charred steak with sauce

Plus, the secret sauce that makes it.

If you’re as elegant, as dexterous as I am, then you can probably: pick your nose in five minutes; trip over that gargantuan pile of dirty laundry and lie on the floor, immobile, for five minutes; let your dog lick your face for five minutes.

You can probably cook a steak dinner for one in five minutes.

This recipe is a weeknight workhouse of a supper, something I like to cook for myself when I have time for nothing else. The real star here is the lime and fish sauce butter, which is, in my humble opinion, the best steak sauce in the world. Sweet, salty, and life-affirming, it’s at once funky caramel and umami personified.

The beauty of a proper 5-minute recipe is that each minute counts. So much can happen in 300 seconds—this pan-seared steak is a testament to that. You’ll find yourself at the end of the blip of time with a dinner that’s unutterably effortless to cook yet feels somehow steakhouse-special.

What we’re after here is minimal effort for maximal pleasure.


  • thin-cut boneless strip steak or rib eye, 1/2-inch thick (about 7 to 8 ounces)
  • 1 pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon grape-seed oil (or other oil with a high smoke point)
  • small handful green beans
  • lime (1/2 juiced, 1/2 wedged for serving)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cold, unsalted butter

How To Cook Steak In A Pan

  1. Get your skillet (I like cast iron) hot enough so it starts to smoke. (Yes, smoke!) One word of advice: Turn on your range hood vent now. There’s a chance you’ll smoke up the place—but that’s okay, because it’ll mean you’re doing it right and your pan is hot enough to ensure a good, solid sear.
  2. Once your skillet is nice and hot, add some oil and a 1/2-inch thick strip steak: 2 minutes on the first side, 1 minute on the second side (or even less, if you prefer a rarer steak like I do). Plate the steak.
  3. The green beans go in next, a quick crunchy side dish to accompany the steak. These get just 1 minute and 30 seconds in the steak fat to warm through. They’ll char slightly on the outside but stay pleasurably crunchy. Time’s up! Plate the beans alongside the steak.
  4. Now for the sauce (all in the same pan, off the heat): Lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, and butter get whisked together, picking up the good, caramelized steak bits from the bottom of the skillet. This takes less than 30 seconds. Pour over the steak and beans.

And at just 5 minutes of cooking, dinner is served.

Originally published in