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I love a good grilled steak, but when I’m craving a juicy steak with a good sear, I pull out my cast iron.
Table of Contents
Why sear steak in cast iron?
One of the most flavorful ways to cook a steak is to use a cast iron skillet.
When cooking on a skillet the full surface of the steak is exposed to the heat, which allows the meat to form a delicious crust. This crust creation occurs due to the Maillard effect, which is when the meat’s amino acids and natural sugars experience a chemical transformation.
This effect also happens on a grill, but typically only where the grill grates are, which is how you get beautiful grill marks.
By cooking in cast iron, you also have the advantage of being able to baste the steak with melted butter to add even more flavor and moisture.
What steaks are best for the cast iron method?
You can cook virtually any cut of steak using the cast-iron pan method. My favorites include ribeye steak, filet mignon, New York strip steak and porterhouse. You can also cook boneless or bone-in steak.
No matter which steak you choose, for the best results, make sure that your pan is larger than your steak, so you can lay it flat in the pan. If you have a larger steak, like a tomahawk, it’s hard to get an even sear if the bone sticks out beyond the rim.
The steaks pictured throughout this post are Snake River Farms boneless ribeye filets. SRF is American Wagyu beef that has tremendous marbling and flavor. (use code GIRLSCANGRILL to save 15% at checkout.)
- Oil: Use an oil that has a high smoke point like corn oil, avocado oil or canola oil. Olive oil is not recommended for high-heat cooking.
- Steak: You can use any type of beef or pork steak for this recipe.
- Butter: Use salted or unsalted real butter. Don’t use spreadable butter or margarine. They are mostly oil. You want real butter flavor. I like Kerrygold butter the best.
- Fresh Herbs: Thyme and rosemary are great complements to steak.
- Fresh Garlic: To round out the flavor of the herb butter, add freshly minced garlic.
- Steak Seasoning: Use a simple blend of kosher salt and black pepper or your favorite steak rub.
See the full recipe card below for servings and a full list of ingredients.
How to cook steak in a cast iron skillet
- STEP ONE: Season the steak on all sides with salt and pepper or your favorite steak rub. Let the steak rest at room temperature while you heat the skillet.
- STEP TWO: To get the perfect sear, heat a cast iron skillet to 500F degrees over medium-high heat. I use an infrared thermometer to accurately measure the temperature. The one pictured below is a Thermapen IR. I love it because it’s both an infrared thermometer and a digital meat thermometer.
- STEP THREE: Add oil to the skillet and let it heat for about 30 seconds. It will start to shimmer. Add the steaks to the pan and press down on them. This will ensure they have full contact with the pan to develop the best sear.
- STEP FOUR: After 3-5 minutes, the steaks will form a perfect sear on the bottom. Once they do, give them a flip. Cook them for another 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness.
- STEP FIVE: To render the fat on the edges of the steak, cook them on their sides. Rotate them every minute, until the total edge is seared. Depending on the thickness, the internal temperature of your steak will be around 100F degrees at this point.
- STEP SIX: Reduce the heat to medium. Add 3 tablespoons of butter, minced garlic and fresh herbs to the skillet.
- STEP SEVEN: As the butter melts, grab the skillet with an oven mitt or towel and tilt it. As the melted herb butter pools up on one side, use a spoon to baste the butter over the steak. Continue cooking and basting until it reaches your desired level of doneness.
PRO TIP: To measure the internal temperature of the steak, insert an instant-read thermometer through the side of the steak. Be sure it’s in the center of the meat and not touching bone or gristle.
How to serve pan-seared steaks
Once the steaks reach your preferred internal temperature, remove the skillet from the heat and let them rest for 10 minutes.
If you leave the steaks in the pan to rest, there will be more carryover cooking than normal because cast iron holds heat very well.
Place the steaks on a cutting board and slice against the grain. Garnish with sea salt and fresh herbs.
For added flavor, place the slices back in the skillet with the butter or spoon the butter on the slices on a plate.
Cooked steak can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Enjoy it cold or reheat it in the microwave or in a clean skillet. You can also freeze steak for up to six months.
GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips
- Season your steak and leave at room temp while you heat your skillet
- Cook with cast iron for the best results
- Make sure your cast iron reaches 500F degrees for the best sear
- Cook on all sides, even the edges
- Baste with real butter
- Let your steak rest before slicing into it
Frequently Asked Questions
The cook time will vary depending on the thickness of your steak and the heat of your skillet.
If you heat your skillet to 500F degrees, a 1-inch steak will take about 2-3 minutes per side and a 1 1/2-inch steak will take 4-5 minutes per side.
You’ll also want to cook the edges for 30-60 seconds per side to render the fat.
Cast iron holds heat well and distributes it evenly across the pan because it’s a very dense metal. Non-stick pans have lower heat retention and are designed to allow foods to release easily. They’re better for low-fat recipes with little oil or butter.
Once the butter has melted in the pan, grab the handle to tilt the pan slightly. If you’re using cast iron, the handle will be hot, so use an oven mitt or towel, and make sure it’s far from the flame.
When the pan is tilted, the butter will pool to one side. Use a large spoon to scoop up the butter and pour it onto the steaks. Repeat this butter-basting process until your steak is cooked to your preferred degree of doneness.
Sides that go great with steak
- Grilled Mini Hasselback Potatoes
- Grilled Asparagus with Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette
- Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese
More steak recipes
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Perfectly Seared Cast Iron Steak
- Cast Iron Skillet
- 2 steaks
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- 1 tbsp oil, vegetable or avocado
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 sprigs fresh herbs, thyme, rosemary
- Season: Combine the salt, pepper and garlic or use your favorite steak rub and season the steaks on all sides.
- Heat Skillet: Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat to 500F degrees. Add the oil and heat for 30 seconds.
- Sear: Add the steaks to the skillet. Press down so they get complete contact with the pan. Sear for 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steak. Flip. Sear another 3-5 minutes.
- Sear Edges: Turn the steaks on their sides and sear each side for about 1 minute to render the fat.
- Baste: Reduce the heat to medium. Add the butter, garlic and herbs. Grab the pan's handle and tilt it so the butter pools to one side. Using a spoon, scoop the melted butter and baste it over the steaks. Continue cooking and basting to your desired doneness.
- Rest: Let the steaks rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Sprinkle more coarse salt and fresh herbs on the slices and spoon on any remaining butter.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.