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How to Cook Steak in a Cast-Iron Skillet

Updated on September 27, 2017

Great Steak Can Be Made at Home

With the current economy, not everyone has the money to eat out, so many people eat at home. But occasionally, you want to have a good steak. You don't have to eat out to get a mouth-watering, seared-to-perfection steak. I'm going to show you how to cook your steak to perfection at home in a cast-iron skillet. If you don't have a cast-iron pan, you can buy a new one at any decent store that sells cookware, but if money is an issue, you can usually pick up good cast-iron pans at second-hand stores, flea markets, and the like.

There are two ways to cook steak in a cast-iron pan:

  1. Entirely in the pan, or
  2. Sear it in a pan and then put the pan in the oven.

Whichever method you choose, you'll need the following utensils and ingredients.

Utensils You Will Need

  • Seasoned cast iron skillet (see end of article for how to season a new skillet).
  • Tongs
  • Good, thick oven mitts are a must

I will assume you have a range and oven. It does not matter whether the range is electric or gas; good results can be had with either.

Ingredients

  • Steak: Any type of steak will work. In this example, I use a ribeye that is just thicker than an inch. Ribeyes have a good flavor, so they do not need a lot of added seasoning.
  • Safflower or peanut oil: Experiment with different oils and see which one fits your palette the best.
  • Sea salt or kosher salt

Method #1: Entirely in the Pan

How to Cook a Steak Entirely in a Cast-Iron Skillet

  1. If you want your meat to be near room temperature before cooking it, remember to set it out about two hours before you want to start cooking.
  2. Pour a small amount of oil into the pan. Heat it until it's crackling hot.
  3. Set steaks in hot pan.
  4. Cook for 20-25 minutes on medium heat for a medium-rare steak. Cooking in a skillet takes longer if the pan isn't covered. Cook for 12 -15 minutes if you cover your pan. Turn as often as you like. Some people believe you should turn it only once, while others think you should turn it every 15 seconds or so. You can read more about this in the "Frequently Debated Questions" below.
  5. Let the steak rest for around 10 minutes.
  6. Slice and serve!

Step One: Get Your Skillet Crackling Hot.

Step Two: Season Your Meat.

Step Three: Cook for 12-15 Minutes Total (Time May Very Depending on Steak Size).

Step Three (Still): Aim for a Nice, Crispy Golden-Brown Crust.

Step Four: Remove Steak From the Pan Once It's Reached Your Desired Internal Temperature. Let Rest for 10 Minutes.

Step Five: Slice!

What Internal Temperature Should My Steak Be for Desired Doneness?

If you want it...
It'll look ____ in the middle
It's done when its internal temp is near...
Rare
Mostly red center and possibly still mooing
125F/52C
Medium-rare
Mostly red center, but has a few cm of brown encircling the outer edges
135F/57C
Medium
About half red and half browned out edges
145F/63C
Medium-well
Mostly brown, a sizable red center
150F/66C
Well
Very little to no pink in the middle, all brown
160F/71C

Method #2: Stove and Oven Tag Team Method

Instructions for Cooking Your Steak in a Cast-Iron Skillet Using a Range and an Oven

Before You Cook the Meat

  1. Pull the steaks out of the refrigerator, and pat-dry them thoroughly.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  3. While the oven heats up, put the cast-iron skillet on a large burner, and heat it up to high temperature.
  4. Meanwhile, place the steak on a plate and pour a little safflower, peanut oil, or whatever oil you prefer on it. Rub the oil in. Then add salt and pepper, and rub that in. This would be a good time to add any dry seasonings if you want any. Sometimes, I use a mixture of onion and garlic powder with seasoned salt.
  5. Turn the steak over and repeat. With both sides seasoned, it is time to cook.

Cooking the Meat

  1. Once your skillet is nice and hot, use the tongs to place the steak in the skillet, and sear each side for 30-40 seconds.
  2. Then, using your oven mitt, place the pan and the steak in the 450-degree oven.
  3. Luckily, everyone at my house likes their steak medium-rare, so all my steaks will have the same cooking time. For a medium-rare steak, let the steak cook in the oven for 2 ½ minutes per side (that is 5 minutes total).
  4. At the 2 ½ minute mark, you will pull the pan out of the oven, turn the steak over, put pan and steak back into the oven, and cook for 2 ½ more minutes. If your taste tends towards medium, you will want to go for a bit over three minutes per side, six or seven minutes total. Thicker steaks may take longer.
  5. Once it has cooked on both sides, take the pan out of the oven, and let the steak rest for a few minutes. If you have aluminum foil, loosely cover the steak with the foil while it rests.
  6. While you wait, you can plate your other side dishes. Once the steak's resting time has passed, take the tongs and put the meat on the plate. Enjoy.

Frequently Asked/Debated Questions and Tips

FAQ (A.K.A. Frequently Debated Questions)

Meat-cooking enthusiasts often have loud and passionate opinions about how meat should be cooked. There have been many heated arguments about what's the best way to season meat, the best way to cook a cut, and if you should leave your meat out before you cook it. You'll find my suggestions (based on research and experience) below. If you have an opinion about one of these questions, feel free to add your opinion in the comments.

Should I wait until my steaks are room temperature to cook them?

The short answer: It doesn't seem to make a difference.

You can cook your steaks right out of the fridge. Letting them sit out for even two hours doesn't seem to make any noticeable difference in the internal temperature of the meat. Sure, the internal temp may have changed by two or three degrees, but that small difference doesn't seem to translate into a more evenly-cooked piece of meat. J. Kenji over at Serious Eats did some meat-myth debunking, including whether or not your steaks benefit from being room temperature, if you want to know more. Disagree with his findings? Say as much! Let's talk about.

How long should I cook my steak?

The short answer: until it's done.

"Done" depends on a lot of factors, such as thickness, cut, and the meat's temperature. So you should monitor your steak closely and use a meat thermometer to gauge exactly how done your meat is. That being said, a medium-rare, 1/2- to 1/4-inch boneless ribeye steak should be seared on each side for about 30-40 seconds, and then put the steak straight into the oven, cooking it for 2 1/2 minutes on each side. You may need to adjust the time according to desired doneness and your steak's thickness. And remember, this is an art, not a science. You'll learn as you go.

How many steaks can I cook at once?

The short answer: one or two per pan at most.

You probably want to shoot for cooking one or two steaks at a time. If you need to cook a bunch, use more pans—don't just throw more steaks into the pan. Too many steaks in one pan means they'll get steamed, rather than seared. They need enough space to release the steam that they create as they're getting cooked.

What type of oil is best to sear the steaks in?

The short: anything except butter by itself because it gets burnt too quickly.

This is a really contested question. I'm not lambasting butter. Butter is great. However, butter gets burnt. It'll burn before your steaks are cooked. So, you'll want to cook in the oil of your choice. If you're really into butter and want to use it to add color and crunch, start cooking with an oil, and then add butter when you're about halfway done searing. The steak will take on the flavor and texture without the butter burning. You'll also want to keep an eye on extra virgin olive oil for similar reasons to the butter: it has a low smoke point, meaning it burns quickly. Some people like this; some people don't. So really, what's "best" is whatever tastes the best to you. I recommend trying a few different oils (at different times, not all at once) and oil/butter combos to find what suits your palette best.

How often should I flip my steaks when searing them?

The quick-and-dirty: It's up to you.

I have always been taught you let your steaks cook and turn them at a specified time in the recipe and that doing so will result in a juicier steak. Who is right? Who knows? The one positive I can point to from personal experience is that some foods will be more prone to stick until later in the cooking process. Some people think you should flip your steaks frequently because doing so will give you the beautiful crust you're after and cook your steaks more evenly. When you flip them frequently, you don't give the steaks a chance to cool, so they cook more evenly. But some people might think that all of this flipping is excessive, so if it suits you better, you probably won't notice too much of a difference between a steak that was flipped once and one that was flipped a whole bunch.

How do I season my new cast-iron pan?

The short answer: brush with oil and cook at 450 degrees for an hour.

If you just acquired your cast-iron pan, you will need to season it properly. Most cast-iron pans these days come seasoned, but if yours is not, it's easy to do it yourself. Set the oven to 450 degrees. Brush cooking oil on the inside surfaces of the pan. Put it in the oven for one hour. When it comes out of the oven, let it cool, and wipe any excess oil off. Your pan should look black when it is properly seasoned.

What size cast-iron pan should I cook my steaks with?

The short answer: the size that most closely matches the size of your stove's burner.

Larger tends to mean heavier, which doesn't necessarily mean better. Depending on your stove range, your cast iron might heat unevenly if the pan is too big. Dave Arnold over at Cooking Issues has a wonderful article that explains how heat interacts with cast-iron pans. A 12-inch pan will likely be the best bang for your buck: big enough to handle almost anything, but not so big that it's a nuisance to use. Plus, it's more likely to heat evenly. Leave the 18-inch pans to the professionals who have to cook en masse! A smaller pan might even work for you if you're only cooking for one person or if you have smaller burners.

What difference does cooking meat in a cast-iron pan make?

The most succinct answer for this recipe: it can go in the oven.

Most aluminum, teflon, and whatever-material-your-pan-is-made-of pans have a plastic- or rubber-encased handle. This means that the pan can't go in the oven because the handle will melt right off! So for this recipe, you need to use a cast-iron pan if you want to cook it using the second method. More generally speaking, cast-iron pans pans:

  • retain heat better than their counterparts. (Note that this doesn't mean that it heats more evenly, because it doesn't.)
  • are built to last a looooooong time.
  • become non-stick over time.
  • sometimes leak iron into your food, which is great because you need iron in your diet (especially more than you need Teflon).

Steak-Cooking Tips

  • Dry Your Steaks: Dry your steaks as thoroughly as possible. You can best achieve this either by patting your steaks dry before you cook them if you're short on time, or you can pat them dry, salt them, and leave them uncovered in the fridge for a night or two so that the moisture has a chance to evaporate. This will help your steaks brown better.
  • Beware of Overcrowding: If you overcrowd your steaks, they won't sear properly. They'll just boil. When things get cooked, they release their water as steam. So if you have a bunch of steaks smashed up together, they end up steaming each other instead of getting that beautiful brown sear you're after. How many steaks you can cook at once depends on the size of you pan. You want to make sure the steaks have ample room to breathe.

© 2009 Mike Bouska

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    • profile image

      Nancy Tanner 5 months ago

      Tried the steak recipe tonight and it was wonderful!

    • profile image

      James 5 months ago

      Excellent recipe, 2 minutes each side for rare.

    • puter_dr profile image
      Author

      Mike Bouska 7 months ago from Midwest USA

      Glad to hear it was enjoyable for you.

    • profile image

      Regina Brittain 7 months ago

      I made this steak tonight for a 94 year old lady, she has not stopped talking about how tender and delicious it was. In a way I wish I had not made it ( lol) keeps talking about it. Repetition. I know I will make it again.

    • profile image

      Teach1 9 months ago

      Delicious....easy. Be sure to follow directions on getting the skillet ready. I cooked 5 minutes on each side...very thick steak....Perfect!!!

    • profile image

      Jonathan 11 months ago

      i hope Michael was kidding with the "what is a skillet" comment...

    • profile image

      Meatosaurus 2 years ago

      I believe you may have the methods mixed up.

      The best and fastest way is to boil wTer. Put the steak in a zip lock bag. Add salt, rosemary and olive oil.

      Place the bag in an already boiling pot of water.

      10 min for rare. 20 min for mid rare.

      In the meantime you are preparing the steak, you should have placed an iron skillet on high heat.

      When the steaks are cooked inside in the hot water, place them in the 550* pan ans seare it.

      The best I've head.

    • profile image

      Matt 2 years ago

      good stuff. My only error was having a really thick steak but I'll cook it like this again. Thanks for the instructions!

    • puter_dr profile image
      Author

      Mike Bouska 2 years ago from Midwest USA

      Yes, you keep the steak in the pan, and place both in the oven.

    • profile image

      Nikki 2 years ago

      Can you keep the steak in the skillet when you put it in the oven?

    • profile image

      paul g 3 years ago

      Perfect recipe...delish...Thank you!!

    • profile image

      Wldflur 4 years ago

      We have done this recipe three times now! Tonite it was perfect! Reduced time in oven per side to 2 min! Very med rare and wonderful! When skillet started smoking, reduced heat and put steaks in...set timer and did exactly 30 sec per side...set timer again and did exactly 2 min each side....Perfect! Thanks

    • puter_dr profile image
      Author

      Mike Bouska 4 years ago from Midwest USA

      Thank you for the kind comment.

    • profile image

      Csjohnson 4 years ago

      Thanks for the post! Tried it tonight and it was great. Both husband and I was impressed.

    • puter_dr profile image
      Author

      Mike Bouska 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      Thank you for the comment. When I was younger, I didn't care much about the handles on a cast iron skillet, but now I won't buy one without double handles.

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 5 years ago from Citra Florida

      Manufacturers have tried repeatedly to reinvent the pans we cook with. I have my Mother's stainless c;ad aluminum cookware yet a simple cast iron pan still does the best job, it spreads and retains heat, is simple to clean and costs less. The only disadvantage is the weight.

    • puter_dr profile image
      Author

      Mike Bouska 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      Glad it worked out for you. Thanks for reading my hub.

    • profile image

      Dave 5 years ago

      This turned out amazing. Nice work puter_dr

    • puter_dr profile image
      Author

      Mike Bouska 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, it depends on how thick the steak is to determine the cooking time.

    • profile image

      Elly 5 years ago

      Steaks are incredible, but for a thick ribeye it takes a LOT longer than 3min per side, I think we ended up at 8-10min per side.

    • puter_dr profile image
      Author

      Mike Bouska 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      Thank you for the comment.

      Glad you enjoyed this method of cooking. It is an easy way to get professional results.

    • profile image

      Ruthie Sumner 5 years ago

      Cooking steak in an iron skillet was very easy and tasty!

    • puter_dr profile image
      Author

      Mike Bouska 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      A skillet is a pan that is used for frying or cooking. Usually they have at least one handle to make it easy to handle. In this case, the skillet is made of cast iron.

    • profile image

      michael 5 years ago

      what is a skillet

    • puter_dr profile image
      Author

      Mike Bouska 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      The oven time just finishes the steak to the desired doneness. It is thought that the additional oven heat just helps to make the heat more uniform in the steak.

      If you are happy with your method, there is no reason to change.

      Thanks for the comment

    • profile image

      Brody 5 years ago

      I really don't see the need to do them in the oven. Isn't that what a top is for? I warm up the pan over a medium-high heat, sear the first side for 3 mins, do the second side for 2 mins, turn off the heat, put the top on the pan and just let the steak finish off for about 5-7 mins depending on thickness. Cast iron holds heat so well that oven time isn't necessary.

    • puter_dr profile image
      Author

      Mike Bouska 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      Hope it works well for you. I always goes well for me.

    • profile image

      bergerbytes 5 years ago

      Gonna try this tonight! It is how it is done in the top end restaurants!! Sounds delish!

    • puter_dr profile image
      Author

      Mike Bouska 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      Glad it went well for you and thank you for the comment

    • profile image

      Linda 5 years ago

      I just tried this tonight. Thicker steak took 4 mins on each side in the oven. Perfect. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Mary 5 years ago

      Ever since I read this article I found this the best method for cooking steaks! I do not have a grill where I live. It took me a couple of times to get this method down and now I have it perfect! Thanks!

    • profile image

      ss 6 years ago

      a wonderful article

    • eatlikenoone profile image

      eatlikenoone 6 years ago from Saline, MI

      Since I don't have an outdoor grill, I use cast iron to get a good sear on my steaks. I love the Lodge products, cheap, American, and effective.

    • puter_dr profile image
      Author

      Mike Bouska 6 years ago from Midwest USA

      Sorry for the delayed response. Actually, you would increase the time per side depending on the doneness you prefer. If you like medium rare, 2 1/2 does it, if you want medium, 3 minutes or 3:15 might work best for you.

    • profile image

      Tam 6 years ago

      I was just a little confused about...

      You will let the steak cook in the oven, 2 1/2 -3 minutes per side. If your taste tends towards medium, you will want to go for a bit over 3 minutes. At the 2 1/2 minute mark, you will pull the pan out of the oven, then turn the steak over, and then put it back in the oven and cook for 2 1/2 more minutes.

      ...are we putting it back in for a second time on each side?

    • profile image

      Paula 6 years ago

      We used thick steaks and did as directed--every 5 min. we checked and it probably took 15-20 min. on each side before done to our liking. It was the juiciest steak we've had in a long time!! Will do very often this way!! Delish flavor and very moist!!

    • puter_dr profile image
      Author

      Mike Bouska 7 years ago from Midwest USA

      Thanks for the comments, it usually does come out the same everytime. Did a couple ribeyes tonight and they came out great.

    • profile image

      Nina 7 years ago

      Really delish! Fell off the bone

    • profile image

      Nina 7 years ago

      I'm using it now. I will let you know how it turns out. From the sound of everyones comments, it will turn out fine!

    • Japemwellows profile image

      Japemwellows 7 years ago from 5ifth Dimensi0n

      Ah man, my mouth is watering so much right now.

      Nearly dribbled on the keyboard a bit!

      Definatly gonna be trying this one. Tasty hub!

    • profile image

      Pockets 7 years ago

      I just got done using this technique. I didn't have any oil so I substituted red wine instead and it turned out wonderful. Thank you very much to the one who posted. This was my first time ever really cooking. I also made a salad using salsa and red wine for the dressing which also turned out wonderful along with potatoes and of course red wine to drink. Thanks again.

    • profile image

      Mike 7 years ago

      I tried this last night. Came out great. Thanks for the recipe.

    • profile image

      Jim 7 years ago

      I tried this, and it worked great! Smokes up the house a bit though, so if you live in an apartment, might want to turn off the smoke detectors for a bit and run some fans, hahaha.

    • fitman profile image

      fitman 7 years ago from Ankara,Turkey

      I will try this , thank you

    • nikki1 profile image

      nikki1 7 years ago

      Try using 0 calorie cooking spray to cook your steak. Cuts a lot of calories in half. Great article.. very detailed.

    • linjingjing profile image

      linjingjing 8 years ago

      Cooking Steak in Cast Iron Skillet

      This article is very helpful to me

    • christine almaraz profile image

      christine almaraz 8 years ago from colorado springs

      Sounds good. I'm a steak lover so I'll definitely try this. Thanks.

    • jim10 profile image

      jim10 8 years ago from ma

      I have always gone with the grill in the warmer months. But, I always use the broiler the rest of the year. I will have to give this a try. It looks fantastic.