How To Cook Steak In a Cast-Iron Skillet

To cook a steak in a cast iron skillet, first, preheat the skillet over medium-high heat and season the steak with salt and pepper. Once the skillet is hot, add oil and place the steak in the pan, cooking each side for 3-5 minutes (depending on desired doneness) while basting with melted butter, garlic, and herbs to enhance flavor.

There’s something truly satisfying about sinking your teeth into a perfectly cooked steak – tender, juicy, and brimming with flavor. Cooking a steak in a cast iron skillet is one of the most used steak cooking methods that combine the right tools, technique, and timing to achieve a delectable result. 

In this article, I’ll guide you through the process of preparing an unforgettable steak in a cast iron skillet, regardless of your experience. I’ll explain the importance of selecting the right cut of meat, seasoning, and heating the skillet to the perfect temperature, as well as tips and tricks I learned as a chef to ensure your steak is cooked to your desired level of doneness.

What is a cast iron skillet, and what are the benefits of using one

A cast-iron skillet is a heavy, durable pan made of—you guessed it—cast iron. It’s a versatile cookware that has been cherished by generations of home cooks and professional chefs alike, and for a good reason.

When it comes to cooking a steak, the cast-iron skillet has some significant benefits that make it stand out from other cookware. First of all, cast iron is known for its ability to hold heat evenly and consistently, which is crucial for getting that perfect sear on your steak. It allows the skillet to become incredibly hot, so you can achieve a beautiful crust on the outside while keeping the inside tender and juicy.

With proper seasoning and care, a cast-iron skillet can become virtually non-stick, making it easier to cook your steak without it sticking to the pan. At the same time, a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet can improve your steak’s flavor profile. The more you use it, the more flavorful your dishes will become, thanks to the skillet’s seasoning layer.

Unlike many other pans, a cast-iron skillet is oven-safe, so you can easily transfer your steak from stovetop to oven to finish cooking, ensuring the ideal doneness for your preferred taste.

And last but not least, a cast-iron skillet is incredibly durable and can last for generations when properly maintained. They’re also eco-friendly, as they don’t require any synthetic non-stick coatings that can wear off over time.

How To Cook a Steak In a Cast-Iron Skillet

cooking steak in a cast-iron skillet
Cooking steak in a cast iron skillet. The steak is basted in butter with some fresh thyme, rosemary and garlic to add flavor.

Cooking steak in a cast-iron skillet is a reasonably straightforward process. All you need is a few ingredients, good quality steak, and a cast-iron skillet.

When selecting the perfect steak for cooking in a cast-iron skillet, opt for a thick, well-marbled cut like ribeye, New York strip, or filet mignon. These cuts are known for their rich flavor and tenderness, which is only enhanced by the high heat and even cooking that a cast-iron skillet provides. The thickness of these cuts ensures that they can develop a beautiful crust on the outside while retaining a juicy, succulent interior, making them ideal candidates for this cooking method. In this recipe, I’m using grass-fed ribeye steak.

Note: Pan-searing steak without having a cast iron skillet or any other pan capable of withstanding high heat is difficult. I advise you not to use cheap thin pans since they can warp when exposed to high heat for a long period of time. It’s best to invest money in a good skillet or frying pan.

Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide on how to cook steak in a skillet to perfection.



  • Rib-eye steak.
  • Kosher salt.
  • Freshly ground black pepper.
  • Butter.
  • Fresh thyme.
  • Fresh rosemary.
  • Garlic.
  • Olive oil.


  1. Bring steak to room temperature. Take the steak out of the fridge and season with a generous amount of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Leave it to rest for an hour, depending on the steak’s size and thickness. Of course, there are plenty of other steak seasoning options worth exploring if you wish to add more flavor to the steak;
  2. Prepare. Wash fresh herbs and peel the garlic. Make sure utensils are within hand reach. It’s essential to have everything ready since steak cooks fast; therefore, you do not have much room for mistakes;
  3. Pat steak dry. Using paper towels, remove the excess moisture from the steak’s exterior. When you dry, brine the beef steak – salt extracts a lot of moisture from the steak. This moisture builds upon the surface, which, if not removed, can cause a steak to boil rather than sear;
  4. Preheat the oven to 450° Fahrenheit. This step is optional. However, I’m using a thick steak; therefore, I’m going to finish it in the oven;
  5. Preheat cast-iron skillet. Place cast-iron skillet on a stovetop over high heat until it starts to smoke. Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil or any other high-smoke point oil;
  6. Cook steak. Lay the steak away from you. Sear on both sides – two minutes per side. Then turn the heat down to medium-high heat and continue cooking;
  7. Check internal temperature. Using a meat thermometer or your hand, check the steak’s doneness. Remember to remove it when the internal temperature is 5° Fahrenheit below the desired doneness;
  8. Baste. About halfway through cooking, add butter, fresh thyme, rosemary, and garlic to the skillet. Use melted butter to create butter pools. Baste the steak using a tablespoon. It’ll add an extra depth of flavor to the steak;
  9. Transfer the steak to the oven. Remember that this step is optional. You can finish your steak on a stovetop. Since my steak is thick, I’ll finish it in the oven. It’ll take around 4 minutes to reach medium-rare;
  10. Rest. Let it rest for about 8-10 minutes when you finish cooking the steak. Resting is essential since it allows the steak juice to redistribute throughout its interior. When cooking, all the juices are pushed toward the center of the steak. If you slice into it right after it’s cooked – juices will end up on your plate.

Steak Doneness Temperature Chart

steak temperature chart
Steak temperature chart showing temperatures for rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well and well done levels of doneness.
  • Rare steak: 125° F;
  • Medium rare steak: 135° F;
  • Medium steak: 145° F;
  • Medium-well steak: 150° F;
  • Well done, steak: 160° F.

Note: The steak cooking process continues for a few minutes after removing it from the pan, so I recommend taking it off of the heat 5 degrees Fahrenheit before its final desired temperature.

To check beef steak temperature quickly, use an instant-read thermometer. Insert it into the thickest part of the steaks and wait until the digital display reads your desired doneness.

Use a finger test to check steak doneness temperature. Touch the steak on the thickest part using your index finger and thumb. If the steak feels soft – it’s not yet done. If it feels stiff, it’s well done. When the steak is just firm but still slightly resilient to your touch, then you know that it’s medium-rare or medium.

Here’s a short video explaining in detail how to use a thinger test method:

How long does it take to cook steak in a cast-iron skillet?

Steak cooking times depend entirely on how thick the steak is and what degree of doneness you desire. Cooking time may vary depending on what temperature you set on your stovetop. Thinner steaks cook faster than thick ones. Below you’ll find cooking times.

Here’s how long it takes to cook a one-inch steak on a stovetop:

  • Rare steak: 3-4 minutes
  • Medium-rare steak: 4-5 minutes;
  • Medium steak: 5-6 minutes;
  • Medium-well steak: 6-8 minutes;
  • Well done, steak: 9+ minutes.

Here’s how long it takes to cook a two-inch thick steak on a stovetop:

  • Rare steak: 5-7 minutes
  • Medium-rare steak: 7-9 minutes;
  • Medium steak: 9-11 minutes;
  • Medium-well steak: 11-13 minutes;
  • Well done, steak: 13+ minutes.

Note: cooking times may vary depending on how much marbling steak has. Bone-in and boneless steaks cook at different rates. Also, these times are only suggested based on cooking the steak on a stovetop.

How to buy good quality beef steak for cooking in a cast iron skillet?

how to buy good quality beef steak
Ribeye steak is bought from a butcher that is labeled USDA choice and has great texture and flavor properties.

First and foremost, if you want to pick a good steak, consider the USDA grading system: Prime, Choice, and Select. Often it’s the easiest way to make a purchasing decision. Prime-grade steaks are the cream of the crop with exceptional marbling, ensuring a tender and juicy result. Choice grade offers a great balance of quality and price, while Select grade has less marbling and may be a bit tougher.

Now, let’s touch on the grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef debate. Because more so than ever, as a chef, I notice people getting into an argument about which one is better. Grass-fed beef typically has a richer, more complex flavor and is leaner, while grain-fed beef is known for its marbling and tenderness. It all comes down to personal preference, so don’t hesitate to try both. Regarding nutritional values, I suggest you read this article to learn more.

When the time comes and you feel comfortable cooking steak, you should explore the world of dry-aged and wet-aged beef. Dry-aged beef is exposed to air for several weeks, developing an intense, concentrated flavor and tender texture. Wet-aged beef, on the other hand, is vacuum-sealed and aged in its own juices, resulting in a more subtle flavor and a tender but firmer texture. Experiment with both to find your perfect match, and remember, quality matters when cooking up that perfect cast-iron skillet steak! 

Here’re a few essential steak-buying tips:

  • Marbling: The best steaks are heavily marbled. Look for tiny flecks of fat running through the meat. It makes it more tender because fat is what gives good quality beef its flavor and texture;
  • Color: A good steak should have a deep red color. If it looks light pink, then it’s most likely not as good in quality;
  • Smell: Good quality steak should smell clean. If it has an ammonia odor, then stay away from meat like that;
  • Texture: A good steak should be firm to the touch. If you press the meat and it feels like a sponge, it’s not good.

How to store fresh and leftover steak

how to store beef steak
Leftover steak from cooking a night before in a cast-iron skilelt.

To store fresh steak, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container and keep it in the coldest part of your refrigerator, where it can last for up to 3-5 days. For cooked leftover steak, allow it to cool down, then store it in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3-4 days. Reheat gently to maintain its tenderness and flavor.

The USDA provides the guidelines. And if you want to learn more about different steak storage options, click on this link to learn more.

How To Serve Steak

If you are looking for pan-seared steak dinner ideas, I have a few delicious recipes to share with you:


How to keep the steak from sticking to a cast-iron skillet?

Make sure the cast-iron skillet is seasoned and hot. Add some oil or fat of your choice and spread it around with a paper towel to distribute evenly across the surface. It should help prevent the steak from sticking.

How do you cook a steak on a cast iron pan on an electric stove?

Place a skillet on an electric stove over high heat and give the steak a good sear on both sides. Sear for 2 minutes on each side, then turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking.

Should I cook a steak in a cast-iron skillet?

You can cook a steak both in a cast-iron skillet or any other pan suitable for cooking a steak. Nowadays, even most nonstick pans are able to handle the high heat required for steak cooking.

Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas is an accomplished chef with over a decade of experience in the culinary world, having worked in esteemed, high-end restaurants across Europe. With a talent for combining traditional techniques and innovative flair, Renaldas has refined his signature style under the mentorship of respected European chefs. Recently, Renaldas has expanded his impact beyond the kitchen by sharing his expertise through his online platform. Dedicated to inspiring culinary professionals and food enthusiasts, he offers expert advice, innovative recipes, and insightful commentary on the latest gastronomic trends.
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