It’s a great way to cook a steak in a cast-iron skillet. I love this cooking method. The skillet heats evenly and creates a nice, crispy crust on the outside while the meat is still juicy and tender on the inside. In this article, I will show you how to cook a steak in a cast-iron skillet in a matter of minutes. I’ve also included a detailed buying guide and some frequently asked questions.
Season the steak an hour before cooking. Preheat the skillet to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t use an infrared thermometer, the best way to tell if it’s ready for cooking is to place your hand right above the surface of the skillet and wait about 3-4 seconds. It should be hot enough if you feel intense heat radiating from it. Place your steak in the skillet and cook until it reaches the desired doneness. Detailed instructions are below.
For me, as a chef, a cast-iron skillet is a gold standard. It’s versatile, durable, and affordable. Yes, it requires extra maintenance, but it delivers excellent results.
How To Cook a Steak In a Cast-Iron Skillet
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.
Note: Pan searing steak without having a cast iron skillet or any other pan capable of withstanding high heat is difficult. I advise not to use cheap thin pans since they can warp when exposed to high heat for a long period of time. It’s best if you 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.
But first, here’re the ingredient list and the equipment you’re going to need:
- Rib-eye steak. You can use any other steak cut;
- Kosher salt;
- Freshly ground black pepper;
- Fresh thyme;
- Fresh rosemary;
- Olive oil.
- 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 steak size and thickness;
- Prepare. Wash fresh herbs 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- Transfer 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;
- Rest. Let it rest for about 8-10 minutes when you finish cooking the steak. Resting is essential since it allows for the steak juice to redistribute throughout the steak’s interior. When cooking, all the juices are pushed towards 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
- 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 To Cook Steak In Cast-Iron Skillet
Steak cooking times depend entirely on how thick steak is and what degree of doneness you desire. Cooking time may vary depending on what temperature you set your stovetop. Thinner steaks cook faster than a thick ones. Below you’ll find cooking times.
Here’s how long it take 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. If you have an oven, use these times instead.
How To Buy Good Quality Beef Steak
Most steaks sold in a supermarket nowadays are grown on grains. Grain-fed beef is lower in fat than grass-fed beef, but it also has less flavor. It isn’t necessarily bad meat, but the taste and texture are different. The color of grain-fed beef is also different than grass-fed beef. It’s light red in color.
Grass-fed is superior in every way. When you buy good quality beef, it isn’t light red like most grain-fed beef. It’s darker in color and the fat is white compared to the yellowish tint of grain-fed meat. The texture and flavor of grass-fed beef are also better than what you get from a grain-fed cow.
If looking for the best steak cut, make sure it’s a grass-fed cow. Look for beef raised without antibiotics and hormones so you know it’s good quality.
However, if you’re on a tight budget, grain-fed beef is the way to go. Organic beef is expensive and hard to find in most supermarkets. Whole Foods supermarket has organic beef as well as some local butcher shops. If you can’t find it there, go to a farmer’s market.
You can also choose steak from dry-aged to wet-aged.
Dry-aged steak is aged for 4-6 weeks, which intensifies the flavor and makes it more tender. It’s usually sold at specialty butchers and upscale supermarkets. Worth mentioning it’s more expensive because the process of dry-aging takes time and space.
Wet-age steak is vacuum-packed and stored in a chilled room. It’s aged for only 10 days and doesn’t become as tender as dry-aged steak. But it’s much easier and less expensive to produce because the process is faster.
Note: there are “prime,” “choice,” and “select” according to the USDA grading system. Prime beef is very expensive and difficult to find, whereas select meat is more affordable and readily available in most supermarkets.
Here’s a list of steaks that are excellent for cooking on a stovetop:
- Ribeye steaks;
- Filet mignon;
- New York strip steaks;
- T-bone steaks;
- Tomahawk steak;
- Rump steak;
- Sirloin 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 then it’s not good.
How To Store Beef Steak
Store fresh beef for up to three days in the refrigerator or up to six months in the freezer. Place it in a freezer bag and seal it tightly to freeze the beef. I’m using guidelines that we follow in restaurants. Of course, these guidelines are strict – make sure to check the labels on any food you buy to make sure the guidelines are correct for your situation.
To cook frozen steak, transfer the meat from the freezer to the refrigerator 24 hours before you plan to use it. This will allow the steak to thaw out.
When it comes to leftover steak make sure to store it in an airtight container for up to four days. Reheat it in an oven or a skillet.
How To Serve Steak
If 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.