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Steakhouse Steak at Home

by Matt Mehaffey on 3 August 2009


There is no greater guilty pleasure than a great steak at a premium steakhouse. For me, the best part about a steak at a great restaurant is the salty, savory crust that encapsulates a buttery soft, medium rare center. This luxurious veneer is the only reason I can justify paying $40 for a restaurant steak. But with the economy what it is, I decided to search for a way to continue my carnivorous ways at home.

I used to be very nervous about buying prime steaks, given their high price and the fickle nature of my grill. In fact, if I had a dollar for every time I overcooked a steak on my grill I could practically start a cattle ranch in Montana. Once I learned that all I needed was a cast-iron skillet instead of fancy equipment to reproduce restaurant-quality steaks at home, I have been happily cooking my own steaks for a fraction of the cost of going out.

I, luckily, have my wife’s grandmother’s old skillet. It is well seasoned, and has about 65 years of flavor cooked into it. Next time you visit grandma, be sure to mention how much you love her cooking and that you would be so honored to have her skillet someday; it is way more valuable than anything else she could bequeath you, including jewelry. If you buy a new skillet form your hardware store, be sure you have properly seasoned it before trying this recipe.

This method works with any cut of steak; I prefer strip or ribeye, but filet mignon or sirloin are great options as well. The most important thing is to make sure you have a thick steak, minimum 1.25 inches, 1.5 inches would be optimum.

  • Remove steaks from the fridge and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This is an important step to assure proper doneness of the steak.
  • Place a 12-inch cast iron skillet in your cool oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees.Once the steaks are at room temperature, lightly rub them with canola oil and generously sprinkle sea salt (kosher salt works well too) and freshly ground back pepper.
  • Remove skillet from oven and place over high heat on your cook top.
  • Place the steak in the hot skillet and DO NOT touch it for 45 seconds. Using tongs, flip and cook for 45 more seconds. You will get some smoke from the oil, so have your exhaust fan on. It is worth using a timer for this stage, too long can burn the steak, too short and you won’t get the crust.
  • Immediately place the skillet in the oven and cook the steak for 2 minutes, flip and cook for 2 more minutes for medium rare. Add about 1 minute oven time for medium. If you want it anymore done than that, don’t bother with this recipe.
  • Remove skillet from oven, place steak on a plate, and loosely cover with foil. Let the steaks rest for five minutes before serving. ENJOY!

To do multiple steaks, follow all steps above, but sear one steak at a time on the stove, allowing the skillet to get very hot before placing in the next steak. While searing the steaks, place a cookie sheet in the oven to get hot. Place all steaks on the cookie sheet and cook for two minutes on each side. Remove to a plate and cover with foil, allow steaks to rest for five minutes.

About Matt Mehaffey

Matthew Mehaffey is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Minnesota, where he conducts the Concert Choir and the Men’s Chorus, teaches graduate courses in Conducting and Literature, and regularly serves as Music Director of the University Opera Theatre.

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1 Alex Knapp 3 August 2009 at 11:10

That is indeed an excellent way to prepare a steak. The only thing I’d mention is that for those of us who can’t afford the prime cuts all the time, the economy being the way it is, you can actually get that buttery texture from less-than-premium cuts by heaping tons of salt on both sides of the steak for about 1/2 hour prior to cooking. Once you’re ready to cook, wipe off the excess salt that you don’t want and season the rest.

The salt will actually break down muscle fibers and produce a very tasty steak without paying the prime price.

2 Dave Schuler 3 August 2009 at 12:14

The rule of thumb for doneness in cooking beef is:
Rare:  120°
Medium rare:  145°
Well-done:  170°
A restaurant trick of which more people should be aware is that if your oven has a good thermostat and maintains an even temperature <b>those temperatures hold true over time</b>.  That is, if you crust your steak and then bring it to 120&deg; in a 120&deg; oven <b>it won’t get more any more done</b>.
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many ovens for the residential market that will reliably hold a temperature of 120&deg;.  That might change if more people demanded it.

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