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Cast Iron Pan Too Hot?

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Can a cast iron pan be too hot to sear a steak?

I use the sear roast method of getting the pan really hot, little oil on the steak then sear both sides about 2 mins then finish in the oven for about 6 to 8 minutes. This usually works beautifully in a stainless steel pan.

So I bought my first pre seasoned cast iron pan thinking it would do even a better job but instead, I got so much smoke in the house after 1 minute in the pan I had to move the steaks out. The sear or dark color was just in a few spots not even.

Is it possible that my pan is just too hot? I though cast iron was the best for searing things? I know its supposed to smoke but it was reducibility smokey all the windows and doors had to be open could see a cloud in the next room!

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  1. I don't think the CI pan has to be that hot.
    and yes, I've done that, too. :)

    1. Yes, it can get too hot. There are lots of variables related to your individual stove and pan, but start by preheating for 5 minutes or so on medium. That's all I need on my electric cooktop, which doesn't get all that hot with other pans (I'd need high with my Calphalon nonstick).

      2 Replies
      1. re: greygarious

        Ok, thanks, I do have an electric cook top, 90 percent of the time the setting is on 3. 10 only for boiling water.

        But I read and watch these cooking shows and they all say "make sure the pan is screaming hot"

        1. re: greygarious

          I'm with Greygarious---yes, it can get too hot. I have an electric ceramic top and I do have to be careful with cast iron pans getting so hot that they burn the meat rather than sear it.

        2. Yes, it can be too hot. To preheat my cast iron pan for searing meat I heat it on medium temperature which provides a more even heating as if it's too high just the center of the pan gets way too hot. I leave it on for 5-10 minutes and know it's ready with either the water test, hold your hand over the pan and if you can't for more than 5 seconds it's good, or if the pan is lightly smoking. If it gets too hot I take it off the burner and let it cool a bit before putting any meat in it.

          1. Make sure your oil has a high smoke point. Grapeseed oil is one option.

            Restaurants sear steaks at up to 1000 degrees. You're probably not reaching "too hot" on your cast iron pan at home.

            1. Unless you're doing filet, no oil is necessary and it just burns/smokes. Get the pan as hot as before, sprinkle a little coarse salt & toss in the steak. If you insist on using oil, you need lower heat for the reason you discovered.

              3 Replies
              1. re: rjbh20

                Well sometimes it is a filet, if I am lucky. But most of the time it is not. I know this is a stupid question, but are you sure it wont stick?

                We are not talking a 20 year old seasoned pan here. Its brand new, maybe been used only a dozen times so far.

                I hear all these great things about how Cast Iron is the original non-stick but I am leery about ruining a good steak.

                1. re: kjonyou

                  If it sticks, then it hasn't seared enough. It will release when it dries up enough.

                  I, also, never use oil. Oil is better for cooking evenly and distributing heat, but I hate the spattering.

                  1. re: kjonyou

                    I use about 1/4 teaspoon for a 9" CI pan. I heat the pan until the steak sizzles loudly when I put it in. While my normal pan is seasoned for 50 years so so, I do exactly the same when I use my "other" cast iron pan, too. It never sticks -- filet or any other.

                    BTW, I sear the sides, too.

                2. The pan's not too hot, but you don't need the oil. I preheat my CI to 500 degrees in the oven, then on a 20k BTU burner for 5 mins. There is some smoke but not much. Creates a great sear. I do 3 mins per side and finish with 4-6 in the oven (temp reduced to 400) depending on thickness of the steak for a good medium finish. Most often I only do 4 mins in oven and let it rest loosely covered for 5 mins outside the oven. I do this with steaks at 1.5-2" thickness though. Don't like thin steaks.

                  1. So turn the heat down.