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Cook Perfect Steakhouse-Quality Steak in a Cast Iron Skillet

Author:

John D Lee is a chef and restauranteur living and working in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He's always loved to cook.

Crusty, brown, seared steak. Perfect.

Crusty, brown, seared steak. Perfect.

Perfectly-Cooked Steaks Inside the House

If, for whatever reason, you can't grill your steaks, you can get a very, very acceptable steak with your trusty old cast-iron skillet.

If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you need to get one. Seriously. A cast iron skillet is a beautiful thing, and you'll find yourself using it to brown meat for stews, fried chicken, frittatas, whatever. Really, they're great to have.

Instructions

  1. First things first, always take your meat out of the fridge about a half an hour before cooking and always salt generously. This salting will bring amino acids to the surface, and this will help you to get that beautiful steakhouse-quality browned sear. The old truism that salting meat prior to cooking it will dry it out is, well, an un-truism. Salting will make it juicier.
  2. Pre heat your oven to 350.
  3. The secret to a great steak is all about the achieving a great brown crust, and the only way to do this is with a seriously—get ready for the smoke alarm—hot pan. Get your cast iron on the burner, and let it get as hot as you can… and then let it get hotter! This is the make-or-break step to a great steak, so really get that pan red hot.
  4. Open the window, and crank up the vent, and still be ready for billowing clouds of smoke... it’s the price you pay for a great steak.
  5. Lightly rub a bit of peanut or grape seed oil (or vegetable oil if needed, you want something with a high smoke point, so butter or olive oil are definite no-nos) over the steak, and when you really don't think your pan could get any hotter, carefully place your steak in the pan. Let it cook for about a minute, and check it. You want it to get really crusted and brown. When it is browned to your satisfaction, flip it over, and immediately whack it into the oven to finish cooking.
  6. The time in the oven will really depend on the thickness of the steaks used, and if the steals are rather thin, then you may not even need this step. Good inch-and-a-half steaks will be at medium-rare in about 10 minutes. Have your instant-read meat thermometer at the ready, and check the interior temperature early and often.
  7. When the meat is cooked to your liking, let it rest covered for about 10 more minutes. This step is very important and too often overlooked. The meat juices will run to the hotter exterior during the cooking, and if you cut into it before these juices have had a chance to redistribute back throughout the meat, they will all run out, very sadly, onto the plate; and your beautiful steak will never be what it could have been.

Man, I wish I was eating a ribeye right now.

Comments

Dan on February 11, 2017:

I can't believe I'm the only one asking this question… In your initial step of getting the crust in your instructions you only did one side before you put it in the oven is that correct ?

Becca on February 21, 2016:

So...read this a couple of weeks ago, then we were having grilled steaks...surprise, no gas! I tried this method, using the 350 degree oven after the cast iron pan on medium high heat. Oh the smoke, but it was delicious! Steaks were about 1 1/2 inches thick, and a bit overdone to my liking, but hubby was happy. Normally we do not care for steaks cooked inside, but we will be making these again! I think I should have taken them out of the skillet during the "rest", but will do that the next time. Thanks!

Lisa on November 23, 2014:

I just tried this recipe for my family and they loved it! I'm not a steak person but living with 3 sons and a husband, I have had to cook many steaks and not until now have I had such a good tender steak cooked inside. I marinade mine in Soy Sauce while sitting out to get room temperature so I don't use as much salt. But with the other spices on them, it made the perfect "crust" and the steaks were cooked to the perfect temperature. Thanks!!!!

andrew on March 15, 2012:

how about cooking it all the way with the cast iron skillet, how do i go about it cause i do not have an oven. thanks

cooking4love on February 20, 2012:

I feel like a professional chef when I cooking with my skillet - take that Ramsey

mrsteaks on January 16, 2012:

I notice the towel over the handle, they do they get VERY hot!

I will be doing some steaks on the Q tonight as Winter is pretty mild this year and there's no snow to speak of. I've not tried your method but will give it a try when the snow hits, I've tried using a griddle pan in the house and they're just not the best for even cooking so a flat skillet may just to the trick.

Karen on January 05, 2012:

Dear Mr. Lee,

Thank you so very much for this marvellous method of whipping up a fabulous steak. I was scared stiff that the cast iron pan would somehow explode or crack my stove top but it all turned out beautifully. Smiles to you!

Holly on November 18, 2011:

This was amazingly good. I used marinated steak tips. Two of the tips were 1/2 inch and two of them were 1 inch. Since it was marinaded I didn't use any oil and seared for 30 seconds (holy smokes! Tip: Open a window in the kitchen and take a fan so the fan blows out the window). I put it in the oven for approx 3.5 t 4 minutes. Let it sit for 5 mins. The 1/2 inch steaks were cooked perfectly medium rare, the 1 inch was on the rare side so had to put back in oven. My recommendations for cooking medium rare would be 3 1/2 to 4 mins for 1/2 inch steak, 6 to 7 minutes for 1 inch and 9 to 10 minutes for 1 1/2 inch. Was AWESOME! Will never cook my steaks any other way.

big al on November 11, 2011:

Use a high heat oil like Grape Oil. DO NOT USE BUTTER.

Using the recipe on a 2 1/2 inch porterhouse tomorrow.

galaxygal on September 22, 2011:

Do I do the same procedure for a sirloin roast or this method only for steaks? i.e. salting, browning in a cast iron pan. and if so do I put the cast iron pan and the roast in the oven or do I move it to a roasting pan. Help lol

Frank M on September 14, 2011:

After the alarm company called and we sent the fire truck back to base, things settled down and the steak was great. So, take the smoke issue seriously - outside (even in Winter) is a best option.

Be sure to use salt liberally.

maryh2132 on August 28, 2011:

me: The steak is cooked in the oven at 350 degrees. I used this recipe last week on a slighty thinner steak and didn't put it in the oven at all...It was still a perfect steak.

me on August 28, 2011:

and no one says what temp the oven should be????

John D Lee (author) on August 10, 2011:

Mary,

I am so happy to read that you had such a good steak using this recipe! You are very welcome.

maryh2132 on May 22, 2011:

I am a senior citizen, and I have cooked for many years. My dad was a chef in a restaurant, and he cooked like a champ, but I have never had a beter steak than this. Thanks for the recipe. It will be used many times!

Mike F. on March 06, 2011:

Made the same mistake again, should have looked at my old comment!

This might seem obvious, but it's important to remove the steak from the skillet before covering or it will continue to cook. Also, if using thin steaks, the over period might only be one or two minutes, or maybe not even necessary at all.

John D Lee (author) on January 18, 2011:

Cody - you are very welcome

Cody Walker on January 05, 2011:

I tried your recipe tonight. ONLY because we have a tundra outside so we cant grill. They turned out awesome! By far the best steak I could have gotten out of cooking it in a pan! Thank you so much for your recipe

John D Lee (author) on October 14, 2010:

Hi Brian J - glad to hear you had some success and I hope you get inspired to ever more cooking!

The seasoning I use depends on a lot of things, like the cut of steak, what I'm serving it with, the quality of the beef, etc. But for a good steak, it's hard to beat just salt and freshly ground black pepper - as the last thing you want to do is overpower the taste of the beef with a lot of other stuff!

Bryan J on October 11, 2010:

oh boy, Im a college student whose culinary skills are... well.... practically non-existent, and thought i would slurge for a nice steak for me and my girlfriend. I came across this method meerly as a desperation attempt to find a way to cook my steak..... and it is AWESOME. What kind of seasoning do you use??

John D Lee (author) on September 12, 2010:

Thanks for all the comments - so glad to hear that people are having good results and tasty steak dinners using this technique!

Mike F. on August 22, 2010:

Great instructions for cooking steak with a cast iron skillet. Tried out earlier this evening, worked great (although the smoke alarm went off for a few seconds). Also, I left the steaks covered in the skillet for ten minutes but will use another covered container next time because the retained heat probably brought them from medium rare to medium, but they still tasted great.

Connie on August 08, 2010:

John D - so happy I found this again. I tried it about 5 months ago and it was delicious. Couldn't remember where I saw this and exactly how it went.

Thank you so much.

Dan on August 05, 2010:

Summer or winter this is the ONLY way I cook a steak now: I lite my gas grill and turn it to high with my cast iron skillet sitting on the grates. I let them pre-heat on high for 15-20 minutes. I oil my room temprature steaks with canola oil and season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper 20-30 minutes before cooking. I toss my steaks in the skillet (do not touch or move, very important) for 1 minute timed, then turn over. I close the lid on the grill and cook for 5 minutes on that side. Turn the steaks and finish for 4 more minutes on the other side with the lid closed. Let the steaks rest as described above. This gives you a very nice medium steak. 30 seconds difference on each side +/- will give you a medium rare to medium well. I used to use my gas oven and stove top but this took all of the smoke outside.

Elsebeth, Denmark on July 27, 2010:

- and cover a wooden handle with aluminun foil, before the pan goes into the oven.

Elsebeth, Denmark on July 27, 2010:

Be good to your cast iron pans - NEVER wash them with soap, only hot water - need to clean it, use coarse salt in the pan and heat it up.

John D Lee (author) on July 25, 2010:

Hi Matt,

Glad you had good results with this method! An instant read thermometer is a lifesaver!

Matt on July 24, 2010:

I just tried this approach to grilling and I gotta say... I wish I was not full and still had more steak... It was awesome! I really need to get an instant read thermometer though, because I over cooked my steak to well done(thin steak). Even then, it was the juciest, tasteful, well done steak I've had in a long time.

Kudos!

John D Lee (author) on July 14, 2010:

Well, you could finish it under the broiler, but what you are really going for here is a gentler heat that will cook the meat to a desired finish without overdoing the exterior. You should be able to get a nice brown crust in the pan and so after that, you don't really need to finish it under the broiler.

Avi on July 14, 2010:

This is my preferred method of preparing steaks - true steakhouse results! One question - would there be any difference between finishing in the oven or finishing under the broiler?

Also with respect to Danny's question on using non-stick pans, my understanding is that you should never use non-stick for anything requiring more than medium heat as it can melt the non-stick surface which is harmful (both to you and to your pan).

John D Lee (author) on February 13, 2010:

Hi Danny - Sorry - probably not. Non stick pans tend to be pretty light weight - so when you put on the cold steak it drops the heat of the pan down dramatically. This makes it tough to get that nice sear you're after. Cast iron skillets are so heavy they retain a lot of stored heat, and so don't cool down much when you add the steaks.

Danny on February 13, 2010:

If you don't have a cast iron skillet, is it still possible to achieve this with a regular non stick frying pan? Snowed in and have these great steaks waiting.

John D Lee (author) on December 31, 2009:

Hi Abigail,

Yes, just transfer the steak in the skillet to the oven.

Abigail on December 31, 2009:

I'm going to try this tonight. Do you leave the steak in the cast iron skillet when you put it in the oven?

John D Lee (author) on December 21, 2009:

Hi Kevin B, thanks for the comment, winter is definitely a time of year for cast iron steaks!

Kevin B on December 19, 2009:

Since my BBQ is covered in snow, I thought I'd try this recipe. The steak was fantastic! The crust was great and the meat was tender all the way through. I'll defintely try this again.

Kevin B on December 19, 2009:

Since my BBQ is covered in snow, I thought I'd try this recipe. The steak was fantastic! The crust was great and the meat was tender all the way through. I'll defintely try this again.

John D Lee (author) on August 25, 2009:

Ashley, I'm very glad to hear of your success and that red wine sauce sounds like a perfect complement

Ashley B on August 24, 2009:

We tried your steak recipe because we live in Palm Springs and in the summer you don't want to grill in 110 degree heat! They turned out great and with the fan on we did not have that much smoke. For an added touch I added a slice of butter on the top while they rested and did a red wine reduction sauce. Perfect!

Nick G on February 14, 2009:

For Joel, I've seen people use Medium High heat for 3 minutes, I would imagine that it wouldn't get a beautiful a brown crust. However, it should still make a great steak with less smoke. And the lower temp might let you use an olive oil or a little butter (which would bring better flavor) And then into the oven for the same amount of time. Just a suggestion

Kara D on January 04, 2009:

This was a fantastic recipe! Being in Minnesota, we long for great steaks in the winter - this is a perfect solution!

Joel on December 30, 2008:

I've done a recipe like this before and loved it -- that was, however, before the birth of my daughter. We'd like to cook this tomorrow night, but we're thinking the smoke would likely wake her up. Any thoughts on how to cook a great steak indoors without creating a huge amount of smoke?

John D Lee (author) on April 02, 2008:

THanks Janet, - you sound like you know your way around a good steak!

Janet on January 11, 2008:

Tried your method for cooking steaks and just loved it. I have been a firm believer of cast iron skillets for some time but using this combined method of pan searing and oven was just perfect. I should know, my husband buy steaks for me to cook 'every Friday', so I have cooked many a steak in my day.