Feel free to disagree with me on this but I am of the view that everyone should know how to cook a great steak. It should be one recipe that you have in your backpocket at all times, ready to whip out at a moment’s notice and impress everyone around you. The good news is that making a great steak is very easy.
Now, I know it’s intimidating. After all, there are countless steakhouses and chefs that dedicate themselves to making great steaks. Countless experts who will delve into the nuances of what makes a great steak great. It seems so simple yet so overwhelming. But fear not, I’ve got you covered and trust me when I say it’s really simple. Let’s get into it.
The first thing is your choice of cut. Top contenders include the Filet Mignon, Sirloin, New York Strip, Porterhouse, T-bone, and Ribeye. Of course there are others and you can use any cut of your choice, but for a traditional and classic steak, these are your best bet cuts.
I’m working with 1 ¼” thick steaks for this recipe which is just above the bare minimum of 1″. Anything below that and you’ll end up with a seared but overcooked steak. Ensure that your steaks are room temperature for the best results.
Also, here’s something to keep in mind, steaks that are < 1.5″ don’t have to be finished in the oven, but if your steak is 1.5″ or thicker be sure you cook it in an ovenproof skillet that can be placed into the preheated oven right away to finish cooking.
Preheat your skillet. While that’s happening we need to pat our steaks dry so that the minute they hit the hot skillet they’re going to sear off, not steam. Water is not our friend here. What keeps our steaks moist is the fat that marbles it. See the little wisps of white that are throughout the steak? That’s fat that once heated will render down and keep our steak moist and juicy. We want that wonderfully flavorful crust to develop. That browning (aka the Maillard reaction) is not just color or texture but FLAVOR. This is the one thing you don’t want to mess up. Trust me on that.
Once our steaks are dried, we’ll oil them and liberally season them with salt and pepper on both sides.
And immediately place them into our smoking hot cast iron skillet ( you did preheat your skillet, right??) on medium-high heat. The timing and doneness is possibly the trickiest part, here’s a bit of a cheat sheet to get a perfect medium – medium-rare every time.
- 1″ steak – seared 2 min each side and 30-second sear on the fat strip. Add butter and herbs, spoon the melted herby butter over the steaks 2-3 times. No oven. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes tented with foil.
- 1.5″ steak – seared 2 min each side, 30-second sear on the fat strip, add butter and herbs, spoon the melted, herby butter over the steaks a few times. Put the skillet in a preheated oven at 350F for 2-3 min. Remove from oven and rest for 5 minutes tented with foil.
- 2″ steak – seared 3 min each side, 30-second sear on fat strip, add butter and herbs, spoon the melted, herby butter over the steaks a few times. Put the skillet in a preheated oven at 350F for 5 min. Remove from oven and rest for 10 minutes tented with foil.
At this point both sides of my steak are seared as well as the side that has that fat strip. Rendering that strip is important to ensure that you don’t end up with a chewy piece of tough fat.
The addition of the butter basting and herbs is a great way to infuse even more flavor into your steaks. Be sure to work quickly for this part as you don’t want to overcook your steaks. Time really becomes of the essence here so work quickly! The moment the butter is fully melted begin spooning it over the steaks a few times. End by placing your herbs on top of your steaks.
Honestly this image was just for show since my steaks were of the thickness that didn’t require being finished in the oven. However, I needed the stovetop so I popped the skillet into the unheated oven and tented them to rest while I finished making dinner.
The best way to check your steak’s doneness is to use a meat thermometer. Keep in mind that your steaks will continue to cook and its temperature will rise by about 5 degrees once you remove it from the oven in a process called “carryover cooking” so don’t forget to account for that.
The final internal temp (not accounting for carryover cooking) for doneness is:
- Blue (aka extra rare): 115F
- Rare: 120-125F
- Medium-rare: 130-135F
- Medium: 140-145F
- Medium-well: 150-155F
- Well-done: 160-170F
Once your steaks are rested and the fibers of the meat have relaxed from the heat and your steaks have reabsorbed and redistributed its moisture – aka what happens when you rest a steak and why you should rest it – all that’s left to do is serve them, cut into them (I bet you they’re buttery tender and rich with beefy flavor from that crust🤤) and enjoy the meat of your labor!
The Perfect Skillet Steak
- Cast Iron Skillet
- If working with steaks thicker than 1.5 inches thick, preheat oven to 350°F
- Bring your steaks to room temperature and pat them dry.
- Heat a cast iron skillet on med-high heat until it just begins to smoke.
- Rub your steaks with the oil and season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.
- Add the steaks to the smoking hot skillet and allow it to cook undisturbed for 2 minutes before flipping and cooking the other side for an additional two minutes.
- Using a pair of tongs turn the steak onto it's side and sear the strip of fat that runs around the edge for 30 seconds.
- Keeping the steaks flat, push them aside and add the butter, crushed garlic cloves and fine thyme to the skillet and allow the butter to melt and mingle with the herbs. Spoon the herb infused butter over the steaks, basting them 2-3 times.
- If your steak is between 1-1.5" thick simply remove from the heat, loosely tent with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.If your steak is above 1.5" thick, set your skillet into a preheated oven for 2-3 minutes to finish cooking.If your steak if 2" thick, set your skillet into a preheated oven for 5 minutes to finish.For steaks thicker than 2", set your skillet into a preheated oven for 4-5 minutes for every inch of thickness.
- Once your steaks are done, remove them from the oven and loosely tent them with foil. Allow them to rest for 10 minutes.
- Serve immediately.
- When you add your steaks to the pan do not disturb them, try to move them, touch them or press down on them. Doing so will disrupt the crust from forming and may even cause the meat to stick and tear.
- Keep in mind that your steaks will continue to cook after you remove them from the heat source due to residual heat.
- For the most accurate doneness test, use a meat thermometer.