Alton Brown's 30-Second Trick For Satisfying Steak Crust

Alton Brown knows Good Eats. The television host and food scientist's long-running cooking show, "Good Eats," has inspired cooking enthusiasts for over 20 years, implementing a specific and scientific approach to cooking that encourages a deeper understanding of food. Even in the years following the show's 1999 premiere, the wisdom dispensed by the series — and by Brown himself — still holds true. But there is one tip shared by Brown that might be a game-changer. While steak is a versatile food, it is also a finicky one. One bad move, and it's turned tough or overcooked. Or, even worse, the steak comes out of the pan looking gray, without that signature and delicious brown crust. Per Food Network, however, Alton Brown has a quick trick that can give your steak a perfect crust every time.


For starters, Brown uses a cast iron skillet, which is an absolute essential in the kitchen, and places it in an oven preheated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This will ensure that your pan is sizzling hot. Then, after a few minutes of heating, he removes the pan and places it over high heat on the stove. Just when your pan is essentially a branding iron, you'll add your salted steak. And don't even think about moving it. Brown advises searing the steak for 30 seconds on each side before flipping. This allows it to get that delicious, crispy brown crust that brings your steak to a whole new level.

The crust enhances flavor

The key to Alton Brown's searing trick is held in the high heat of the cast iron pan, which allows for quick cooking and browning of the steak's exterior. Let your steak sit in the hot pan for 30 seconds uninterrupted, so the surface of your steak can fully brown. This crust, formed from searing, is the key to making a delicious steak. 


Now, many home cooks believe that searing helps to seal in your steak's moisture, but this myth is not true. Searing does, however, provide your steak with great flavor. That brown crust, as it turns out, is produced as a result of a Maillard reaction, which essentially enhances the flavors in your steak through a series of chemical reactions between amino acids and sugars. The crust on your steak also gives it a delicious texture, and a good medium rare or rare steak will have a nice, crusty exterior with a perfectly luscious red or pink middle. Balancing the two is key to cooking an excellent steak.

Other tricks up Brown's sleeve

Alton Brown's steak wisdom doesn't end with the 30-second searing trick. There are a few other key steps that Brown encourages to produce the absolute best steak. For starters, Brown likes to keep his steak simple, seasoning only with salt and pepper, which allows your good cut of beef to truly shine. He salts his steak before searing it as well. This helps to draw moisture from your steak, creating a brine. Once your steak is put onto the heat, this brine will absorb into the steak, tenderizing your meat and adding a great taste.


But making a good steak doesn't end once you take it out of the oven. Brown also encourages home cooks to let their steak rest for 3 minutes, so that its juices are retained. And he places his steak on an overturned saucer to allow juices to run off, keeping its crust — well, crusty. Make sure to cover your cooked steak in aluminum foil to help retain its heat. And voila! Once the 3-minute rest is up, you'll have a perfectly cooked and juicy steak with a golden brown crust; which will surely turn you into a true believer of Brown's culinary wisdom, and the other cooking mantras Alton Brown swears by.