Culinary Arts

Perfect Pan-Seared Beef Sirloin Steak Recipe

Written by MasterClass

May 1, 2019 • 5 min read

Beef sirloin just might be America’s favorite cut of beef, for good reason: it’s readily available at grocery stores, affordable, and tender enough for quick, high-heat cooking like grilling or pan-searing.

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What Is Sirloin Steak?

Sirloin steaks come from the sirloin primal cut—the cow’s lower back, beginning at the sixth and last lumbar vertebra and including the hip bone. The sirloin is divided further into the sirloin top butt, which contains the gluteus medius muscle and is tender enough to cut into boneless sirloin steaks, and the knuckle, aka sirloin tip or bottom butt, which is tougher and usually sold as tri-tip steak, sirloin tips, or ground beef.

Steaks with the USDA label “beef top sirloin” come from the tender top butt, whereas steaks simply labeled “sirloin” usually come from the cheaper, leaner bottom butt. Top sirloin steaks are leaner and less tender than ribeye, T-bone steak, or strip steaks, but they’re juicy and flavorful when grilled or pan seared. Learn more about meat grades here.

How to Cook a Sirloin Steak

Since they’re relatively lean, sirloin steaks should not be overcooked. Although the coarser muscle texture will soak up marinades better than the pricier, super tender steaks, there isn’t a lot of fat and connective tissue to add moisture to sirloin steaks, so if they’re cooked past medium (145°F), they’ll taste dry. For the perfect sirloin steak, quickly sear and slice against the grain.

  • Marinate: Sirloin steak is flavorful on its own, but it’s also great marinated. Marinate 30 minutes at room temperature or 3 hours in the fridge. Try olive oil, red wine vinegar or lemon juice, garlic, and/or soy sauce, and then pop that steak on the grill.
  • Grilling: Since sirloin is not super fatty, you won’t be in danger of fat catching on fire during grilling. Set up a two-zone fire, with one hot zone and one medium-low zone. If using a charcoal grill, arrange coals so that one area is hotter. For a gas grill, keep one burner on medium-low and the other on high. Brush the grate and/or steaks with vegetable oil. Grill steak over high heat until charred, about 1-2 minutes per side. Move to the medium-low zone and cook to desired doneness, about 3-4 minutes per side for rare.
  • Broil: Broil a sirloin steak in the oven on a broiler pan or in a seasoned cast-iron skillet until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Learn more about broiling here.
  • Pan-sear: Pan-searing sirloin on the stovetop is one of the quickest and easiest methods, allowing you to keep an eye on your steak throughout cooking. Like the grill, sear steak over high heat until a brown crust forms, about 1-2 minutes per side. Then reduce heat to medium and cook to desired doneness, about 2 minutes per side for rare.

Sirloin Temperature Guide

Use a digital instant-read thermometer to check the temperature of sirloin steaks, which are usually just thin enough to prevent a traditional meat thermometer from getting an accurate reading. Or use physical cues—its color and the way the meat feels when you touch it—to determine if sirloin steak is done. Rest sirloin steak for 5 to 20 minutes after cooking, to relax the proteins and distribute juices. The carryover cooking that happens during resting will increase the internal temperature of a steak by about 5°F, so keep that in mind when calculating internal temperature.

  • For rare sirloin steak, aim for a final internal temperature of 120–130°F.
  • Medium rare is 130–135°F.

6 Ways to Serve a Sirloin Steak

  • Hearty sirloin steak is a great choice for steak frites. Try topping your steak with sauce béarnaise, a creamy mushroom sauce, garlic butter, or a quick pan sauce, all of which double as excellent dips for the french fries!
  • To make a quick pan sauce while your steak is resting, deglaze the pan with equal amounts of beef stock and red wine, scraping up all the brown bits (frond).
  • To add garlic flavor to sirloin steak without burning, try rubbing the raw steak with a cut garlic clove before cooking; adding an unpeeled clove of garlic to the pan during the last few minutes of pan-searing; or marinating with halved cloves of garlic or garlic powder.
  • If pan-searing sirloin steak, try adding a sprig of fresh rosemary or thyme to the pan.
  • Sirloin is a great option for bò lúc lắc (aka Vietnamese shaking beef). Cube sirloin steak and marinate in garlic, sugar, salt, and soy sauce, then stir-fry until medium-rare and serve on a bed of lettuce, tomato, and sautéed onion and bell pepper. Serve with rice, french fries, or baguette.
  • When it comes to wine, try pairing lean sirloin steak with a lighter red, such as Beaujoulais, or a more full-bodied rosé, like Rosato.

Pan-Seared Sirloin Steak Recipe

Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
50 min
  • 1 sirloin steak, about 1 inch thick
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (not extra virgin) or other neutral vegetable oil
  1. Pat the steak dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and let stand at room temperature, 30 minutes to 1 hour, or refrigerate up to 72 hours. (If refrigerating, bring the steak back to room temperature before cooking by resting for 1 hour.) Pat dry with paper towels and season with more salt and pepper. Press the pepper into the steak to adhere.
  2. In a large skillet, melt the butter with the oil over medium-high heat. When the butter foam subsides, add the steak. Sear until a brown crust forms, about 2 minutes per side. Use strong tongs to press the edge of the steak into the pan, rolling and cooking edges until the fat is rendered. Return steak to pan flat-side down, reduce heat to medium, and cook until desired degree of doneness, about 2–2½ minutes for medium rare. For medium rare, the internal temperature should be 125–130°F, internal color should be an opaque, lighter red, and the texture should be just resilient to the touch—droplets of red juice should rise to the surface of the steak. Cooking time will vary based on steak thickness.
  3. Remove the steak from pan and transfer to a cutting board or plate, tent with foil, and rest for 5–20 minutes. This is a good time to make a simple pan sauce, if desired. Internal temperature will increase about 5°F during resting.

Learn more cooking techniques with Chef Thomas Keller here.