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Conventional wisdom would have you believe that a steak and a grill are inseparable; you can’t have a nice, juicy steak without a grill to cook it on.
However, that’s not quite true. In fact, you could have the best, juiciest, tastiest steak you’ve ever had…using nothing more than your stovetop and a nice skillet.
How? Well, it’s simpler than you might think.
Step 1: Salt That Steak!
Marinating is optional here, contrary to other popular wisdom. Sirloin (particularly top sirloin, the better cut) is very naturally flavorful, and with just a few aromatics and the sear of the pan, you get all the flavor you could really want from the steak with very minimal effort.
No, what’s most important here is making sure your steak is DRY above all else. Salting the steak using large grain kosher salt up to 24 hours before cooking it will desiccate the exterior of the steak and ensure that it sears a nice, beautiful brown.
Make sure to apply the salt at least 30 minutes before cooking; that bit is non-negotiable. The salt needs a bit of time to work its magic, and 30 minutes is the absolute minimum needed here.
Step 2: Prepare your Skillet
Cast iron gets ripping hot without any issues, which is exactly what you want in this circumstance. Crank that heat as high as it will go and get that skillet as hot as you can manage. The secret to a good steak, whether you’re cooking it on the grill or on your stove, is sealing all the good stuff inside the steak.
Extremely high heats will quickly sear the exterior, preventing juices from leaking out of the steak and keeping it juicy and flavorful on the interior. This is the most important step that a lot of people get wrong; not getting the heat high enough is the downfall of many a good steak.
Note that it is very important you do not add any oil or butter at this stage, as it will (perhaps counterintuitively) create less of a sear. It just hinders the process.
Step 3: Add Seasoning
Adding a bit of extra seasoning to your steak is at this stage appropriate, though not strictly necessary; the salt alone should be pretty good, and besides a bit of fresh cracked black pepper, there’s not a whole ton that adding extra seasoning will do. While I like a good blackened seasoning on my steak, Cajun style, that kind of cooking is very much best saved for the grill, where the cook is going to be a bit more “open” and the seasoning is going to stick to your steak a whole lot better, only really burning off where the grates directly touch your meat.
In a skillet like this, adding excessive seasoning is just going to lead to somewhat mediocre results, but it’s not going to ruin the steak or anything (though it might lead to an unwanted level of required cleanup afterward to scrape off the stuck bits of seasoning).
Do, however, prepare about 3 tablespoons of butter no matter what else you do with the steak at this stage. That’s going to be very important in a step or two. It’s also recommended to prepare a few fresh aromatics; thyme leaves, garlic, onion, etc. Whatever you feel like.
Step 4: Drop that Steak in There
Slap the steak in the pan and be prepared to work fast, because from here on out you don’t really get a chance to stop moving.
You’re going to be flipping your steak every minute from here on out until it’s done, which is going to vary based on how well you want the steak. I prefer mine medium rare, so about 3 minutes on each side, for a total of 6 minutes of cooking time. If you have a meat thermometer, this is a great time to whip it out; for that perfect medium rare steak you’re shooting for an internal temperature of 130 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
Halfway through cooking (so after the third flip for our medium rare steak), toss in the butter and aromatics (if any). From here on out the steak is going to be butter basting as well, since the sear is largely finished at this point.
Continually baste the steaks in the butter in between the last three flips, and watch the butter work its magic, soaking into those cracks and crevices in the meat and really providing an extra kick of flavor; your aromatics will be working overdrive in the extremely high heats and fatty butter, soaking their flavor into the butter almost instantly, and in turn transferring that deliciousness to the steak.
Alternatively, rather than continuing to “babysit” the steak, you can pop it into a 450 degree oven for the remaining cook time, flipping once about halfway through (so a minute and a half in for our medium rare top sirloin). This technique works best with thicker, bone in steaks like a ribeye however (which take significantly longer to cook), and is not one I necessarily recommend for a sirloin unless you really have something else you need to do for a couple of minutes.
Step 5: Serve
And your steak is done! You can rest the steak or serve immediately with sides of your choice; either way works fine. A rested steak will be marginally more tender, while a non-rested steak will be marginally hotter. This is really entirely up to personal preference.
Dig into your steak, and likely be amazed at how flavorful and juicy it came out, all without ever being kissed by a real flame. What you lack in charcoal or wood fired flavorings and grill line you more than make up for with buttery goodness.