Steaks are high in protein, but they're best enjoyed in moderation because of their high saturated fat, cholesterol and calorie content. Keep meal preparation simple and help ensure tender, juicy results when you cook your steaks on the stove by starting with a suitable cut. Use a rib-eye or a steak from the tenderloin, loin or sirloin so as to begin with tender, well-marbled meat that can hold up to dry, direct heat. Also, choose a steak at least 1 1/2- to 2-inches thick that will develop a crisp crust without overcooking and drying out inside. If you don't mind the extra expense, opt for Prime-rated steak over Choice.
Salt both sides of the steak liberally with coarse kosher or sea salt 45 minutes ahead of the cooking time and leave it out at room temperature. A large-grain salt most effectively pulls moisture out of the meat and imparts a mild saltiness. By salting this far in advance, the meat has time to reabsorb the moisture so it turns out juicy and tender.
Pat black pepper and additional desired herbs, such as thyme, tarragon and rosemary, and spices, including cayenne or chipotle powder or Cajun seasonings, onto the steak before cooking it.
Heat a large cast-iron or other high-quality heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Wait for it to get hot enough that a flick of water instantly sizzles and evaporates; then coat the bottom with a liberal amount of cooking oil. Give the oil another 30 seconds or so to get hot.
Lay the steak in the skillet. Give it 1 to 2 minutes to develop a sear; turn it with tongs or another implement. Sear the second side as you did the first. Thereafter, flip the steak as often as every 15 to 20 seconds, or with less frequency if you're otherwise occupied. Flipping encourages even cooking on the stove.
Toss a pat or two of unsalted butter into the skillet after a few minutes. It adds a richness to the flavor and helps nicely brown the steak. Spoon oil and melted butter from the bottom of the pan over the top of the steak between turns to baste it so it will brown nicely, reduce cooking time and achieve more tender results.
Read the steak's internal temperature with a meat thermometer to monitor its progress. Remove it from the pan at 115 degrees Fahrenheit for rare; 125 F for medium-rare; 135 F for medium; 145 F for medium-well and 155 F for well-done. Cooking time varies by cut, thickness, whether the steak is on the bone, the type of pan used and other factors. As a general guide, expect a 1 1/2-inch-thick steak to take about 8 minutes to cook to medium.
Transfer the steak from the skillet onto a plate immediately to prevent overcooking, which reduces moisture and tenderness. Rest the steak for at least 5 minutes. Resting allows the steak to finish cooking -- you remove it from the skillet 5 F below the target temperature because it continues to cook this much after leaving the heat. Resting also allows the meat's juices to be reabsorbed into the muscle fibers after seeping out during cooking, preventing them from running out of the steak when you slice into it.