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Cook Perfect Steakhouse-Quality Steak in a Cast Iron Skillet

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.

Restaurant Style Steak in a Cast Iron Skillet

If you can't grill your steaks for whatever reason, 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, to make fried chicken, frittatas, whatever. Really, they're great to have.


  1. First things first, always take your meat out of the fridge about 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. Preheat your oven to 350.
  3. The secret to a great steak is all about 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, crank up the vent, and still be ready for billowing clouds of’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.