chili & cumin seared steak

Chili & Cumin Seared Steak, and how to make a perfectly seared steak

Seared steak is a meal that can be all things: easy, quick, delicious and even impressive.  When I first started cooking, I had a couple of bad experiences preparing grilled/pan seared steak so I kind of gave up on steaks all together for a while.  I then realized that it doesn’t have to be a complicated, elusive process if you just follow a couple of guidelines.

I didn’t cook this steak though, Jason did!  He seasoned it with chili, cumin, red pepper and oregano, so it’s a little spicy but it doesn’t overpower the flavor of the beef.

chili & cumin seared steak

chili & cumin seared steak

Jason prepared this dish with beans and cherry tomatoes, which worked out well to help counter a little of the spiciness from the steak. He cooked them in the same pan while the steak rested.  You may be weary of cooking tomatoes in a cast-iron pan because the acid from the tomatoes can react with the iron but we had no issues with this pan because it’s well-seasoned.

chili & cumin seared steak

Here are my tips for searing the perfect steak:

1. Chose the right cut. If you want a thicker steak, choose a nicer cut like porterhouse, tenderloin, or filet.  If you’re using sirloin (like the steak shown in this recipe), it shouldn’t be much thicker than 1″.  A sirloin will get tough very quickly if its cooked for more than a few minutes.

2. Let the meat sit out about half an hour before cooking so that it’s room temperature. This will help it cook faster. Faster cooking = more tender

3. Preheat the pan to be very hot over medium high heat. Don’t use a nonstick pan because the heat may cause the pan to release toxic fumes.  The best option is a seasoned cast iron pan. Don’t bother with oil when cooking steak, the steak may stick initially but it will release on its own after browning.  A seasoned pan is also naturally “non-stick”.

4. Cook the steak for a few minutes on each side, and only flip it once. If you flip more than once it will only continue to brown/toughen the outside while leaving the middle raw.  To test to see if the steak is done, apply pressure, the firmer the steak the more it is cooked. If this method leaves you uncertain, use a instant thermometer and cook to the desired temperature:

rare: 120°f
medium-rare: 135°f
medium: 150°f
well done: 170°f

The temperature will rise an additional 5° right after you take the steak out of the pan.

5. When your steak is done, remove it from the pan and let it sit for 10 minutes. This is so the steak can finish cooking and it helps the juices stay inside the steak instead of oozing all out onto the cutting board.

chili & cumin seared steak

I’m sure that one could (and probably has) written an entire book on the nuances of cooking steak.  However, a lot of it just makes sense and doesn’t require too much thought once you get through it once, then it just gets even easier from there on out, and you can impress everyone with your perfectly cooked, tender steaks!

Recipe adapated from Bon Appetit’s Spice Rubbed Steak.

Chili & Cumin Seared Steak

Serves 2
Prep time 45 minutes
Cook time 6 minutes
Total time 51 minutes


  • 1lb sirloin steak
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste


1. Remove steak from fridge half hour before cooking.
2. Heat an uncoated pan over medium high heat. Use a pan that fits the steaks nicely (not too big or too small).
3. Dry steak with paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Season steak on both sides with spices and salt, rub them into the meat.
4. Put steaks in preheated pan and cook 2-4 minutes on each side for 1" steak (depending on how done you want them), flipping only once.
5. Remove seared steaks and let them sit without cutting for 10 minutes.


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