Cast Iron Steaks with Herb Butter
Why This Recipe Works
To pan-sear a thick-cut steak, we turned to a cast-iron skillet since its heat-retention properties are ideal for a perfect sear. We chose the moderately expensive boneless strip steak for its big, beefy flavor. But when we tried preheating the skillet on the stovetop, cast iron’s uneven heat distribution properties created an equally uneven sear on our steaks. As a result, we ended up preheating the skillet in the oven. To get a perfectly even sear, we used quite a large amount (2 tablespoons) of oil, since this meant that the steaks’ surfaces remained in contact with the heat even as the steaks unevenly contracted during cooking. We started out flipping our steaks only once, halfway through cooking. But we found that flipping the steaks more often led to a shorter cooking time and a smaller gray band of dry, overcooked meat just under the surface of the steaks. After testing different flipping techniques and heating levels, we found that flipping the steaks every 2 minutes and transitioning from medium-high to medium-low heat partway through cooking resulted in a perfectly browned, crisp crust and a juicy, evenly cooked interior every time.
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Don’t forget to take the butter out to soften at least 30 minutes before you start to cook.
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position, place 12-inch cast-iron skillet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Meanwhile, season steaks with salt and let sit at room temperature. Combine butter, shallot, parsley, chives, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in bowl; set aside.
2. 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.
3. 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, dollop 2 tablespoons herb butter on each steak, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice steaks 1/2 inch thick and serve.