Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cast Iron Chef: Tequila Steaks

Cast Iron Chef week continues. Friday I wrote about the beauty of cast iron grill grates. Today's weapon of choice is the iconic cast iron skillet.

The cast iron skillet is an amazing tool. It can be used stove top for the best fried chicken. It can be used in the oven for skillet cornbread. It can withstand high temperatures and it's ability to dole out even heat is unmatched. And as Steven Segal showed us in Out For Justice, they make a great personal defense weapon!

Although it is arguably the most durable piece of cookware, the cast iron skillet does require maintenance in the way of maintaining it's "seasoning". That is what gives it it's non-stick properties and keeps it from rusting. Here are some tips for cleaning and storing your skillet.
  • NEVER EVER EVER put it in a dishwasher or use soaps. That will wash off your seasoning.
  • Wash your cast iron with hot water and a stiff brush immediately after use (but not while still hot, sudden temp changes can crack it).
  • If you have a sticky spot that you can't get clean, put about 1" of water in the skillet and heat to boiling for 1 minute. Let it start to cool and then carefully scrub with a stiff brush. (While this will work, you'll probably have to reseason it after this.)
  • Towel dry your skillet as soon as you wash it and apply a light coat of vegetable oil with a paper towel.
  • If you have a cast iron skillet with a lid, store it with a towel inside between the lid and skillet. This will let air circulate and help avoid rust.
When I grilled steaks on the Big Green Egg lately, I get a lot of comments about wanting to grill but the weather isn't cooperating. If you are going to do steaks inside, a large cast iron skillet is your pan. Last night, I pan seared some NY strip steaks to use in paninis.

A friend brought me some tequila back from her honeymoon in Mexico. No story that contains the phrase "and then we started doing shots of tequila" ever ends up well, so I thought I'd use it for cooking instead.

It made for a cool light show as the afternoon sunlight splashed across the counter top.

Okay, enough playing around. Let's pan sear some steaks!

Tequila Steaks

2 ea NY strip steaks
1/4 cup tequila
3 ounces olive oil
3 ounces lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ea dried red chili pepper, crumbled (substitute 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon garlic pepper (equal parts pepper and garlic powder)

Whisk marinade ingredients together, pour into a ziploc bag with the steaks and marinade them for 4 hours. For the last hour, remove the steaks from refrigeration to let the temp start to rise. Place the bag in warm water if you're in a hot tub kind of mood:)

Preheat a cast iron skillet in a 450f oven for about 15 minutes. You want that skillet smoking hot, literally. When it just starts to smoke a little bit, move the skillet to a burner over high heat.

TIP: It is very important to remember the skillet handle is very hot during this whole process. It's easy to absentmindedly touch the hot handle while searing the steaks. If you don't want to wear an oven mitt the whole time, turn a short oven mitt inside out and slide it over the handle.

Remove the steaks from the marinade and discard the marinade. Pat the steaks dry but try not to wipe off any seasonings stuck to them. A dry & warm steak will result in a better sear and won't be as likely to stick to the skillet.

Place the steaks in the skillet and don't touch them for 90 seconds (rare) to 2 minutes (medium rare). Flip them and let the other side cook for the same length of time.

Now stick the skillet back in the oven for 6 more minutes.

Remove to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve.

Sizzling away.

Mine came out perfectly done for my tastes.

Thinly sliced....panini here I come!
Overall, I liked it but next time I'd add some cilantro, more red chili, and more pepper.

What's your favorite dish prepared in a cast iron skillet?
Do you have a cast iron skillet that was handed down to you from someone?
Do you have a "and then we started drinking tequila" story? (feel free to plead the 5th on that one too!)


  1. I love my cast iron skillet. I've only had it a couple of months and purchased it new at Army Surplus. I've not done steaks in it yet. I used it to sear and cook the scallops on NYE and I loved how it crisped and browned them. LOVE that skillet.
    I haven't had any hard alcohol for about two years (love my wine) and as a matter of fact just last night we went to dinner with friends at a local upscale Mexican restaurant with an extensive tequila menu that offers "tastings" and then we started drinking tequila....tastings turned into more tastings...then for some crazy reason I was ordering a Pomtini..........

  2. I have several of my grandmother's cast iron skillets, in all sizes. I use them anytime I want to get a good brown crust on something, especially steaks.

    Not going to touch the tequila question.

  3. I just love cast iron skillets! I have several different sizes depending on how much I'm cooking :)

  4. It is a little cool round here today - great job- steaks look very good. When I was a kid Mom always cooked with cast iron and I couldn't wait to get some good cookware (non cast iron) when we set up house. I've come full circle and have restocked with cast iron - both skillets and large pots - live and learn. Final comment - tequila makes almost everything better.

  5. My husband recieved a new grill and all the cast iron accessories to go with it! Thanks for the recipes, I will have my husband cook this for me soon!

  6. My 12" cast iron skillet is one of my most treasured kitchen tools!! I've had it for about 10 years now and hope to pass it on to my grandchildren. I always wanted my grandma's...don't know what became of it when we lost her (I was only in 8th grade). I do have a couple of smaller ones, as well that don't get used as much, but are great anyway. I actually just used them today to make some tart tatins! Seriously, my big one gets used almost every day!! Oh yes, and your steaks look delicious! And I believe I will take the 5th on the tequila question ;)

  7. I love tequila!!!! Your steaks sound and look wonderful. I have a cast iron skillet, but I don't use it much......I should start using it now :)

  8. Great steaks! I will have to try some this way. I love your light show.

  9. i love my cast iron skillets. i would be lost without them. I think my fav. thing to cook in them is....FRIED OKRA!!! hahaha. oh, and cornbread. and sauteed chicken and breakfast gravy and ....ok, i'll stop already

  10. My mom gave me her 10" iron skillet at Christmas - we might have to try these steaks in it! Love the picture of the tequila bottles in the light - really cool.

  11. First of all, I love the deep cast iron skillet in your first picture. I want one like that! The tequilla light show is awesome, crazy pics. Your steak turned out perfectly with just the right amount of pink and I love the flavors you used. I heat up my cast iron for steaks on the stovetop, but like your method of putting in a 450F oven first to heat. I sear and pan roast a lot in my cast iron, mostly thick pork chops. I wasn't lucky enough to get cast iron handed down, but I did buy mine from The Lodge outside of Gatlinburg. Last time I drank tequila it was in Nashville. Let's just say I left signs of evidence on the car ride home, not too pretty. It was one of those deals where you say "never again".

  12. My most used and cherished piece of kitchen equipment is my cast iron pan handed down from generation to generation! Great tips on caring for it. I've been a pan fryer for years!

  13. Ok so like you are my hero with this recipe. I love the sound of tequila steaks. My experience with Patron is too painful to remember without a grimace and stomach ache.

    I have a set of 3 cast iron pans. Brand new from a garage sale for $5.00.. I lucked out. Havent used them yet.

    I also have a much larger one that has slight rust, any way to remedy that?

  14. I have one big Dutch oven I used to use in chili contests..I had to reseason it every time after a contest, as the acid in the tomatoes would eat away part of it! Once a year, I'd get it shot blasted clean, and then season it..

  15. I love that color shot. Beautiful!

    Nothing better than cast iron, or more durable. I have a stockpot that's probably as old as I am, the heaviest, most sturdy thing I own and everything that comes out of it, magically, seems to taste better.

  16. Nice recipe. I have a bottle of cheap Mezcal that I keep around for cooking with. It gets me that nice tequila flavor, but lets me keep the good stuff for personal consumption.

    I have a No10 Griswold Dutch oven that I rescued from a life as a flower pot. It's got to be 3rd or 4th generation. Works great on the BGE.

    As for my tequila story - one minute we were doing a few shots on the beach, the next minute I found myself captaining a 25 foot catamaran down the east shore of Bahia de Banderas. It was a hoot.

  17. Growing up my mom only used cast iron skillets for almost everything. Then I left home and I didn't have one, I freaked out a little, haha. I still don't have one. Your post is making me seriously consider finally buying my own.

  18. I got a bottle of Cabo Wabo tequila for Christmas, but I won't be cooking with's for sippin'! This sounds like a great recipe.

    My Mom gave me a cast iron skillet, and it's the only way to make cornbread, as far as I'm concerned. I used a medium-grind cornmeal, and it consistently comes out with a nice crunch on the outside, perfectly done on the inside.

  19. I have a couple of cast iron skillets and am on the hunt for a couple of more items to add to the collection. Ooo, I want a flattish one for pizza on the kettle too.

  20. Cast Iron is a must have tool for any kitchen. With a Lodge Logic store only a few miles away, it's crazy that I haven't replaced the generations old cast iron pans an Dutch Oven I lost in Katrina.

  21. I have a cast iron comal that I always use for heating tortillas and frying bread for bruschetta. I used to have a skillet (but lost in the divorce) that I used to make skillet corn bread - the pre-heated skillet gave cornbread the best crunchy crust. I'm going to have to replace it, now that I think about it. Patron Silver is that start to a festive evening. :)


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