Cooking steak is an art, and one of the best ways to achieve a delicious, perfectly cooked steak is by using a cast-iron skillet. Many professional chefs and home cooks swear by the cast-iron skillet for its ability to produce a consistently excellent steak with a caramelized crust and juicy interior.
Not only does this method allow for even heat distribution, but it also imparts a rich, smoky flavor to the meat—a hallmark of a great steak eating experience.
There are a few essential techniques that should be mastered when cooking steak in cast iron. In this article, we will explore the necessary steps and techniques to cook the perfect steak in a cast-iron skillet, taking your steak-making skills to a new level.
From selecting the right cut of meat and seasonings to knowing when to turn the steak and determining the ideal doneness, prepare to elevate your culinary repertoire.
Choosing the Right Steak and Tools
Selecting Your Steak
When choosing the perfect steak for cooking in a cast iron skillet, look for marbling – the thin veins of fat that run throughout the meat. A well-marbled steak results in better flavor and juiciness. Opt for a steak that’s at least 1 inch thick, as this ensures even cooking and a nice crust.
Some recommended cuts of steak to cook in a cast iron skillet include:
- New York strip
- Filet mignon
Choosing Your Cast Iron Skillet
A cast iron skillet is ideal for cooking steak, as it retains heat well and provides an even cooking surface. When selecting a cast iron skillet, consider the following factors:
- Size: Choose a skillet that’s large enough to fit your chosen steak without crowding, allowing for even cooking and sufficient heat distribution.
- Condition: Opt for a pre-seasoned cast iron pan or season it yourself before cooking. Proper seasoning helps create a non-stick surface and protects the skillet from rust.
- Shape: Flat-bottomed skillets are preferred for even cooking and better heat distribution.
The Essential Cooking Tools
In addition to your steak and cast iron skillet, some essential cooking tools will help ensure a perfectly cooked meal:
- Tongs: Long-handled tongs are ideal for turning your steak without puncturing it, maintaining its juices and preventing flare-ups.
- Meat thermometer: A reliable meat thermometer will help you accurately gauge your steak’s internal temperature, ensuring proper doneness to your liking.
- Oven mitts or handle covers: Cast iron retains heat very well, including its handle. So make sure you have protective wear to avoid burns when handling the skillet.
Preparation Before Cooking
Bringing Steak to Room Temperature
Before cooking your steak, it’s important to let it reach room temperature. Take the steak out of the refrigerator and let it sit for about 30-45 minutes. This helps to ensure even cooking and a juicy, tender result.
Seasoning Your Steak
When it comes to seasoning, simplicity is key. A good cut of steak only requires kosher or sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
- Salt: Using kosher salt or sea salt is recommended, as it has a larger grain size, which helps to draw out moisture and create a flavorful crust on the steak.
- Pepper: Freshly ground black pepper provides a robust flavor and a subtle heat, which complements the richness of the steak.
To season your steak, lightly coat both sides with a thin layer of salt and pepper, gently pressing the seasonings into the meat.
For the best results, let the steak rest for about 10-15 minutes after seasoning. This allows the salt to dissolve and be absorbed into the meat for better flavor distribution.
Preheating Your Cast Iron Skillet
A well-preheated cast iron skillet is essential for achieving the perfect sear on your steak. Heat the skillet on high for about 5 minutes until it’s very hot.
A properly heated skillet not only sears the steak, but also helps in creating a consistent crust on the surface. Once the skillet is sufficiently preheated, you’re ready to start cooking your steak.
Cooking Your Steak
When cooking a steak in a cast-iron skillet, the process involves a combination of searing, adding extra flavors, and determining doneness for a perfect, juicy, and restaurant-quality result.
Searing the Steak
First, choose an oil with a high smoke point, such as avocado oil or canola oil, to coat both sides of the steak. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and heat your cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for five to six minutes. You can test the skillet’s temperature by splashing a few drops of water—if it sizzles and vanishes, the pan is ready.
Once the skillet is properly heated, oil the pan and place the seasoned steak, which can be a ribeye, strip, or any other preferred cut, into the pan using tongs. Sear the steak for about 2-3 minutes on each side, creating a crusty exterior and locking in the flavors.
Adding Extra Flavors
To enhance the taste of your steak, consider adding additional flavors during the cooking process. For example, toss in a few cloves of crushed garlic and sprigs of fresh thyme after searing the steak to infuse the oil and create a delicious aroma.
Occasionally baste the steak by spooning over the hot, flavored oil while cooking. This helps the steak develop a more intense flavor profile and allows it to cook more evenly. Remember to handle the skillet with care, using oven mitts as needed.
To ensure that your cast-iron steak is cooked to your desired level of doneness, use a meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature.
For a medium-rare steak, aim for 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit; for a medium steak, target 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit; and for a well-done steak, seek 160 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Keep in mind that the cooking time might vary depending on the thickness of the steak and the intensity of your stovetop heat.
After reaching the desired temperature, remove the steak from the skillet and let it rest for about five minutes before slicing and serving. This resting period allows the juices to redistribute, ensuring a tender, juicy, and flavor-packed bite every time.
Resting and Serving Your Steak
Resting Your Steak
After cooking your steak to a perfect medium rare in a cast iron skillet, it’s essential to let the meat rest before slicing and serving. Transfer the steak from the skillet to a plate or cutting board, and tent it loosely with aluminum foil.
This step is important because it allows the steak to finish cooking evenly and the juices to redistribute within the meat. Let the steak rest for at least five to 10 minutes, depending on the steak size and thickness.
During the resting process, consider adding a pat of unsalted butter on top of the steak to enhance the flavor. Additionally, if you haven’t already, season the steak with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. The combination of butter, salt, and pepper adds depth, richness, and a savory taste to the steak.
Slicing and Serving Your Steak
When it’s time to serve your rested steak, use a sharp knife to make clean cuts through the meat. For a boneless steak, slice against the grain, ensuring that each piece is thin and tender. If the steak has a bone, cut around it to maximize the meat you can serve.
To prevent the food from cooling down too quickly, preheat your serving plates or platter. You can do this by placing them in an oven set to low heat or by warming them with hot water. Dry the plates thoroughly before placing the steak on them, as residual steam may alter the texture of the meat.
In conclusion, properly resting and serving your steak guarantees a juicy, tender, and flavorful dish every time. Employ these techniques when cooking with cast iron, and enjoy the delectable results.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should it take to cook steak on cast iron for desired doneness?
Cooking times for steak in a cast iron skillet will vary depending on the thickness of the steak and the desired level of doneness.
In general, a medium-high heat (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for about two to three minutes per side will produce a medium-rare steak, while four to five minutes per side will result in a medium-well steak. It is essential to use a meat thermometer to ensure accurate cooking times and to achieve the desired doneness.
Rare: 120-125°F Medium-rare: 130-135°F Medium: 140-145°F Medium-well: 150-155°F Well-done: 160-165°F
When cooking steak in cast iron, is it better to use oil or butter?
When cooking steak in a cast iron skillet, using oil is recommended, as it has a higher smoke point and is less likely to burn. Canola oil or grapeseed oil is a suitable choice.
However, adding a small amount of butter to the pan near the end of the cooking process can add flavor and help create a delicious crust on the steak.
Wrapping up How to Cook a Steak in Cast Iron
Nothing beats a good steak, and now you know how to make one in a cast iron skillet. Be patient with yourself while you practice a few times, and before long, you’ll be a seasoned pro.
Next, check out The 5 Best Cast Iron Cookware Sets on the Market.