Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
May 17, 2011 06:20 PM

Steak on a skillet: finish in butter or in oven?

Hey, this is my first post here even though I've been reading and enjoyed your posts for a couple of years now...

I need your advice on cooking steak at home today, specifically filet mignon. Here is my "story": I used to have only cheap crappy $3 skillets so I was basically heating a mixture of olive oil and butter and fried my meat like that. The result was not as bad as you'd think. Now I finally have a proper cast iron skillet and I've tried Chow's "basic steak" ( a few times only to find out that my steak comes out _worse_ than with my old tried routine. It's always too dry! So I started experimenting a bit and I finally settled on a modified procedure where instead of finishing it in the oven I boil my steak in butter/oil mixture - it comes out very tender then. I've done this at least a dozen times and the results are pretty stable. What do you think?

At the risk of being boring here's my procedure:
I always buy this cut at the same store, I let it seat for about 30 mins at home temperature, cover it with olive oil and salt/pepper, heat my iron skillet in the oven at 500 F for 20 mins, then a few more mins on the stove top, put steaks on the dry skillet and wait 3 mins a side (or basically until it's unstuck), then put it in a mix of butter/olive oil and basically boil it in there for a few more mins (instead of returning the skillet to the oven), then cover it loosely with foil and let it sit there for another 15 mins. You might tell me it's not a "steak" anymore since it's boiled, but... it tastes good.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. What I find unacceptable with Chow's steak is that it is placed in the oven immediately after turning it. I allow it to remain in the pan, on burner, another three minutes (+-) and then finish it in the oven. When I remove it from the oven I wrap it in foil and allow it to rest. While it's resting I prepare a sauce, using olive and butter (the butter thickens the sauce) in the pan. Often with a bit of wine to deglaze the pan.

    1. I don't like butter with my steaks; in fact, I don't really like butter much at all.

      But then that's not the point, right? If you enjoyed it, then that's all that matters. Sauteing in butter/oil seems to suit your palate. Keep doing what you're doing.

      If you like it, you certainly don't need any approval or ratification from anyone else.

      1. They look awesome!
        I've never cooked a steak in a skillet, BUT after licking, um looking at your pics, I will.
        Thanks! Hammy

        1. If you're happy with the outcome, that's what really matters. Your technique is sound, a cast iron pan is the best piece of equipment for cooking a steak, outside of a grill, imo, and you're getting results you like.

          On other points and terminology, your cut is a lovely filet, from the center portion of the tenderloin, you may already know what cut you have; you are sautéing, or pan frying, depends on the amount of fat you use, not boiling (unless you're using cups of butter/oil, and you wouldn't boil a steak then either). "Boiling" a filet or any steak sounds scary to me. Not being critical, just fyi.

          Try basting the steak with the butter/oil, while it's sautéing. Throw a few sprigs of fresh thyme in the fat. To what degree do you cook/like your steak?

          I also subscribe to todao's method of continuing to saute the steak for a few minutes after turning, prior to placing it in the oven, it'll cook more evenly, and I lightly tent it during the rest. You don't want to steam it in a foil house. No boiling, no steaming.

          Good job, great photos, enjoy.

          1. Thank you all for your comments, I'll try your suggestions. You're right I guess "basting" serves the same purpose - I hold the pan at an angle like on the pic 6 so as much of the steak surface and sides are covered in foaming butter as possible. I shoot for medium rare.

            I guess my point was I'm a bit disappointed in chow's "basic steak" in that it comes out too dry, but I wasn't sure if the process was flawed or it's just me doing it wrong

            5 Replies
            1. re: zhirzha

              A filet has very little fat in it, so the technique one would use for say a strip or ribeye would turn out a dry filet.

              You are doing nothing wrong. :) But you aren't "boiling" your steak either. Thank heaven!

              1. re: tzurriz

                Excellent observation! However ribeye is usually cut thinner compared to filet mignon, so returning it to the oven will probably not give me a medium rare, or am I wrong? I can't cut time on the skillet because the meat is pretty much stuck to it for 3 mins or so... but it might be worked around by using a grill pan maybe...

                BTW, my bone-in ribeyes always turn out too fatty, do you do anything to this fat? I've tried to marinate it overnight but it's still too much fat

              2. re: zhirzha

                Your technique is much like the one used in most restaurants just without using the spoon bashwickgirl mentioned. With the spoon, you can work on both sides at once.

                1. re: escondido123

                  bashwickgirl, funny, I have been known to. I hope that was just a typo.;)