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Using a cast-iron skillet on the grill is the key to giving your steak the perfect crust and a tender, juicy inside.
There’s more than one way to grill a steak. Our Test Kitchen loves the reverse-sear method (starting over low heat and finishing with a super-hot sear). It’s perfect, especially when we’ve got our hands on a thick-cut steak. Using a cast-iron skillet on the grill is very similar, and it works every time—no matter how thick your steak and whether you like your steak medium-rare, well-done or something in between.
Plus, it’s another excuse to use Grandma’s hand-me-down cast-iron skillet.
How to grill a steak with a cast-iron skillet
Step 1: Start with a clean grill
Dirty grates don’t sear your food; they just keep burning the leftover food. Here’s our guide to cleaning the grill.
Step 2: Prep your steaks
Prepare your steaks as you normally would for grilling (you can use our seasoning blend here). My own personal favorite is a simple rub of salt, pepper and brown sugar followed by a light splash of soy sauce.
Step 3: Heat the grill and your skillet
Place your cast-iron skillet on one side of the grill, close the grill and let the grill (and the skillet) heat up to between 450 and 500 degrees.
Step 4: Sear your steaks
Rub a bit of olive oil on your steaks and place them on the grill, but don’t close the grill (don’t worry…the cast-iron skillet won’t lose its heat). Using tongs, turn the steaks after 1-2 minutes. You should have grill marks now!
Step 5: Cook the steaks through
Move the steaks to the cast-iron skillet and close the lid. If the temperature registers at over 400 degrees, open the lid again and let some heat out. Turn the steaks several times while they cook to the desired doneness, using an instant-read thermometer as your guide. Your steak will continue to cook a bit after you take it off the grill.
Step 6: Let the steaks rest…topped with butter
Take the steaks off the heat and let them rest for about 10 minutes before slicing. While they’re resting, top with butter, which will melt into the steaks as they release their juices.
Why your cast-iron skillet works so well
- Better heat conduction: Your grill’s grates concentrate heat wherever they touch, but the cast-iron surface helps temper those hotspots. The cast-iron also distributes the heat for more even cooking throughout, as well as for a more consistent crust over the steak’s surface.
- No scorching: Grilling your steak on a cast-iron skillet allows your steak to cook through evenly and without scorching—because the juices aren’t dripping through the grates, causing flareups.
- Your steak bathes in its own juices: Because your steak’s juices aren’t dripping through the grates, they’re also constantly bathing your steak in its own flavors. The cast-iron surface further brings out those flavors.