How To: Cook a Steak in a Cast-Iron Skillet

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Photos by Molly Dunn
Cooking a steak in a cast-iron skillet ensures a crispy, caramelized steak.
Although it's summertime and the grill seems to be the logical choice when cooking steak, using a cast-iron skillet to cook a steak makes it much more savory and delicious.

The older your skillet is, the better your food tastes. As a cast-iron skillet ages, it offers up more seasoning and increases the flavor of everything you cook in it. I absolutely love cooking steak in a cast-iron skillet -- to me, the steak is perfectly seasoned and is always juicier than if it were cooked on the grill.

All you need is a little oil, salt, pepper and butter and you can make one of the best steaks you have ever had; it's restaurant quality, for sure.

First, let your steak come to room temperature by unwrapping it and leaving it on your counter for approximately 30 minutes. This will ensure that the steak cooks evenly. You don't want the outside of the meat to be well done and the middle to be medium. During this time, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. You will finish cooking your steak in the oven once you cook it on the stove.

I decided to cook a bone-in New York strip steak (my dad's favorite). It's one and a half inches thick, almost like a Fred Flintstone steak.

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Season the steak with salt and cracked black pepper after it comes to room temperature for 30 minutes.
After you let the steak come to room temperature, season it with salt and cracked black pepper. At this time, add any other seasonings you like to put on your steak -- garlic, herbs or a spice rub. Press the seasonings into the steak to seal in the flavors.

I'm pretty simple when it comes to steaks; a little bit of salt and pepper is enough for me to enhance the flavors of the meat.

Heat the cast-iron skillet to a medium to high temperature on the stove. Once the skillet is hot, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. The oil should shimmer when it hits the pan -- that tells you the pan is hot enough. Place your steak on your skillet to sear on one side for no more than five minutes. Once it is seared, flip the steak to sear the other side for another five minutes.

Make sure to pay attention to the steak while searing it because depending on the thickness of the steak, the sear could take a longer or shorter amount of time. You want the steak to be golden brown and start to caramelize while searing it on the stove.

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A little smoke while you're searing the steak is a good thing.
Using tongs, flip the steak on its sides to sear as well. Getting an all-around sear makes the steak crispy and full of savory flavor.

Flip the steak back to flat in the cast-iron skillet and place the pan in the preheated oven for nearly four minutes, depending on how you like your steak (medium-rare, medium-well, well-done). Cooking the steak for four minutes yields a medium-rare steak, so add another two minutes for medium-well and four minutes for well-done.

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Adding butter to the steak makes it taste so much better.
Place a pat of butter on top of the steak after you take it out of the oven (use an oven mitt because the handle is hot). Let your steak rest for another three to four minutes once it is done cooking in the oven before you slice into it. The steak soaks up all the wonderful seasonings and flavors from the cast-iron skillet and the butter while it rests.

Serve it with a baked potato or your favorite side dish and enjoy.



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17 comments
eye2eye673
eye2eye673

Not sure why you need to heat the oven at 450 when you are only trying to get a steak to be 131.  Low and slow is the key with meats. Most important thing for a perfect steak is a meat prob when cooking it in the oven. Stick it in the side of the steak so it is in the middle  top to bottom.  Set oven 250 and watch it slowly climb to desired doneness (131-137= medium rare). Take it out about two degrees shy of desired temp and let it rest for 3-5 min and it will get to the ideal temp. 

The objective is to have  the desired doneness coast to coast. When you cook it fully on the grill it is always well done on the edges with a small part in the center that is pink and more at the desired temp. The oven is going to  allow that small pink part in the center that you would have on a grill  get more wide. So you sear it as hot as possible for 30 or secs on each side and then let it get to temp in oven low and slow through the preciseness of a meat thermometer.  If you stick it in an oven at 450 its gonna get more done on the edges especially on the bottom from the pan getting solo hot. 


Another tip is to use ghee and not oil in the pan. Although grape seed oil is alright too, but ghee more flavorful obv.  u can use more ghee to finish it off if you want too. just don't use butter. 

maedlarez
maedlarez

The Method of cooking a good steak will always vary from person to person, is a never ending battle. WHAT I HONESTLY THINK YOU CANNOT BEAT IS COOKING IN A WELL SEASONED CAST IRON SKILLET. Very fortunate are those who have, knows how to maintain, cook and most of all appreciate a cast iron skillet. Now a days i find myself in the hunting and willing to pay the bucks for a very old school cast iron skillet (Grisworld, Wagner). You can't beat old school cooking!!!

trigger
trigger

heat the skillet in the oven first, while the oven is pre-heating

tinyhands
tinyhands

Even though everyone knows someone who has done it without any problems, cast iron is not recommended for electric stoves, especially glass-top ones.

Jenandtonic
Jenandtonic

I can vouch for this method. I won't make steak any other way!

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

I prefer to heat my cast iron skillet for 30 minutes under the broiler, until white hot. Then on high heat on the burner with 1 tbsp of peanut oil, 2 minutes a side and finish in broiler if medium or well done is desired, with a pat of butter, a clove of garlic, and some thyme from the garden.

SirRon
SirRon topcommenter

I much prefer the oven-first method. Put steaks on a baking sheet with a wire rack in it, and place in a 275F oven. Heat the steaks to a 90F center (~20mins depending on thickness). Then, put them in the hot iron skillet (maybe hotter than you suggested). You'll only need ~1-1.5 mins per side... whatever gets a good crust. I lower the heat and do the edges after that.

 

Doing it this way, you'll end up with much less of that grey (well done meat) around the outside of the steak and just as much of the crust that makes pan searing the best way to cook a steak.

jimbo1126
jimbo1126

Lovely and very clear directions - I agree, this makes the perfect steak!

Kirk Equality Childress
Kirk Equality Childress

personally, i think it's too damn hot to turn the stove on, too. we're living on cold salads and gazpacho.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Oh and for heavens sake open a window, unless you have a restaurant grade air filter above your stove, this does create a fair amount of smoke.

eye2eye673
eye2eye673

@SirRon  90 degree center is not right. 131 is medium rare. Searing should always be first cuz it retains the juices and will also allow you to be more precise on the final desired temperature doneness.  it is key to use a meat probe while it is in the oven if you want and appreciate a perfect steak. if you don't have one, get one. 

mfsmit
mfsmit

 @SirRon +1  Though it takes a little longer, you get more even doneness, and, since the time in the oven dries the surface, you can get a harder sear in less time.  Also, instead of salting right before cooking, salt right when you take the meat out of the fridge.  Within an hour the salt will pull out some moisture, dissolve, and be reabsorbed into the meat (kind of like a dry brine).

 

You might want to start the sear on edge with the fat cap.  The rendered beef fat will add flavor. 

 

And adding some roasted bone marrow, shallots and herbs to softened butter, rolling up in plastic film and re-chilling makes a pretty tasty addition.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

 @SirRon I've done both of these methods, and this is not only the better method, but also won't set off your fire alarm.  My variation is 225F oven for 25 minutes, and then cast iron for 2 minutes per side/4 for filet mignon.

SirRon
SirRon topcommenter

@eye2eye673 But remember that when you take it out of the oven you aren't done cooking yet. 90-100 deg works just fine. And if you believe in the "sealing the juices" method, you outta try it the other way. You'll find out that everything you wrote there doesn't apply. You won't even need to probe the meat.

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