Earlier today my sister Sara emailed to say that she had bought a steak and was going to try and cook one for the first time. (Sara's quite a carnivore - the most excited I've ever seen her about a restaurant is a Brazilian place in Los Angeles where waiters wander from table to table carving slices of meat from long roasting spits.) She asked me for some step-by-step instructions, which I learned while working at Nick's Italian Café in McMinnville the year after college from a guy named John Barkus. I thought I'd share them here. If anybody sees any errors of technique, please fill me in.
Use olive oil and put it on medium to high heat. You don't want/need a ton of oil, just enough to coat the pan. It should be cooking on the burner, though, not in a pool of oil.
Use tongs if you have them, but otherwise a spatula or anything else will do.
Make sure you salt both sides liberally. The meat should be thawed but still cold (not sitting out at room temp). Let the pan get plenty hot before you put the meat or even the oil in. Put the oil in just a little bit before you put the meat in.
It'll cook somewhat fast. I can't tell you how long per side, but I'd turn it over about the time when the unturned top side feels about room temperature. It should need less time on the other side, and a good medium rare steak should be taken off about the time you see juices coming out of the top a little. But the best foolproof rule of thumb for taking it off the heat at the right time is just to whip it off the stove real quick, cut it open and have a look. When you take it off the stove for good, though, let the meat rest for a couple minutes before you eat it. You know it's supposed to be somewhat rare, but how much within that is up to you. You can always throw it back on if it's not done enough, but you can't un-cook it.
If all those instructions seem like too much, just cook both sides on medium-high for a few minutes, cut it open and see if it's done.
For a really awesome glaze over the top, keep the heat on and pour about half a cup or so of red wine, let it boil for a couple of minutes, turn off, and add just a little dollop of butter. Yum fucking city. If you don't have red wine, you could also de-glaze with white wine, a little beer, or broth. The liquid just picks up all that concentrated flavor off the bottom of the pan - you definitely want that.