Why this recipe works
Pan-searing a thick-cut steak presents a real challenge: How do you keep the perimeter from overcooking while the center of the steak reaches the desired temperature for the perfect balance of crisp crust and tender, juicy interior? We’ve found that searing the steak over high heat and then gently finishing it in the oven works well. But we were looking for a way to make a steak with the ultimate crust entirely on the stovetop—so 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. The first step to a great sear was an evenly heated cooking surface, which we accomplished by preheating the cast-iron skillet in the oven. This also gave us time to prepare a zesty compound butter with shallot, garlic, parsley, and chives—and to let the steaks warm up to room temperature, which helped them cook more quickly and evenly. Salting the outside of the steaks while they rested pulled moisture from the steaks while also seasoning the meat. This helped us get a better sear.
We started out flipping our steaks only once, halfway through cooking. However, 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.
2 (1-pound) boneless strip steaks, 1½ inches thick, trimmed
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
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. Mix butter, shallot, parsley, chives, garlic and ¼ teaspoon pepper together in bowl; set aside until needed.
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, until lightly browned on first side, about 2 minutes. Flip steaks and continue to cook until lightly browned on second side, about 2 minutes.
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 loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice steaks into ½-inch-thick slices and serve.
Thick-Cut Steaks with Blue Cheese–Chive Butter
Omit shallot and parsley. Increase chives to 2 tablespoons and add 1/3 cup crumbled mild blue cheese to butter with chives.