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. 4

    I arrived at my store late, the butchers had gone home. They only had one inch cut sirloin and London Broil. As the broil was $4.99 lb and the sirloin was $8.99 lb the choice was easy. I heated the cast iron for seven minutes on blast. I seared the London Broil for one minute each side and thirty seconds on the two edges. Rested in foil for three minute. Then 45 seconds each side. Then 5 minutes back into foil. Cut on a bias, the steak ended up barely a medium rare. Thank you sir for a great recipe — very tasty.

  2. 6

    Mr. Brown – As Hurricane Irma bears down on us, I hope you’ll allow me to co-opt this recipe. I need a Hurricane Steak and this fits the bill. It’s been a tough few days. Some folks will suffer, others will be better off, but no one knows what
    will happen. We’re all going to be happy when it’s over– then the real work begins. It’s election night without the
    bravado, just the impending doom. Still, there’s nothing like lighting a grill in the wind.

    Disaster can bring family together or tear it apart. Tonight, family was together, and I believe I’ll make this steak every hurricane to come.

    Hope you and yours are safe.

  3. 10

    Made this last night exactly as written and WOAH. Pretty killer steak! Outstanding char/smoky/salty/beefiness flavors going on. While my husband begrudgingly admitted it was worth smoking the kitchen out, we’ll take the cast iron skillet outdoors on the grill next time we do this. Definitely a recipe to try camping!

    • 12

      Just get thinner steaks. I just posted my review. I used 1″ steaks where Alton used 1.5″ steaks. Mine came out right at medium following the timing exactly as written

  4. 17

    Just finished polishing off the election steak! That was absolutely awesome! Thank you Mr. Brown! My hubby said it was worth the smoke!! Great flavor! This is one application I will definitely be making again!

  5. 22

    Did this last Sunday using my Weber Kettle, a flat Lodge cast iron griddle and chunk charcoal. The fire was hot hot hot. The results were amazing. I like rare so it was simple. My guests prefer med. well so be patient and follow the steps and you will be happy with your efforts.

  6. 23
    Mike James

    I need to try this! I’ve been wanting to try sous vide for cooking a steak but it looks like this technique could work just as well. @tk I think the science of this high and quick heat then wrapping it helps bring the residual heat all the way through the meat without over heating it to the point of making it tough.

  7. 24
    Roxanne Stickler

    My husband would’ve like that rare steak; me – not so much – needs to be a lot less red! (unlike the election results… 😉 )

  8. 25

    Could you please explain the science behind taking the steak off, putting it in foil and putting it back in the pan? Are you simply bringing the pan back up to a super hot temperature for a better sear?

    • 26

      wrapping in foil allows you to bring the temperature up for steak without further searing moving the steak towards med rare to med and longer foil times for closer to well.

  9. 27
    Susanne Edwards

    Good evening to you, sir, and I can see why you like a good steak on election night. As crazy as an election season can be – and this one’s only further reminded me to look to the Heavens and watch – ya gotta have something hardcore to get through the next four years. And a steak such as yours, win or lose, right or wrong, is just that damn hardcore.

  10. 28

    This… This is why I very much like you as a chef and person. Thanks for a fantastic idea/way to cook and eat a steak for such an occasion. Also thanks for the laugh, courtesy of your creativity of course.


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