The Best Way to Cook a Steak Without a Grill

Ready thy cast-iron skillet.

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A high angle extreme close up horizontal photograph of a sizzling bone in rib eye steak in a black cast iron pan.

Photo by: DebbiSmirnoff


By Heath Goldman for Food Network Kitchen

Cooking steak on a grill is one of the easiest ways to achieve a thick, crackling crust and juicy interior. Charcoal grills also impart a delightful smoky flavor. But what if you don't have access to a grill? Great news: It’s easy to achieve very similar results within your kitchen.

In short, the best way to cook a steak without a grill is to season it with a smoky rub, sear it in a cast-iron skillet and finish it in the oven. Whether you’re cooking a marbled prime ribeye, a lean London broil or something a little more middle of the road, we’re here to walk you through each and every step to achieving perfectly cooked steak.

First, thoroughly dry off your steak – yep, even if you’ve you soaked it in a marinade. Blotting it with some paper towels before you season it will create a deep-brown, flavorful crust. Doing so prevents the salt from melting and inhibits steam from forming when you place the steak in the pan. Moisture slows down the Maillard reactions, the process responsible for turning steak brown and crispy. So your goal is to eliminate as much moisture as possible from the steak’s surface.

After the steak is dry, brush it with some neutral oil (like canola oil or grapeseed oil) and generously season it with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. If you’d like to add a layer of smoky flavor, consider seasoning the steak with smoked salt instead of kosher salt, or rubbing on some smoked paprika.

Next, let the steak come to room temperature for about 30 minutes or so. While this step might seem unnecessary, it can mean the difference between a good steak and a great steak. That’s because if the steak comes straight from the fridge, it won’t cook evenly — the inside will stay raw even after the outside sears.

When you’re ready to start cooking, reach for your cast-iron skillet. You want a heavy-duty pan that can get scorching hot and distribute heat evenly, so put away your nonstick sauté pan, which won’t hold the heat as effectively.

Preheat the cast iron so it’s as hot as possible by either sticking it in a 400-degree F oven for 20 minutes or heating it over a high flame for about 10 minutes. Test that the pan is ready by adding a drop of water to it. The water should evaporate immediately.

Now place the steak in the pan. Note that you don’t add any oil to the pan — you’ve brushed the steak in oil, which will suffice. And any oil you added to the scorching pan would only smoke and burn. If the steak has a fat cap, sear that side first. Resist the urge to move the steak around in the pan as it cooks — the steak will brown better if it stays in place. Let the steak sear for a few minutes to develop a nice crust. You’ll know it’s time to flip when you can easily move the steak around in the skillet. If it sticks to the bottom, it’s not ready.

Flip the steak and sear it for several more minutes to develop golden-brown color on the second side. (If the steak you’re cooking is thick, make sure to pick it up using tongs and sear the edges all the way around.)

After you flip the steak, add a big pat of butter on top. It will melt and baste the steak, helping to caramelize the crust.

Transfer the steak to a 450-degree F oven for 3 to 10 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the steak reaches the desired numbers.

  • For medium-rare, cook the steak to 130 to 135 degrees F.
  • For medium, cook to 135 to 140 degrees F.
  • For medium-well, cook to 140 to 150 degrees F.

Keep in mind that the steaks will continue to cook and rise several degrees in temperature when they’re off the heat.

Finally, let the steak rest for about 5 minutes. You can loosely cover it with foil so it remains warm while the juices redistribute evenly. If you don’t give the steak a rest, all of its flavorful juices will run out onto the cutting board when you slice it.

Last but not least, pair the steak with a couple fantastic sides. May we suggest Garlic Mashed Potatoes or Creamed Spinach?

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