Election Night Sirloin Steak

Election Night Sirloin Steak

Salt, oil, a hot cast-iron skillet, and a good stopwatch are all you need for a perfect medium-rare sirloin steak, the very steak I cook every four years when the polls close. I don’t know why I started the tradition — maybe sometimes I need a visceral reminder of why this country is so freakin’ awesome and no victual sums up that self-evident truth like steak.

This time, I’m going with a top sirloin because election years are tough on all of us, and if you’re not careful, sirloin can be tough. In fact, you could choke on it if you’re not careful.

This recipe first appeared in Season 2 of Good Eats: Reloaded.

Election Night Sirloin Steak

  • 1 (1 1/2-inch-thick) sirloin steak, approximately 21 ounces
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  1. Take steak out of fridge and coat with 1 tablespoon of the salt. Set on a rack set inside a sheet pan and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. The internal temperature of the steak should come up to somewhere between 45 and 50ºF. In the meantime, get out a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil (about 16-by-18 inches) and place it near the stove.
  2. About 5 minutes before the raw steak has finished resting at room temperature, place a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over the highest heat you’ve got for a full 5 minutes. If you’ve got an infrared thermometer, check that the skillet has reached at least 550ºF at the hottest point. It will already be smoking at this point, so either crank your hood or open a window or both. If there’s isn’t smoke, you ain’t doin’ it right.
  3. Evenly sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of salt across the pan. Coat the steak with the canola oil, then transfer it to the middle of the pan. Do not interrupt the steak for 2 minutes. Flip the steak, rotating it perpendicularly to where it initially went down into the skillet (it’ll hit additional salt this way) and cook for another 2 minutes, uninterrupted.
  4. Turn the steak up on one long edge and cook 30 seconds. Turn the steak onto the opposite long edge and cook another 30 seconds. If you’re checking, its internal temperature should be between 70ºF and 72ºF.
  5. Transfer the steak to the foil and wrap it tightly. Let it rest for 3 minutes. Leave the heat on under the skillet; it’ll continue to smoke and should jump up even hotter, to around 700ºF in its hottest spots.
  6. After 3 minutes, unwrap the steak and place it back in the pan for 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3 minutes, continuing to rotate the steak around the pan as you flip it to pick up the salt.
  7. Flip and cook for 2 minutes, then flip and cook for a final 2 minutes. The steak should be at around 120ºF—these cooking times will give you a perfect medium-rare steak. If you like your steak more on the rare side, decrease the cooking times to 2 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute, and 1 minute.
  8. Return the steak to the foil, wrap tightly, and let rest for 5 more minutes to bring the heat up to 130ºF. Unwrap, slice on the bias, and serve with the sauce remaining in the foil.

Specialty hardware: 12-inch cast-iron skillet, infrared thermometer, instant-read thermometer

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Active time: 22 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, including resting time

Alton Brown's Election Night Steak Recipe


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  1. 2

    I made this for dinner this evening and followed the directions to the letter and it was delicious. Some of our family members are not steak lovers but really enjoyed our dinner. Thanks Alton

  2. 4

    To eliminate the smoke issue I put the skillet on the grill outside. Worked fine and I didn’t have a fire alarm problem of a smoky filled house.

  3. 5

    Hey Alton! I’m interested in how you like your Cola and Fernet. Do you prefer the traditional “90-2-10” like Argentina or have you put a different spin on it?

  4. 6

    Best steak I’ve ever made at home. The directions forgot one important thing – this is a 2 person operation. 1 to cook, 1 to deal with the fire alarm disaster that is inevitable. 100% worth it

  5. 7
    Brenna Soth

    Set off the fire Alarm 4 times, alarm company called 3x to make sure my house wasn’t on fire… over cooked one side for sure while trying to assure the alarm company that the fire department was in fact not needed… all while the living room fan, stove fan were on full blast, the back door open, and dogs freaking out… I sure hope I didn’t ruin this meal…

  6. 8

    It worked! Brilliant technique! But I did keep it a bit longer on the pan and in the foil (which I shouldn’t have done) and inadvertently crossed from the preferred rare/medium rare to medium. Tremendous method!

  7. 11

    Follow this recipe, you won’t be disappointed. Used a cast iron griddle so I didn’t get quite the crust but followed the timing and it turned out AH-MAZING!! Used the thin slices over top a “hooked-up” salad. Alton never fails to deliver.

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