How to Prepare the Perfect Steak- Grilling vs. Cast Iron

  • by Lauren Nagel
four cooked ribeyes on cutting board

Guest Post by Lauren Nagel from Bonappeteach. 

​You’ve decided to step up your steak game by buying a delicious box of Omaha Steaks. Excellent choice. Since you were smart enough to venture into butcher cut, steakhouse quality cuts, you want to be smart enough to invest in learning the best ways to prepare them. Do you want the classic cross-hatch grill marks? Or does a sizzling, crispy crust from an all over sear wake your taste buds from their slumber? Decide which is best for you, as I break down grilling versus cast iron steak preparation. No matter the choice, learn how I make the perfect steak and get the most out of your investment.

Two of the most popular methods for cooking a steak are tossing them on the grill (high heat, hot and fast) or putting the rugged cast iron to work to produce a crispy sear. You can follow my written tutorial below and watch my step-by-step video to help guide you through this process.

It’s time for a science lesson from Bon Appeteach (you can take the culinary arts teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher)! Grilling and using cast-iron searing both have the same fundamental effect of creating a Maillard reaction. This is a chemical break down that occurs with the amino acids (the building blocks of the protein in the meat) and the reduction of sugars react when high heat is applied. In turn, causing the meat to darken and take on a stronger, richer depth of flavor.

For both methods, steak preparation, preheating, searing, and resting have similar guidelines. The difference is slight between the two methods, but take my hand (the one without the oven mitt) and I’ll walk you through the whole process with my techniques that reliably result in a beautiful, mouthwateringly tender steak, no matter which method you choose.

Cooking the perfect steak:

1. Preparation

Preparing the steak is critical. You can ruin a steak before you even put in on heat if you don’t pay attention to a few simple first steps. For both methods, always pat the steaks dry and remove any outside moisture. Moisture can actually steam your steaks and prevent the Maillard reaction we talked about. Salt the steaks (no pepper!) and allow it to rest at room temperature for at least thirty minutes prior to searing. A cold steak will result in a raw center to compliment your perfectly burnt outer crust, so always leave it out a bit longer than you think you should.

2. Preheating

Cast Iron- Use a large, 12″ cast iron skillet (so much room for activities). First, place your skillet in the oven while it preheats to 525 F. Preheating in the oven will get a consistent temperature on your pan and prevent any smoke from the oil already coating it from getting into your kitchen.

Grilling- Whether you use charcoal or gas, you want to use high heat (unless you decide to reverse sear first). I set my gas grill or charcoal grill to get as hot as possible during the preheating stage. Opening the grill periodically will cool it, so keep it closed. I like my grill to reach a minimum of 600 F. to ensure the grates get hot enough to leave a nice, dark sear line.

How to Prepare the Perfect Steak- Grilling vs. Cast Iron

3. Searing:

The Omaha Steaks Private Reserve Ribeye is an ideal cut for both methods. The steaks are well marbled and thick enough to handle a higher heat method without becoming overcooked too quickly (time and temperature still matter so be ready with that watch and thermometer).

Cast Iron-Remove the pan from the oven and place on a burner set to medium-high heat. Add a few teaspoons of oil to the pan (you don’t need a lot). Keep in mind that oils have different smoke points. To reduce smoke, try an avocado oil or grape seed oil. If your steak has a larger fat cap you can use the natural fat for this as well.

Sear the first side for one minute. Flip and repeat. Then, quickly reduce the heat to medium-low and flip again. At this point, add a few tablespoons of butter, some smashed garlic cloves and fresh herbs, like rosemary, thyme, or oregano, directly onto the meat. The butter adds flavor and improves the outside crust. Once the butter is melted, tip the pan and put the garlic and herbs into the butter to incorporate. Spoon the butter over the meat and rub garlic and herbs onto the steak. Flip and repeat.

Remember, the rendered fat creates most of the flavor and the fat on the sides of the steak need love too. Using tongs, place the steak on its edges against the corner of the pan for at least 30 seconds per edge. Set it back down in the pan and cook until it reaches your desired level of doneness. I prefer medium-rare and shoot for a temperature of 125 F.

Grilling- Lightly oil the steak (not the grill grates!) and place the steak over direct heat. To get the signature “diamond” sear pattern or cross-hatch, place the steak on a 45-degree angle to the grates. Grill the first side with the lid closed for one minute. Flip to a different area of the grill and repeat.

As you flip your steak again, rotate it 90-degrees to create the crosshatched pattern. I grill my steaks for around 3-5 total minutes per side (time will vary dramatically by thickness) and always check the temperature of your steak with a thermometer for accuracy. Use the Omaha Steaks cooking app to get the best grilling times for your steak cut.

How to Prepare the Perfect Steak- Grilling vs. Cast Iron

4. Rest

After all those activities, a short nap is usually in order. For both methods, place your steak on a plate and lightly tent with foil. The resting time is key to allow the rendered fat in the meat to redistribute, keeping the steak juicer when you finally go to slice (against the grain!) and take a bite.

Your center temperature will also increase for a few minutes after being removed from the heat, so keep this in mind when deciding what temperature to remove the meat at. The cast iron steak already received a nice butter bath, so in the interest of solidarity, I prefer to add a few pads of butter on top of my grilled steaks while it’s resting to add some additional flavor.

These steaks are perfect as is, but sometimes I like to go the extra mile and add some homemade Fire Roasted Red Chimichurri or maybe a Low Carb Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Steak Sauce. Now that the steak is covered, make a whole meal and pair it with one of Omaha Steaks delicious side dishes, like this classic Family-Size Whipped Sweet Potatoes or this lower carb side of Steakhouse Cauliflower Gratin.  Hopefully you find yourself eager to compare and contrast these two methods in your kitchens and your grill stations. Leave a comment below and tell us which method you prefer.

Lauren Nagel is a Midwest native with a passion for all things food and cooking. By trade, Lauren is a licensed Family and Consumer Sciences teacher, and has spent over seven years teaching high school culinary arts. Her passion for cooking and teaching helped inspire the creation of her “virtual” classroom, Bon Appeteach, in December of 2017. Today Lauren continues to blog, teach private courses, publish and photograph food and develop healthy recipes for everyday people.

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