Recipe Spotlight

How Do You Cook Perfect Steak Without a Grill? Use a Cast-Iron Skillet.

You don’t need a grill to make great steak indoors. Just pull out your cast-iron skillet.

Published May 27, 2022.

I don’t have a grill. I live in a small apartment with little outdoor space, so there just isn’t room for one. But I love the type of steak you get from a grill: nicely charred with a great crust. Fortunately, I can get the same results indoors.

How do you cook a steak without a grill? You don’t need any special gadgets to do it. Cooking steak indoors in a cast-iron skillet can get you results that are just as good and have all the hallmarks of a perfectly grilled steak. 

(Of course, using a cast-iron skillet isn’t the only way to cook a steak indoors! If you’re looking for a different technique, check out our recipes for butter-basted steak and sous vide steak.)

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Our recipe for Cast-Iron Steaks with Herb Butter uses a few great tips and tricks for cooking a steak indoors. Here’s what you need to know.

Preheat Your Cast-Iron Skillet

Cast-iron pans are inferior to stainless-steel pans when it comes to heat distribution, which is very important for evenly cooked steaks. However, cast iron is superior when it comes to heat retention. Heat retention is also extremely important when it comes to cooking steaks without a grill. When a steak is added to the pan, the pan’s temperature drop is minimal. This helps promote browning and even cooking.

So to solve for cast iron’s uneven heat distribution, we set our oven to 500 degrees and place the pan in the oven as it preheats. This helps to ensure every inch of the skillet is the same temperature. And since we know cast iron retains heat well, it will stay that way once we transfer it to the stovetop and cook the steak there.

Pat Your Steaks Dry

This is a simple but important step. If there is too much moisture on the surface of your steak, you won’t achieve that charred crust you’re going for. So take the extra few seconds and blot it dry with a paper towel.

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Use a Generous Amount of Oil

To keep your steaks from cooking unevenly, and to get an even sear on them, we add a generous amount of oil—two tablespoons—to the cast-iron skillet. Since steak contracts as it’s cooking, this oil helps ensure the steaks’ surface remains in contact with the heat even as the steaks contract.

Turn Down the Heat

When cooking steaks, you are sometimes left with the dreaded dry and chalky gray band between the crust and the interior. This happens when the exterior of the steak overcooks as you’re waiting for your interior to get to temperature.

To prevent the gray band, we heat the preheated skillet over medium-high, but then lower the temperature to medium-low after the steaks hit the pan. Keeping the burner at medium-high causes the temperature in the skillet to rise, and thus overcooking the meat. But since cast iron retains heat so well, we found that reducing the heat to medium-low maintains the heat you want to cook the interior to perfection, while also keeping the outside from becoming overcooked.

Flip Your Steak Repeatedly

Grab your kitchen timer. Flipping steaks once during cooking just isn't enough. You should flip the steaks every two minutes.

Here's why: Flipping your steak every two minutes also helps prevent that gray band from forming. By flipping the steak so often, the side not touching the skillet is cooked gently by the residual heat.

This also controls how much time each side spends touching the skillet, keeping the crust from getting too thick and overcooking. (The perfect crust is crisp and browned. And it shouldn't feel like sawing through leather.)

How to Cook Steak Without a Grill

Serves 4

Total time: 1 hour

  • 2 (1-pound) boneless strip steaks, 1½ inches thick, trimmed
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  1. Sprinkle entire surface of each steak with 1 teaspoon salt. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position, place 12-inch cast-iron skillet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees.
  3. When oven reaches 500 degrees, pat steaks dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Using potholders, remove skillet from oven and place over medium-high heat; turn off oven. Being careful of hot skillet handle, add oil and heat until just smoking. Cook steaks, without moving them, until lightly browned on first side, about 2 minutes. Flip steaks and cook until lightly browned on second side, about 2 minutes.
  4. Flip steaks, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, flipping every 2 minutes, until steaks are well browned and meat registers 120 to 125 degrees (for medium-rare), 7 to 9 minutes. Transfer steaks to carving board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice steaks ½ inch thick and serve.

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