August 4, 2014
Cast Iron Skillet Steak
I'm a steak purist. No salts, no sauces, no fancy flavored wood chips to infuse different flavor. Just give me a medium rare bone-in ribeye with some salt and pepper, and I'm a happy girl.
Ribeye is my personal favorite cut of steak. It is a large tender piece of meat that is surrounded by fat and a cap from the spinalis muscle, which is really juicy and mighty tasty.
I love dry-aged steaks. Aging beef results in a better steak because it allows the enzymes naturally present in the meat to break down the muscle tissue, which makes for better texture and flavor. Most beef is aged in plastic wrap, which is known as wet-aging. Dry-aged beef is exposed to air, which results in dehydration that concentrates the meat's flavor. It takes about 10 weeks at the minimum to age steak. Because the meat loses weight from the dehydration, it is trimmed completely of the dried exterior.
Dry-aged steaks are more expensive than other steaks and can be tough to find. In Denver, I get them at Tony's Market. Many steaks are often a little too large for one meal, so I slice them into two. It gives you a little more bang for your buck.
I know summer is grilling season, but I think pan-seared steaks trump steaks on the grill. Grilling will give you that smoky, crisp crust, but you can develop a more even brown crust in a hot cast iron skillet. Most importantly, a good crust will lock in the flavor of the steak. The key to a good cast iron steak is a smoking hot cast iron skillet.
First, I heat the cast iron skillet in the oven first. While the cast iron skillet and oven preheat, I bring the steak to room temperature and coat in canola oil and season it with salt and pepper. I use canola oil because olive oil has a low smoke point. (When olive oil gets to its smoking point, it starts to break down chemically, loses its antioxidants, and releases chemicals into the air via smoke.) Once the oven reaches 500ºF, I transfer the skillet to the stove and put the heat on high. After about five minutes, I throw the steak on. The steak gets a quick sear on the stove, and it then goes back into the oven for just a few minutes.
The result is a perfectly medium rare, juicy steak. Between the high temperatures in the oven and the dry cast iron skillet on the stove, my house was filled with smoke, and the smoke alarm went off. After I pulled the steak out of the oven, I ran around opening the windows and cranking on the fans, which gave the steak had a chance to settle. When you give the steaks a chance to rest for a few minutes after cooking, this allows for the juices to stay in the interior of the steak. If you cut the steaks right after they are done, the juices will be all over the plate. Cooking steaks this way locks in more flavor.
The smoke alarm went off, but it was totally worth it.
Cast Iron Skillet Steak
1 steak, your choice of cut
Place cast iron skillet in oven and heat to 500ºF. While the oven preheats, remove the steak from the fridge and lightly coat with canola oil, salt, and pepper. After the oven reaches 500ºF, place the past iron skillet onto high heat on the stove. After five minutes, place the steak onto the skillet. Cook each side for thirty seconds. Then, put the cast iron skillet back into the oven. Cook each side of the steak for about two minutes. Remove the steak from the oven, and allow it to rest for about five minutes before serving.
Source: Inspired by Alton Brown