The Case for Perfectly Seared Steak

Seared steak in a cast iron pan.

For me, steak is usually a special-occasion food. I rarely buy it, almost never cook it and look forward to enjoying it when I’m dining out. I’ve consumed a few incredibly memorable steaks, most recently the monstrous prime dry-aged 50-oz. Bistecca Fiorentina, a porterhouse cut that crowns the menu at Chi Spacca in Holllywood. I loved it so much that I went back a few weeks later and ate it again.

Meat sweats aside, I was craving steak on a recent Friday night. It was the end of a long week and I didn’t have the energy to go out and eat it. I was able to pick up a nicely marbled grass-fed boneless ribeye (more formally called a “Scotch fillet”) at my local supermarket, which sealed the deal.

So what to do with the meat? Luckily, New York Times food journalist Mark Bittman came to the rescue with his method of perfectly searing steak in a cast iron pan.

Loosely following his instructions, I removed my nearly 1-inch thick ribeye from the package salted and peppered it on each side (not in his instructions, but I like to season to a fault) and let it sit for 30 minutes.

seared steak
Sear your steak in a cast iron pan.

Then I heated my oven as high as it would go, a little past the recommended 500 degrees (Bittman recommends 550 if possible). Once the oven was nearly heated, I fired up my cast iron skillet on the burner until it was smoking, then sprinkled Kosher salt on the surface and laid in the steak. At that moment, you should hear a gratifying sizzle. If you don’t, your skillet is not hot enough. Remove your steak and wait until you see smoke rising off it before you put it back in. Once your steak is sizzling, put it on the lowest rack of your oven, or, as Bittman recommends, the oven floor.

The steak doesn’t take long to cook: four minutes on each side if you’re going for medium rare; adjust from there to your taste.

Once the steak is finished cooking in the oven, remove it, marvel at its perfectly brown glossy exterior (and lovely grill marks if you have a grill plan, which I don’t) sprinkle it with salt and pepper and let it rest for three to five minutes to let the juices redistribute. I know, patience is a virtue, but after perfectly cooking you don’t want to ruin it at the end by letting all those delicious juices run out onto your plate!

And then the steak is done! It’s probably one of the quickest, most gratifying, indulgent meals you can make.

What’s your favorite low-key Friday meal? Let me know in the comments.

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