Pan Seared Cowboy Steak

This is a really easy recipe for pan-seared cowboy steak. The steak turns out tender and juicy with a nice crispy crust. The butter, garlic, and herbs add to the flavor. Just a heads up, though – this recipe works best for a cowboy steak that’s at least 1.5 inches thick.

The Ingredients You’ll Need

To prepare a cowboy steak in a skillet on the stovetop, you’ll need:

  • Cowboy steak (at least 1.5 inch thick)
  • High-smoke point oil (I recommend avocado oil)
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground pepper
  • Unsalted butter
  • Thyme or rosemary
  • Garlic cloves

The Tools You’ll Need

  • Cast Iron Skillet
  • Tongs
  • Instant Read Thermometer

How to Cook Cowboy Steak on a Stove

First, let’s gather all your ingredients together, then dive into the steps below. It’s more than just a simple recipe; it’s a collection of handy tips to help you cook the perfect cowboy steak on a stove.

all ingredients for pan seared cowboy steak
Ingredients: Black pepper, garlic, salt, butter, avocado oil, rosemary, and cowboy steak

Step 1: Prepare the Cowboy Steak

First, grab a paper towel and pat the cowboy steak until it’s dry. Now, you have three ways to go about salting it:

Option 1: What I usually do is salt both sides of the steak, then place it on a rack. Make sure there’s space all around it for air to circulate. Stick it in the fridge and leave it overnight. Yes, it takes a while, but trust me, it’s worth it. The steak ends up drier on the surface and tastier when you cook it the next day. I always do this when I’m searing a steak on the stove.

Option 2: If you can’t wait until tomorrow, no worries. Just salt the steak, let it rest for about 45 to 60 minutes, then pat it dry again. It won’t be as perfect as the overnight method, but it’ll still add some extra taste to your steak.

Option 3: In a hurry? Just skip the salting for now and jump straight to the next step.

Each method of salting a steak has advantages and disadvantages, which you will understand better once you learn how salt interacts with steak. The steak must be dry outside because moisture is a no-go for a great crust. Here’s the thing with salting: right after you sprinkle the salt, it pulls moisture out, making the steak surface wet. But, if you’re patient and let the steak sit for a while, it’ll reabsorb those juices, and the steak surface will become super dry. This process takes a while, so leaving your steak in the fridge overnight is your best bet.

Therefore, when it comes to choosing your salting method for a cowboy steak, it all depends on what you want to achieve and how much time you have. From my experience, if you’re not in a hurry, option #1 is your best bet. You won’t regret it.

raw cowboy steak
Cowboy steak, 24 hours after salting

Step 2: Preheat the Cast-Iron Skillet

Place your cast iron skillet on the stove over medium-high heat and give it 2-3 minutes to get hot. Next, add a tablespoon of refined avocado oil to the skillet and wait another minute. Your pan should reach a minimum of 400°F within those 3-4 minutes, but it will likely be closer to 450°F. This temperature is perfect for searing a steak.

Cast iron skillet heated to 446 degrees F
Cast iron skillet heated to 446°F

Meanwhile, get your steak ready. If you haven’t seasoned it yet with salt, now’s the time. First, sprinkle finely ground black pepper on both sides. Then, if you haven’t already salted it in a previous step, season the steak on both sides with salt. After this, place the steak immediately onto the hot skillet.

Cowboy steak seasoned with ground black pepper
Cowboy steak seasoned with ground black pepper

Step 3: Place the Cowboy Steak in the Skillet

Make sure your skillet is super hot before you start. Now, take your seasoned cowboy steak and lay it in the skillet. Give it a gentle press with your hand – just enough to make good contact with the pan. Cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 100°F. Flip it every 30-60 seconds for an even cook on both sides.

When checking the steak’s temperature, insert your instant-read thermometer probe directly into the middle, not just at the edges, to measure the internal temperature accurately. You want to know how hot it is inside. Once the steak reaches 100°F, add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, and butter, and wait for the butter to melt. In the meantime, sear the edges of the steak.

Step 4: Baste the Cowboy Steak with Butter

Once the butter has melted, reduce the heat to low or medium-low. Tilt the cast iron skillet to pool the butter and other ingredients near the bottom edge. Grab a spoon, and let’s get basting. Gently spoon the butter over the steak in a kind of rhythmic dance. Continue this for about 30 seconds, flip the steak, and repeat on the other side.

baste the cowboy steak with the melted butter
Baste the cowboy steak with the melted butter

In the meantime, check the internal temperature of the steak. Remove it from the pan when it reaches 15-20°F below the target doneness temperature. For example, for medium-rare doneness with a target temperature of 130°F-140°F, remove the steak at around 115°F. For more details on this step, please see the FAQ section below. If you prefer your steak to be more well-done, continue cooking and basting it until it reaches the desired temperature.

Remember to turn off the burner after removing the steak from the pan.

Cowby steak internal temperature 117 F
Cowboy steak internal temperature: 117.5°F

Step 5: Let the Pan-Seared Cowboy Steak Rest

Do not cut into the steak immediately after removing it from the pan! Allow it to rest for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Due to carryover cooking, the steak continues to cook even after being removed from the heat and can potentially increase its internal temperature by 15-20°F. Also, resting allows the juices to redistribute, ensuring a juicier steak when sliced.

Cooked cowboy steak
Cooked cowboy steak

After waiting a few minutes without moving the steak, it’s time to slice it. You can cut it in any way you prefer, as it will be exceptionally tender. Finally, pour the remaining butter over the steak and garnish with seared garlic, rosemary, or thyme.

pan-seared cowboy steak; medium-rare doneness
Pan-seared cowboy steak; medium-rare doneness

FAQs

When’s the best time to remove a cowboy steak from the pan?

The best time to remove a cowboy steak from the pan is when its internal temperature is about 15°F below your target final temperature. Why? Due to carryover cooking, the steak keeps cooking even after you take it off the heat. Thanks to carryover cooking, the temperature can go up another 15-20°F, especially if you cook a thick steak like a cowboy steak, 1.5-2 inches thick or more.

I took the steak out when it reached 117.5°F. After resting for almost 10 minutes, its temperature increased by as much as 17°F, reaching 134.4°F. This is why you should remove the steak earlier when pan-searing, especially if the steak, like the one used in this recipe, is about 1.75 inches thick.

Cowboy steak internal temperature: 134.4°F
Cowboy steak internal temperature: 134.4°F

What is the best doneness for a pan-seared cowboy steak?

In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with medium-rare doneness (130°F-140°F). The fat starts to melt at 130°F+, so cooking a cowboy steak to medium-rare doneness allows the fat to melt, making the cowboy steak more juicy and flavorful. Of course, this is just my opinion based on experience; you can cook it to whatever doneness you prefer.

baste the cowboy steak with the melted butter

Pan-Seared Cowboy Steak

Adam Wojtow
This recipe's a real winner for a pan-seared cowboy steak. It turns out tender and juicy with a nice crispy crust. The butter, garlic, and herbs add a fantastic flavor.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
44 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine American

Ingredients
  

  • cowboy steak at least 1.5 inch thick
  • black pepper finely ground
  • butter unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon High-smoke point oil I recommend refined avocado oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • thyme or rosemary fresh

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the Steak:
    Pat the steak dry with a paper towel then choose a salting method:
    Option 1: Salt both sides and refrigerate overnight on a rack.
    Option 2: Salt, rest for 45-60 minutes, then pat dry.
    Option 3: Skip salting if in a hurry.
  • Preheat the Skillet:
    Heat the skillet over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes (reach ~450°F) then add a tablespoon of avocado oil and wait one more minute.
  • Season and Cook the Steak:
    Season the steak with black pepper (and salt if not already added), then place it in a skillet. Cook the steak by flipping it every 30-60 seconds. When the internal temperature reaches 100°F, add garlic, herbs, and butter.
  • Baste the Steak:
    Reduce heat to low/medium-low. Tilt skillet and spoon melted butter over the steak for 30 seconds, then flip and repeat. Remove the steak from the pan when its internal temperature is 15-20°F below the target doneness temperature.
  • Rest the Steak:
    Let it rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

Notes

  1. For the best crust, make sure the steak is dry before cooking.
  2. Use an instant-read thermometer to check the steak’s internal temperature.
  3. Don’t forget about resting the steak after cooking.

More Pan-Seared Steak Recipes To Try

Photo of author

Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam Wojtow is a Polish entrepreneur and writer who founded Steak Revolution in 2020 because of his passion for steaks. Adam has been cooking steaks for over 5 years, so he understands well all aspects of steak, from the types of steaks and their cooking times to choosing the best cooking technique for any steak.