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Cooking the Perfect Restaurant Steak
You can pay a lot of money when going out to a restaurant for a nice, flavorful steak dinner. Or you can stay home, save some money, and make it yourself!
Below is a breakdown of one of the best methods to cook your steak: with a cast iron skillet. And with the prices that a good steak go for these days, we want to make sure that you have the tools and techniques on your side so all you regret is not having more people come over to taste your culinary skills.
What you will need:
- A good steak
- A cast... iron skillet
- A gas grill with side burner
- High-temperature oil, like avocado oil
- Salt and pepper
- A pair of long-handled tongs
- An instant-read digital thermometer
Talk to your butcher about getting a good steak. We prefer a boneless ribeye steak for this method. The bone can reduce contact with the pan and, therefore, reduce the amount of caramelization. Look for a "choice" or "prime" grade steak, though prime grade will cost a lot more.
WARNING: This method uses extreme temperatures that can melt through oven mitts so be very careful!Continue to 2 of 11 below.
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Oil the Steak
Once you have your steak, lightly coat it with oil. Choose an oil with a high smoke point, as oil breaks down at high temperatures. Oils like avocado oil, can take a much higher temperature than most.
It is very important that each side is well coated with oil, but there is no need to worry about the sides. While the steak won't stick, you need the lubrication to conduct the heat from the pan to the meat as fast as possible. This method is all about speed so stay close at hand.Continue to 3 of 11 below.
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Season the Steak
Now it's time to season the steak. Typically this includes coarsely ground black pepper and a coarse sea or Kosher salt. The oil is going to hold the seasonings in place and if you choose to make a sauce in the pan later, this will provide the extra flavor.
Apart from salt and pepper, many restaurants add dried parsley or other herbs to the mixture. You can use anything you like, but keep it light. We want to maximize the flavor of the steak, not the seasonings.
If nothing else, you need the... salt to react with the surface of the meat to produce the right flavor. Let the salt sit on the steak for a good 15 minutes before cooking so it has time to absorb into the surface.Continue to 4 of 11 below.
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This process can be done with a stove top and an oven, or a side burner and grill. You need the burner to heat the skillet and start the steak cooking and the grill or oven to complete the process. Either way, the grill or oven needs to be preheated to a high temperature. We recommend shooting for around 500 F (260 C), but any temperature around 400 F (205 C) or higher will do.
This process creates a good deal of smoke. You won't notice it much on the patio, but your fire alarm will probably... notice if you choose to cook indoors. If you are doing this in the kitchen, you might want to turn off the fire alarm for the duration and open a window or two.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Preheat Cast Iron Skillet
To make this whole process work, you need a smoking hot cast iron (or heavy duty) skillet. Smoking hot means smoking hot. It also needs to be clean and without any oil (other than what a good cast iron skillet is seasoned with) or cooking spray. All the oil you need is already on the surface of the steak.
To test the heat, place a single drop of water on the pan. If it dances for a second before disappearing, the pan is hot enough. Make sure to have the steak, a clean plate, a heavy-duty grill... mitt, a pat of butter and a pair of tongs ready. You won't have a chance to step away once you start the cooking process.Continue to 6 of 11 below.
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Place Steak in the Hot Skillet
Place the steak in the center of the hot skillet. It is important that most of the steak is in contact with the metal as possible, so never use a steak bigger than your pan.
This will generate a good deal of smoke, popping and sizzling, but you must wait exactly two minutes before moving the steak. You might think it is burning, but rest easy that everything is fine (unless flames are shooting towards the sky, then turn off the gas and run). Be patient and watch the clock closely.Continue to 7 of 11 below.
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Turn the Steak Over
After two minutes, turn the steak over placing it exactly where it was, making sure it is well seated in the pan.
Continue cooking the steak for an additional two minutes. Take some time to admire just how beautiful this steak looks now. Notice the rich deep brown (not black) color of the cooked surface. Beautiful, isn't it?
Again, be patient and let the steak continue (burner still on high) to cook. During this time, make sure you have your grill (or oven) mitt on. This needs to be a good... mitt since the metal you are about to pick up is heavy and nearly 500F.Continue to 8 of 11 below.
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Top Steak With Butter and Move to the Grill (Oven)
The steak has been cooking for four minutes now and if you want it very rare it's time to take it off the heat. If you want it more cooked than this, transfer the skillet to the preheated grill (or oven). Set the temperature above 400F (205C).
In addition, before closing down the lid of the grill, or the door to the oven, drop a pat of butter on the top of the steak right in the middle. This butter will melt quickly and pour down over the steak giving it an extra rich, caramelized nutty... flavor.
To get a precise temperature reading on this steak, use an oven-safe thermometer or polder-style thermometer (the kind with the remote unit so you can read the temperature without opening the lid or door).Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Testing the Temperature
Testing for doneness is both an art and a science. If using a thermometer, you should be able to closely gauge the doneness of the steak. Remember that you need to remove it 5 F (2.7 C) below the target temperature. The steak will continue cooking for a few minutes after it is removed from the heat.
Say you want a medium rare steak (about 130 F or 55 C), then you need to get that steak out of the grill and off the skillet when the center of the meat reaches 125 F (52 C).Continue to 10 of 11 below.
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Rest, Plate and Serve
When the steak is ready to be removed from the skillet, place it on a plate and gently cover with a piece of aluminum foil. Note the time. In five minutes you (or whoever is eating this steak) should be ready to have the best steak of their lives. The resting time allows the juices to redistribute into the meat making it as tender as warm butter.Continue to 11 of 11 below.
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Optional: Steak Sauce
The steak is out of the pan, and the drippings in that pan are so good you'd lick it clean if it wasn't 500 F. Here's a little trick to add even more flavor to your steak. Throw in:
- 1/2 cup shallots
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped herbs (basil, oregano, cilantro, parsley, etc.)
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
Stir everything together in the flaming hot pan and pour out once combined. Top the steak with this sauce or use it on baked potatoes, vegetables, or any... other side dish you have to go with the best steak of your life.