Diner Style Steak and Eggs

December 20, 2012

When you think of the classic pairings in the world of food - Fish and Chips, Pork Chops and Applesauce, Gin and Tonic - one that doesn't get as much press is Steak and Eggs.  This is one of those great diner meals that, like a stack of flapjacks, any good line cook should be able to knock right out.  One big advantage the average greasy spoon restaurant has over the home cook is a well seasoned, super hot griddle and a broiler that can heat to over 1000 degrees.

This shouldn't be an obstacle for you, as one can still make awesome steak and eggs at home in a cast iron pan.  And you can prepare this in under 15 minutes, making it a great weeknight dinner option.  We're going to use a 2-step method of searing the steak first in the pan and then finishing it in the oven.  After the steak is cooked, we'll use the same pan to scramble the eggs.


Cast Iron Pan vs. Grilling 

I'll never disagree that a steak cooked over a blistering hot charcoal grill can't be beat.  Though, there are times of the year when this just isn't possible, such as Winter in Chicago.  Then there are the opportunities where we can make use of the goodness left behind by the finished steaks to cook something else....such as scrambled eggs.  This is where that diner flair gets imparted into your meal.  After you pull the pan from the oven and remove the cooked steak, a fair amount of fat that rendered off will be left in the pan.  No butter, oil or spray will be needed, just pour your eggs right in.  These will be some super tasty eggs when they are done.

Prepping the Steak

The first step with any piece of meat I'm going to cook is to give it a quick rinse in cold water and a through patting dry.  Getting all of the moisture off of the meat is essential in high heat cooking methods for two reasons: One is that water and hot oil are not friends, and react violently when they meet.  Second, water creates steam and steam can slow down the Maillard reaction that produces the crispy, yummy brown crust on the surface of the meat.

After rinsing and drying, season the surface with salt and pepper.  Some would suggest the meat goes back in a refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the salt to do its work.  While there are benefits to this, I'm talking about cooking a weeknight dinner here, not entering a steakhouse competition.  A couple of minutes on the counter is sufficient.  

Finally give the steaks a rub in a light amount of oil.  I like to use Grapeseed Oil because of its neutral flavor and very high smoke point (and both are reasons why Extra Virgin Olive Oil would be a bad choice).  The oil will raise the surface temperature of the steak, further augmenting the browning process.  Because the meat is oiled, I will be leaving the cast iron pan dry and un-oiled.
  

Rare, Medium or Overdone?

The most accurate way to know the doneness of meat is by using some variety of instant-read thermometer (many of which still need a good 10 seconds for an accurate reading). The challenge is that when you're cooking steaks in a matter of minutes, there isn't always time to stop and do this.  Here's a little trick that's faster and will give you just as good of information.

Let's do a quick lab exercise.  Take your index finger and lightly press on the tip of your nose.  This is well done.  Now press on the squishy part on the front of your chin.  This is roughly Medium.  Now put your index finger and thumb together on your left hand.  That soft spot there on your palm at the base of your thumb should be rare.  This is the same trick employed by grill-masters in fancy steakhouse kitchens.  Yes, the cook is sticking his finger in your steak.  And it works really well as long as you are pressing on the center-most part of the meat, which is the last to cook.  

Cooking

Have your oven preheated to 400 degrees and get your pan up to a point where it's literally smoking hot.  While this is taking place, get your eggs whisked and ready to go.  Finally, zero out your kitchen timer and be ready to start it as soon as the steak hits the pan.

Raw steak in a super hot pan
Raw steak in a super hot pan
Time in the pan is going to be short.  For cooking to Medium with a 3/4" thick steak, I'll cook it 1 minute per side.  Any less and it won't brown completely and will still stick to the pan - a signal from your pan that it's not yet done cooking the meat.  After 60 seconds, flip the steak over and cook for another 60 seconds.

One thing to keep in mind is that you always cook the presentation side first.  The first side in the pan had the advantage of being there for the hottest temperatures and will therefore have the best color.  After flipping, the pan has lost a lot of heat and there won't be as much browning.

After cooking both sides of the steak
After cooking both sides of the steak

After both sides have been cooked immediately place the pan in the oven. You'll be cooking each side for about 2 minutes for 6 total minutes of cooking.  For a 3/4" cut, this should be medium.  For a 1" cut, you're probably looking at medium rare.

If you want a rare steak, pull it after the first 2 minutes in the oven.  If you are even more adventurous and want it "blue", then increase the searing time to 90 seconds per side and skip the oven.

Cooking the eggs in the same pan
Cooking the eggs in the same pan
After the steak is done, pull it off to the serving plate and loosely cover with foil.  Place your pan back over a flame and make use of what's left in the pan to scramble the eggs.  This will happen fast.  Cook, flip, cook and serve. There you go....diner style steak and eggs.

As seen on: Father's Day Steaks from Breakfast to Dinner on MSN





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