Jamie Oliver had a steak recipe that was fairly simple:

  • Season (salt/pepper/olive oil)
  • Dry pan (no oil in the pan) on heat
  • Fry a minute+ on each side, flip several times
  • When browned, rub the outside with a clove of garlic, some rosemary, and a bit of butter and keep grilling on the pan
  • Rest, collect the juices, and use as sauce over the steak.

If I don't want to use the butter (or any dairy product) for the above step, what else can I use in that rubbing step instead of the butter? What exactly does the butter rubbing do, what effect would there be if I skip that alltogether, and what can I do to preserve the effect?

He mentioned that you can add butter to the resting juices to sweeten them, but didn't explain what rubbing when grilling does.

6 Answers 6


The butter is there for flavor, mouth feel, and to add some body to the sauce you make. I'd replace the butter with.... nothing at all. Many of the flavor compounds in garlic and rosemary are fat soluble and fat is not exactly in short supply when it comes to steak, so you should be able to run those on directly and still get some flavor. Alternatively you could steep some olive oil with the garlic and rosemary and brush a bit on, but I would just simmer them in the juices for a minute instead and then spoon them on the cooked steak.

I have a few comment's on Jamie's recipe:

  1. Do not use olive oil when frying steak, it has too low a smoke point and may turn bitter. Use vegetable oil (canola/rapeseed, corn, peanut, sunflower, safflower, or blend) instead.
  2. Do not pepper the steak before frying as pepper will burn and turn bitter. Add fresh pepper just after you remove it from the pan to rest. If you want a pepper flavor inside the steak use a marinade. Salting before is fine
  3. The oil is not a seasoning, that's the salt and pepper. The oil's purpose is to help conduct the heat from the pan to the steak until the steak's juices come out
  4. There flip repeatedly method works but it isn't the only way to do it, I prefer to flip once after about 65% of the cooking time has elapsed. Doing a 65-35 rather than a 50-50 flip will make your steak evenly pink in the middle and means you can turn your attention to other things. I also think you get a better sear when using a pan. I use the 1 minute flip over charcoal though as it keeps the steak from getting too crispy

The only effects of rubbing a bit of butter on the steak in the middle of frying it I can think of are:

  • Add a hint of buttery flavour.
  • Provide more fat to help keep the steak from sticking to the pan.
  • Salt the steak a tiny bit, assuming you used salted butter.

I think only the second effect would be important enough to make it worthwhile find a substitute for. Rubbing the steak with some more olive oil, dairy-free margarine or even just spraying with cooking spray, should work as a substitute. However you can probably get away with not doing anything to replace the butter. In addition to the oil you've already seasoned the steak with, fat rendered from the steak itself should keep it from sticking. If you find it sticks anyways, then next time you can rub on some more oil.

I don't think it would be worthwhile to find some non-dairy substitute for the flavour of the butter. If you think the steak is going to miss that bit of salt the butter provides, I would just add a dash of salt to the juices you're using as a sauce.

  • I don't know how much "a bit of butter" is, but on a hot steak you could probably melt a fair amount on quickly, and if the saltiness and butter flavor are noticeable, the extra fat itself might be too.
    – Cascabel
    Feb 23, 2015 at 6:01
  • I think much of that flavour would be lost since the steak is put back on in the pan to fry. Either way, I don't think a non-dairy butter flavour substitute would really be worth it. Not unless you're trying to recreate the buttery steaks grandma used to make or something. There's already salt in seasoning, but if more is needed it's easier to add it earlier or later.
    – Ross Ridge
    Feb 23, 2015 at 6:31
  • I was talking more about just a bit of extra fat in the surface of the meat, something that's as much mouthfeel as flavor. Could even alter the way it browns? I still suspect it might not matter that much, but worth considering.
    – Cascabel
    Feb 23, 2015 at 7:19
  • @Jefromi - I can provide a YouTube link. But it looks to be fairly little - like a slice couple millimeters thick
    – DVK
    Feb 23, 2015 at 16:06

If you don't want to use dairy then don't. However, butter on a steak has very distinct flavor a feel effects. There is no substitute to replace this.


You could try ghee / unclarified butter. You can make it pretty easily with unsalted butter, which will remove the dairy solids, or you can buy it at Trader Joe's, online and at many grocery stores, including Walmart (look in the Ethnic foods section with Indian products).

  • 3
    Ghee or unclarified butter is still a dairy product... That doesn't really solve the problem.
    – Catija
    Mar 14, 2016 at 22:27

I think you could just do without the butter. It does add a certain enhancement to the steak, but nothing that will be missed too badly. You may want to grill the steak for better flavor (that's just my opinion) instead of frying it--and you will easily do without the butter.


I found this recipe online, which seems closest to the Jamie Oliver recipe you mention in brief. The only divergence is no mention of turning the steak over regularly, and I agree with @GdD's method. http://www.precisionnutrition.com/the-perfect-steak

Coconut oil is similar smoke point to butter, so that will help sear the steak with a slightly different flavour. Avocado oil has an even higher smoke point, so is another good substitute.

However, you might want to try beef tallow or similar? You can get the temperature much higher.

Some people say get the steak to room temperature, whilst others say freeze it first. I am going to try the latter method next time (but only when using a meat thermometer!!)

Finally, where your steak comes from and cut will make the most difference, so pay a bit extra and go to a butchers or choose a better cut. I prefer fattier steaks, my wife prefers prime, so we just buy one of each and everyone is happy.

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