There’s Only One Right Way to Cook a Steak

·4-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

The best way to cook a steak is not on a grill.

The best way to cook a steak is in a cast-iron pan.

This is going to make some people deeply upset, I understand. They may say mean things about me on the internet. They may choose to not read this article out of defiance.

But I can assure you that if you put aside your prejudices and your Facebook rage, you can live in the light. You can enjoy better-than-the-grill steaks for the rest of your life.

So what makes a steak cooked in a cast-iron pan better than a steak cooked on the grill anyway?

Photo credit: Men's Health
Photo credit: Men's Health

When you cook a steak in a pan, the meat makes complete contact with the cooking surface. When you cook a steak on the grill, the meat only makes contact with the grill grates. Sure, grill marks look pretty, but those areas between the crosshatch lack that deep, robust char that makes steak taste so great.

When you cook a steak in a pan, you have complete control over the cooking temperature. When you cook steak on the grill, the temperature can vary, as grills tend to have hot and cold spots. That means one half of your steak could be medium-rare, while the other half is medium-well. Pans don't have this problem.

When you cook a steak in a pan, you have complete authority to use up the tasty steak bits left behind after cooking the steak. When you cook a steak on grill, the tasty steak bits fall between the cracks where they're hopelessly irretrievable. Unfortunately, that means you're out the opportunity to make a simple but mind-blowingly delicious pan sauce to accompany your steak dinner.

If you're sold—or at least intrigued—then know that the step-by-step process that follows is neither difficult to execute or hard to master. Follow this method once, and you'll acquire the skill forever.

Here are the steps of cooking the perfect steak in a cast-iron pan.

Step 1: Go high heat

Take your cast-iron pan, put it on your stovetop burner, and turn the heat to high. Not medium-high. High. Don't worry, your pan can take it. It's cast-iron, after all.

Also important: Open a few windows and crank your oven vent to high as well. Things are about to get smoky. Nothing ruins sitting down to a steak dinner than doing so in a cloud of smoke.

Step 2: Season the heck out of it

Liberally season both sides of the steak with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. When I say "liberally," I mean it—several big pinches of each seasoning on each side.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Some of this seasoning is going to fall off in the pan and remember that the steak is thick so you won't be able to season the meat all the way through. The salt and pepper you put on the outside has to carry the seasoning of the whole steak.

And whatever you do, don't use pre-ground pepper to season your steak. That stuff tastes like dirt.

Step 3: Go flip happy

When the pan begins to smoke, add 1 Tbsp of the canola oil and swirl so that the pan's surface is well oiled. Then add the steak and sear, flipping every minute, for a total of about 6 minutes for medium-rare.

Frequent flipping allows you to keep a careful eye on how the steak's crust develops. Letting the steak sit and only flipping once halfway through leaves it up to chance.

Don't leave it up to chance.

Step 4: Take a break

Transfer the steak to a plate and let it sit there. Some people call this "resting," but you don't actually get to take a nap, because that would only be like a 5-minute nap, which really isn't a nap at all.

That sounds BORING, you say. Well, then may I interest you in...

Step 5: Whip up a quick sauce

Remove the pan from the heat, add a glug or two of flavorful liquid (wine, beer, beef stock) to the pan, and, using a wooden spoon, stir the liquid, scraping up the browned bits clinging to the surface of the pan.

Add one tablespoon of butter, stir until melted, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour into a small serving dish. Eat with the steak.

Step 6: Accept reality

You've made it this far. You've realized that maybe cooking steak in a cast-iron pan is actually better than cooking it on the grill. And, maybe, just maybe, you're thinking about saying something nice about me on the Internet.

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