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Recently got into cooking steak at home and overall been enjoying the results :)
That being said, it seems like my pan always smokes quite a bit and the oil looks to be burnt. I'm using refined avocado oil which has a high smoking point of 500F and a cast iron pan.

I was wondering if anyone could provide some tips to prevent the oil burning and control the pan temp. If I lower the heat I no longer hear a sizzle. Also perhaps the pan needs to be smaller to fit the steak?

  • Welcome to Seasoned Advice SE. – elbrant Jan 13 at 1:11
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    That steak looks pretty good. What's the issue? – moscafj Jan 13 at 1:38
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    That steak looks good. (Yes it needs two comments) – AGirlWithAKnife Jan 13 at 3:22
  • Thanks. Is the oil on the sides not burnt? – Dandan Jan 13 at 6:52
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    Do you oil the steak, or the pan? – Robin Betts Jan 13 at 10:31
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If you are asking how to prevent the oil from smoking while making a good steak: you can't. The pan for proper searing of steak has to go hotter than the smoking point of any cooking oil. So, if you don't want to consume oil which has been taken above its smoking point, you cannot eat seared steak. You can make steak in a coldish pan (not hearing a sizzle will be a good thing then, or better, use an infrared thermometer to make sure your pan stays at low temperatures), or in the oven, or try some method which uses no oil - typically grilling, but the salt alternative in elbrant's answer is also interesting.

If you dislike the crust on the steak on your picture: this is a well seared steak, and it is how most people like their steak to be. If you don't like it this way and want it less crusty, then you should not be following typical steak guides, since they are trying to produce what you got. Instead, try lower temperature methods, such as the oven, or sous vide without a finishing sear.

If you like the taste of your steak, but are afraid that you broke some important cooking rule: you didn't. And there is no cooking police which will come for you if you don't follow some common piece of advice or other, even if sometimes online discussions make it seem that way. Continue making steaks the same way as this one.

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I always do my steak in cast iron, but instead of oil I use salt. Yes, you read that right, no oil in the pan. At all. The salt provides seasoning and prevents the steak from 'sticking' to the skillet. You can preheat your skillet over a medium heat to cut down on the smoke, yes even without oil, there's still smoke. But what I found is that the hotter the cast iron, the smokier things get. So, I'll recap, omit the oil and heat the pan longer over a medium heat. (You won't miss out on the sizzle, and you won't have to open every window in the house.)

I'm adding a couple of recipes that recommend the opposite (searing hot pan that goes into a 500F oven!) but with a total cook time of 10minutes or less.
How to Cook the Perfect Steak in Cast Iron reccomends Avocado Oil.
Pan-Seared Rib-Eye uses Canola Oil.

oh! and... the Smoke Point of Oils lists Avocado oil heat/smoke point at 520F, Canola at 400F, and Coconut oil at 350F.

  • Oil is not just to prevent sticking, it also helps transferring the heat from the pan to the surface of the steak. More steak will be in contact with oil than with the surface of the pan (the oil fills the gaps in both) and that helps getting a better crust / sear. – Luciano Jan 15 at 13:52
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    The salt idea is a good one, avoid with many non-stick surfaces though, but then non-stick at searing temperatures is already something that should be avoided. I have seen it work nicely on cast iron though. An oil to also consider is clarified butter with a smoke point up close to that of avocado oil and a flavor some might prefer which also allows a good searing temp without burn. – dlb Jan 15 at 16:40
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Personal Experience based: You can get the sear you are looking for at a lower temp using a cast iron pan. The lower temp will solve a lot of the problem.

Pre heat cast iron pan to something less than 400 then add oil then steak.

Then Turn heat up incrementally while cooking so that max temp is reached just before the steak is done.

Don't move or turn the steak until it is ready to turn. Turn once only.

When ready to turn, as you pick the steak up with tongs, put a bit of oil where you are going to place the steak. The oil makes the meat fry rather than boil from steak juices being released and seems to prevent some loss of moisture in the meat

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