cast iron skillet steak

My younger son calls steak “steek,” as in, “Man, this is good steek.”

“Hon, it’s steak,” we corrected.

He stopped chewing. “Um, no,” he said. “It’s s-t-e-a-k. That’s steek.”


I’ve cooked steak twice now, and so far only on the stovetop. The first time, it was just me and my husband at home. We watched a series of how-to-cook-steak videos together (here and here), and then I cooked each steak individually, testing the firmness of the meat against our own skin (there’s the finger test—so cool!—and the arm test), and then cutting it in half to see if we were getting the desired results.

We also cooked several potatoes that my parents had given us (because we were out of potatoes and we simply had to have potatoes to go with our steak), mashing them up, peels and all, with lots of hot milk, butter, and salt.

And then we ate and ate and ate.

And ate.

And ate some more.

“The steers were grass fed,” I said, “so basically we’re just eating grass, right?”

My husband snorted at my slightly faulty logic—okay, okay, erroneous—but the meal did feel incredibly satisfying and nutritious and healthy. Sanctimonious, practically.

(Oh, and then I—get this—left the big tupperware container full of gorgeous strips of medium rare steak out on the counter overnight. I was so mad at myself! But then I emailed my aunt, an excellent cook who is also a non-alarmist pragmatist, and she said we could still eat it so we did, in fajitas with onions and peppers, yum.)

Then this past weekend, we cooked up a couple porterhouse steaks and three New York Strip steaks. (I had wanted to try ribeye and strip, to compare the difference, but my husband didn’t listen to my instructions, oh well.) So far—all two times—we cook our steaks on the outdoor cookstove, on the deck, because cooking steak is a frightfully messy business! By the time I’m done, the deck is speckled with grease droplets.

And we even put an old sheet down to try to catch the mess. Guess we need a bigger old sheet next time….

Here’s what I want to know: How in the world do all those fancy, white-aproned chefs in the videos manage to cook their steaks without getting grease everywhere and setting off the fire alarm? I do not understand.

Probably I’m just not classy enough.

That evening, the kids were home (all but my younger daughter), and they all—every single one of them—went bananas.

My older daughter cut the porterhouse steaks off the bone, and they all picked through the piles of steak searching for the rarest—bloodiest—morsels. My younger son adulterated his steak with store-bought BBQ sauce, but the rest of us doused ours with the red wine and butter sauce I’d made from the pan drippings.

I was looking forward to leftovers so we could have steak and eggs some morning, but no such luck. I guess if I want leftovers, I’ll need to cook up some more steaks.

Which is fine with me, really.

And everyone else, apparently.

Cast Iron Skillet Steak

*Get steaks that are 1¼ to 1½ inches thick. (I think ours are a little on the thin side.) So far, sirloin steaks are my favorite.
*If the meat has a good cap of fat, leave it on. You can remove it after cooking.
*Make sure the steak is at room temperature before cooking.
*Until you know what you’re doing, cook one steak at a time.
*Helpful tools: long-handled tongs, a stopwatch, a meat thermometer.

And hey, I am still a newbie at this steak-cooking business, so if you have tips, please share. I’m planning to try them on the grill next….

For the steaks:
steak, at room temperature
salt and pepper
butter and olive oil
fresh rosemary or thyme, several sprigs
a couple cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
1 large glass of red wine

Liberally salt and pepper the steak on both sides.

Place the skillet over a medium-high flame. When hot, drizzle in some olive oil. Add the steak. Start the stopwatch.

To make sure the steak cooks evenly from both sides, flip every minute. After a couple flips, sear the sides of the steaks, holding the meat upright with a pair of tongs.

About half way through the cooking time, begin seasoning the meat: After each turn, brush the top with butter, rub it lightly with garlic, and brush it with the fresh herbs that you’ve just swished through the hot oil.

For medium-rare steaks, cook for about 8 minutes or until the meat reaches 145 degrees. Place the steak on a plate and tent with foil.

Repeat the process until all the steaks have been cooked.

For the red wine and butter sauce (optional), add a little fresh oil to the pan, mince the garlic and toss it in. Add the sprigs of whatever herb you were using. After a minute, dump in a glass of red wine. Cook for a couple more minutes until the wine is reduced by half. Whisk in 3-4 tablespoons of butter. Strain the sauce.

After the steaks have rested for 5-10 minutes (or however long it takes to finish cooking all the steaks), slice them at a 45 degree angle across the grain and arrange on a plate. Pour over any meaty juices that have collected in the bottom of the “resting” plate. Serve with buttery mashed potatoes and the red wine and butter sauce.

This same time, years previous: black bean and veggie salad, the quotidian (9.14.15), cinnamon sugar breadsticks, whole wheat jammies, Greek pasta salad.


  • Unknown

    I know this was a year ago and I'm not sure if you'll see this, but you asked about chefs staying clean. The simple answer is that they don't. Everything on TV is cleaned up pretty. My husband is a chef and if you could see his uniform after a night at work, well, you'd wonder how we get it clean afterwards.

    Also, restaurants have a lot of hoods and shields to keep the grease more contained. And a lot of times, steaks are seared quickly for colour then put in an oven. That's how my husband cooks steaks at home when they're not on a grill. Not nearly as messy.

  • Lindsay

    Whether I do stove-top or grill my starting point is for the cooking surface to be screaming hot. You can always turn off the heat or move the meat to a cooler spot if it needs a little longer to reach desired doneness, but there's little I find more disappointing than a steak that hasn't developed a crust on the outside or one which is overcooked even with a crust (and since I like my steak medium-rare+, that's pretty quick).
    Not that you don't have a heap of meat at your disposal, but if you want to feel virtuous, or wish to stretch a steak out a bit you can't beat a steak salad. Romaine + croutons + grilled onions + shaved parmesan + steak (sliced thin, against the grain) + herb balsamic vinaigrette or caesar dressing. Done and yum.

  • Aleksandra

    Show your son the English pronunciation poem*: "The Chaos" by Gerard Nolst Trenité. It might blow his mind though; so maybe don't? I don't know anymore!

    *as I call it

  • Anonymous

    You greasy people need a large splatter screen! Look it up. You put it over the top of your skillet and it catches the splatters. Of course, if you have to lift it frequently to turn the meat, some splatters will still escape, but maybe less than without it?


  • Amber

    Your steak on the plate looked great except you sliced it all wrong. I mean, those were chunks of meat. Slice it thin against the grain. Now that's the way to eat steak.

    I prefer mine on a grill but in the winter I sometimes do stovetop.

    • Jennifer Jo

      The first plate, or the second? I think we did it right on the first plate. What you see on the second plate are the bits that my daughter was tearing off the bone, I think. Or bits of fat that we pulled off with our fingers. The dregs, in other words.

      We're grilling several strip steaks tonight. I'm eager to see how they turn out!

  • Rebecca

    I turned the grilling over to Aden. He shrugs when I ask for the pertinent details but his steeks are always perfect. All I know for sure…charcoal, salt and pepper only, instant read thermometer to medium rare.

    I use my cast iron grill pan on the good ol' electric stove. Yes, grease everywhere and, absolutely, a home grown potato on the side. In my opinion, you get the best marbling with Angus.

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