 stick of butter, the rosemary, and the garlic to the pan.
- Grab the handle of the pan. Tilt it so that the butter pools toward you. With a large spoon, scoop up the butter and pour it over your steaks. You can do this as many times as you’d like. The garlic and rosemary will infuse with the butter and make garlicky, rosemary-y, buttery, tender steaks. Check the temperature.
- If your steaks have reached 5 degrees below your desired temperature, pull those babies and let them rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes.
- If your steak has not reached the correct temperature, put the whole pan in the oven. Check the temperature after 2 or 3 minutes. This goes fast.
- When the correct temperature is reached, rest the steaks on a cutting board for 5 minutes. This would also be a good time to add pepper.
- Slice and serve
Congratulations! You made butter basted steak! You’re a certified fancy person. Once you do this, you’ll realize it’s really not hard. You look really cool though.
Please send me your steak pictures on Facebook or Instagram! I love seeing what you guys cook.
Butter Basted Steak
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- kosher salt
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 steaks. I used New York strip steaks.
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 5-6 cloves garlic peeled and whole
- 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary. Thyme is also a good addition.
- Take your steaks out of the fridge about half an hour before you want to cook them. Season them liberally with kosher salt on both sides. Let them sit for 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heat a cast iron skillet, or other heavy-bottomed pan, over medium heat until it is very hot. If you do larger steaks, you may have to use 2 pans. If you use two pans I recommend staggering the cook times by starting one steak 2 or 3 minutes before the other, that way you can attend to both. Make sure that your pan is oven safe.
- Add the olive oil. It may smoke. Don't be alarmed.
- Immediately pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and add them to the pan, making sure to lay them in the pan away from your body.
- Press the steaks into the pan to make sure the entire surface is making contact with the pan. Let the steaks cook on the first side for 4 minutes. Don't move them!
- Using a pair of tongs, flip the steaks, and let them sear for about 2 minutes.
- Add 1/2 cup of butter, the rosemary, and the garlic cloves to the pan. Tilt the pan toward you, so that the butter pools where you can reach it. Take a large spoon and pour the butter over the steaks repeatedly until the steaks reach 5 degrees below your desired temperature. For example, if you like your steak medium, pull the steak at 140 degrees. As it rests the temperature will rise to 145 degrees.
- I highly, highly recommend using an instant read or probe thermometer for this recipe. Please.
- If your steak is a long way from reaching your desired internal temperature after you baste for a few minutes, put a probe thermometer in it and put the whole pan in the oven.
- Pull the steaks from the oven when they reach 5 degrees below your desired temperature. Refer to the temperature chart in the post for doneness temperatures. If you do not have a probe thermometer, check your steaks with an instant read thermometer after they've been in the oven for about 3 minutes by inserting the thermometer into the center of a steak. It doesn't take long.
- When your steaks have reached your desired temperature, put them on a cutting board and let them rest for 5 minutes. Add pepper, if desired, then slice and enjoy!