Cooking in cast iron is one of my favorite things to do right now, whether I’m making a skillet dish or these 20-minute pan seared steaks. There’s just something about this type of cookware that I think makes the food taste better.
It started slowly, after inheriting my grandmother’s favorite pan. And then, little by little, many of the pans in our home were swapped out for cast iron.
Even my favorite Dutch oven is cast iron at this point. It’s pure heaven to cook with, and did you know cast iron is insanely easy to clean too?
I know that cooking the perfect steak at home can be really intimidating. For years, I refused to even try to cook it myself because I was always so worried about getting the temperature right, or burning it.
Since this is one of my favorite meals to eat, I decided it was about time to perfect the process at home.
I think this is the easiest way to cook a boneless ribeye or New York strip, and it’s the most reliable. You get a crispy browned exterior and delicious flavor that just can’t be beat.
The heavy skillet gives you that perfect sear on the outside, locking in the juiciness on the inside.
Personally, I’m a big fan of any recipe that doesn’t require a ton of ingredients, and this one really highlights the flavor of the meat. The beef should be the star, and the common refrain really is true here – simpler is better.
Once you take a bite, I think you’ll agree with me completely. While I do enjoy (when I have the time) to let my steak sit for a few hours in a delicious marinade, I do love this easier, more basic recipe.
Even though we’re only using a few ingredients to prepare this entree, my biggest tip for you is to season the meat liberally. Don’t be concerned about the amount of salt and pepper you are sprinkling on.
You might think it looks like a lot, but we’re not being skimpy here for a reason. Combined with the butter in the pan, liberally seasoning the outside of the beef really brings out the magic of this protein.
My second biggest tip is to make sure you have your instant read thermometer handy, to test the temperature at the center of the steaks.
No one wants to cut into an undercooked or overcooked meat, and this is the best way to make sure you are nailing the temperature perfectly. For medium rare, you are looking for 130-135˚F.
Like yours a little less bloody? Increase the cook time by 1-2 minutes, and more importantly, note that you are looking for a temperature of about 10 degrees more for each level of doneness beyond medium rare.
That’s 135-145˚F for medium, and well done should register a temperature of 145-155˚F.
Steaks are so much more expensive to buy at restaurants, but paying a premium is unnecessary when it’s this easy to pull off on your own stovetop. You can also choose your favorite side dishes to plate up along with them, whether that’s green beans, mashed potatoes, fries, or a salad.
To really take them over the top with flavor, you can use our Steak Pizzaiola recipe as inspiration and serve them in a garlic tomato sauce.
But I like to add some umami-packed sauteed mushrooms. The rich and hearty vegetables are an ideal accompaniment to the protein, and plating these up together will make you feel like you are dining in the fanciest restaurant in town.
Feeding the entire family? That’s no problem! This recipe may easily be doubled or even tripled, depending on how many people you are serving. And if you have more than one cast iron skillet like I do, you can get a few going at once, so all of your entrees will be ready at the same time.Print
20-Minute Pan Seared Steak
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 2 servings 1x
Prepare steakhouse quality entrees right in your own kitchen with this incredibly simple 20-minute pan seared steak recipe. The beef is so juicy.
- 2 NY strip or boneless ribeye steaks (6-8 ounces each, 1/2-1 inch thick)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1–2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Sprinkle the meat evenly with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Preheat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until a drop of water disappears immediately when sprinkled in the center.
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet, then add the seasoned meat.
- Cook 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium rare inch-thick steaks, or to desired level of doneness. Note that you may have to adjust cooking time according to the thickness of the beef, as thinner cuts will need less time per side. If the pan is dry, add 1 tablespoon butter when you flip the meat.
- Remove from the skillet and serve with your choice of sides, and sauteed mushrooms on top, if you like.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Steak
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Beef
Keywords: steak, New York strip, ribeye
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Measure Ingredients and Season
Measure out your ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.
Pat the steaks dry with paper towels. Sprinkle them evenly with salt and pepper on both sides. Set aside.
Step 2 – Cook and Serve
Place a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan once it’s hot.
You can tell if it’s hot enough by dripping a drop of water in the center. If it sizzles away immediately, the pan is ready to go.
Once the butter has melted, swirl to coat the pan, and then add the cuts of meat.
Cook them for 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium rare inch-thick steaks, or to your preferred level of doneness. Thinner cuts of meat will need less time to cook.
My recommendation is to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. That way, though you might be tempted, you don’t have to actually cut into the meat to see if it’s cooked to your liking.
When you flip the steaks, add another tablespoon of butter if the pan is dry. Refrain from flipping them frequently or moving them around, so you can get a good sear on the meat.
Note to adjust the cooking time if your steaks are less than an inch thick. They will need less cooking time per side.
Remove from the skillet and serve. I like to let mine rest on a cutting board for a few minutes, under a loosely tented piece of foil to stay warm, so the juices will be redistributed throughout the meat rather than running out when I slice into it.
How Can I Ensure a Perfect Sear Every Time?
This is one of the questions I get the most often about cooking steak. But if you follow the simple directions I’ve outlined here, you can get dinner on the table with confidence.
First, be sure to get your cast iron skillet nice and hot before you add the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the pieces of beef to the pan, and don’t touch them.
Leave them alone completely, and resist the temptation to peek at them or flip them repeatedly.
They need a few minutes of undisturbed cooking time to develop that delicious crust.
Don’t worry, they won’t stick if they’re ready to be flipped. In about 4 minutes, they will easily pull away from the pan.
Looking for even more beef entrees to prepare at home, featuring irresistibly delicious steak? Check out these recipes from Foodal next:
- Italian Stuffed Steak Pinwheels
- Steak Frites
- Mediterranean Steaks with Spinach, Feta, and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
What are your favorite side dishes to serve with steak? Tell us in the comments below. And once you try this recipe, be sure to come back and rate it!
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on April 20, 2013. Last updated on January 9, 2020.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Meghan Yager
Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.