Getting wedding gifts from people has been more fun than I thought it would be (it’s still a little weird that people are giving us stuff to celebrate us making a commitment to each other!), and one of the things we got early on that’s made me incredibly happy is a Lodge 12” cast-iron skillet. (If you’re not at the point where a wedding registry is in your life, you can get your own from Amazon for the bank-breaking sum of $13, or from Crate & Barrel for $22.) Last night, I decided to use the skillet to prepare part of our first home-cooked meal as married folk, a cut of sirloin steak. Being the dork I am, I did a little research on different ways to make sirloin in a cast-iron skillet, and ended up with a method that was as damn near perfect as I can imagine coming out of my kitchen.

First, I set the oven to preheat to 350º, put the skillet on the largest gas burner, and turned it on to its highest setting. Then I rubbed each side of the sirloin with a generous portion of salt and a little pepper, and let it sit at room temperature while the oven and skillet heated up. Once the oven was heated and the skillet was hot enough (a good test is sprinkling a little water on the skillet surface; if the water balls up and rolls around a little bit before evaporating, it’s perfect), I put the sirloin in — 30 to 45 seconds on one side, 30 to 45 seconds on the other side, then about 3 more minutes on each side. Once that was done, I put the entire skillet into the oven for another eight minutes (with my slightly-more-than-an-inch-thick steak, good for cooking to medium; add another minute or two for medium well to well-done, or take off a minute or two for a rarer meat temperature). Finally, I took the steak out, put it onto a heated plate, and covered it with tin foil for five or so minutes, enough to let the meat contract a little bit while keeping all the juices inside.

In the end, the meat was done nearly perfectly — Shannon suggested that I use a little garlic powder along with the salt and pepper next time. And since the cast-iron skillet is well-seasoned, cleanup was a cinch! The only thing to be warned about is the stovetop cooking step — know that it’ll generate a little more smoke than you’d probably expect, so be sure to have either your stovetop fan running, or (if you’re like us and don’t have one!) have a window open and a nearby fan helping circulate the air. And remember that you might want to disable any nearby smoke detectors!


Garlic salt is also good, like regular salt it helps the meat sear. But don’t get the cheap powdery stuff, I recommend Spice Islands Garlic Salt, it isn’t powdery, it’s rather chunky and thick.
My grandfather was a USDA meat inspector and researcher, I inherited his set of 3 iron skillets, but they’re so hard to use properly on my electric stove, so I just use my T-Fal teflon pan for most general cooking. He used to tell me all sorts of stories about his research in cooking beef, he invented one gas grill that was intended for restaurants to cook steaks in the minimum time. It had gas jets pointing at the steak from all directions. He said it cooked steaks that were perfectly seared, but were raw in the center. He never got it to work.

• Posted by: Charles on Oct 26, 2005, 1:53 PM

Buy two and you get free shipping on a 16 pound package. Amazon must be in the red on that purchase.

• Posted by: smackfu [LiveJournal user info] on Oct 26, 2005, 2:01 PM

Garlic salt! I said garlic salt!

• Posted by: Shannon [TypeKey Profile Page] on Oct 26, 2005, 3:39 PM

I cooked two Filet Medallions last night for Michelle and I using the method you suggested, OMG, so good! Great suggestion.

• Posted by: Aimer [TypeKey Profile Page] on Oct 27, 2005, 7:07 PM

Wow! Came across this blog entry when looking for appropriate steak cooking times for my cast iron skillet. Decided to try your method! You should write a book. It was fantastic! Any other secrets?

• Posted by: G on Dec 11, 2005, 9:07 PM
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