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How to Cook Steak in a Cast Iron Skillet

Cast iron is one of the most popular materials for cooking food, and many restaurants use cast iron skillets to cook delicious, juicy steaks. Cast iron heats up quickly, releases foods easily, and maximizes flavor by perfectly browning its contents. Unlike many other fry pans, cast iron can also be safely transferred from stovetop to oven. Additionally, when properly seasoned, cast iron is relatively nonstick, 100% chemical-free, and will not damage foods as you cook them. Cast iron can also be used with electric, gas, or induction heat and is very easy to clean. With all of these things in mind, it is easy to see why a cast iron skillet is the perfect tool for cooking a high-quality steak. Follow the steps below to learn how to cook steak in a cast iron skillet.


Things to Consider Before Cooking Your Steak

While cooking steak in a cast iron skillet is relatively straightforward, there are several important factors to consider. You'll need to choose a pan that is the same size as your burner, and you'll also want to have in mind which temperature you would like to cook your steak to.

How to Avoid Hot Spots in a Cast Iron Pan

While it is commonly assumed that using cast iron cookware produces even heat and consistent cooking, this is not always the case. Although cast iron heats fairly quickly, undersized burners that cannot accommodate an entire skillet will not be able to heat the edges of the pan. Be sure to always choose a skillet that is the same size as the burner you are using to cook the steak, as this helps eliminate hot spots.

What Temperature Should You Cook Your Steak To?

While the length of time necessary to cook a steak varies upon the cut and thickness of the meat, there are a few basic temperature guidelines to keep in mind.

For recommended cooking times and temperatures, check out this chart:

Doneness Temp Turning Point 1/2" 3/4" 1" 1 1/4" 1 1/2" 1 3/4" 2"
Rare 125°F First Side 4 min 5 min 6 min 7 min 7 min 8 min 10 min
Second Side 3 min 4 min 5 min 5 min 6 min 7 min 8 min
Medium Rare 135°F First Side 5 min 6 min 7 min 8 min 8 min 9 min 11 min
Second Side 4 min 5 min 6 min 6 min 7 min 7 min 9 min
Medium / Medium Well 150°F First Side 6 min 7 min 8 min 8 min 9 min 9 min 12 min
Second Side 4 min 5 min 6 min 7 min 7 min 8 min 10 min
Well Done 160°F First Side 9 min 10 min 11 min 12 min 13 min 14 min 15 min
Second Side 7 min 8 min 9 min 10 min 11 min 12 min 13 min

Cooking times provided by Omaha Steaks.


How to Prepare Your Steak for Cooking

Properly preparing your meat is an important aspect of serving up a delicious steak. Season your steak liberally well in advance with salt and pepper. Begin by adding oil to your skillet and heating it on high until it shimmers and begins to smoke slightly. Allow your pan to get good and hot, as this is key to keeping the meat from sticking to the skillet.

Step-by-Step Instructions

At this point, you are ready to place your steak into the cast iron skillet. Be sure to do so gently to avoid making a mess or bruising the meat.

  • 1.

    Pick the steak up by the bone to avoid tearing the meat and slowly lower it into the pan.

  • 2.

    Flip your steak using tongs every few minutes. Make sure to also cook the sides. You can do this by pressing each of the steak's edges down against the skillet for a few minutes.

  • 3.

    Use a spoon to baste your steak in the oil and its own juices as it continues to cook.

  • 4.

    Use a thermometer to temp the meat. This will help you cook your steak to the desired degree of doneness.

  • 5.

    Spoon your aromatics and generous amounts of butter over the meat. Continue turning the steak as you season it.

  • 6.

    Remove your steak from the pan and allow it to rest on a plate or cutting board for 10 minutes.

  • 7.

    If you need to cut the steak into smaller pieces, use a fork to hold it and a sharp chef's knife to slice from the meat's center out to its edges.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Smoke Points of Different Oils?

Keeping the smoke point of the oil you're cooking the steak in is very important. The smoke point of extra virgin olive oil is 406 degrees Fahrenheit, while peanut oil is 440 degrees and canola oil is 400 degrees.

How Hot Should My Cast Iron Skillet Be?

You don't need to worry about the specific temperature, but you do want your pan to be smoking hot, which is the point at which the oil begins to smoke. Depending on the thickness of your cast iron pan, this may take 5-8 minutes on high heat.

Should I Cook My Steak Covered or Uncovered?

If you choose to cover your steak, this will trap steam and soften any crust you could develop. Additionally, you will trap extra heat in the pan and decrease your overall cooking time. We do not recommend covering your steak while cooking it in a cast iron skillet.

How Can I Prevent the Pan from Smoking?

Smoke prevention is actually detrimental to achieving the best cast iron-cooked steak. Some smoke is inevitable, but it shouldn't fill your kitchen. To reduce the amount of smoke, start with oil, rather than butter. We recommend around 1/2 cup for a 12-inch skillet. A few minutes before you finish cooking your steak, add butter and aromatics. Doing so will enhance the flavor and color of your steak without too much smoking and before the milk proteins in the butter begin to burn.

Should I See Fire?

You should never see fire when cooking in a cast iron skillet. If your pan catches fire, place salt or baking soda on the flames, remove your pan from the burner, and cover it with a lid.

For more information on cooking a steak in cast iron and other frequently asked questions, check out Serious Eats' Complete Guide to Pan-Seared Steaks

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