Walter's Salt + Pepper Steak


I am not sure why, but a thick, juicy côte de boeuf calls for a party: a simple but festive meal enjoyed with friends around the table, a sturdy red wine, and a simple green salad. This recipe demands no more gadgetry than a well-seasoned skillet. Walter remembers watching his father cook steaks, and he always heated coarse sea salt and waited until it “danced” before cooking the meat. It’s an uncomplicated but sure-fire way to ensure a thick, flavorful crust on one of our favorite cuts of meat.

4 servings


A griddle, seasoned cast iron skillet, or heavy-duty skillet.


1 bone-in beef rib-eye steak, about 2 pounds (1 kg), about 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
Coarse, freshly ground black pepper
Fleur de sel
Lemon wedges, for serving  



1.    Remove the meat from the refrigerator at least 4 hours before cooking.

2.    When you are ready to cook the beef, preheat the griddle or skillet over high heat for 2 minutes. Scatter the coarse sea salt on the griddle and heat until the salt “dances,” or begins to pop, about 3 minutes. Then add the meat, unseasoned, and cook for 4 minutes on one side. Turn the meat, season the seared side with pepper and cook for 4 minutes more for rare meat, or cook to desired doneness.

3.    Transfer the meat to a cutting board. Season the second side with pepper and season both sides with fleur de sel. Tent the meat loosely with foil to prevent the surface from cooling off too quickly. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

4.    To serve, carve into thick slices. Serve with lemon.


Three rules here: sear, season, rest. Searing caramelizes the sugar and browns the proteins on the surface of the meat, resulting in more intense flavors and an attractive crust. The salt does help begin to season the meat, but because the pan is extremely hot, the meat begins to sear immediately, forming a crust that prevents the salt from drawing moisture from the steak. The final seasoning makes for meat that tastes seasoned not salted. Resting allows the juices to retreat back into the meat, resulting in beef that is moist and tender, not dry.

Wine Suggestion

Bring out a sturdy red that will stand up to the forward flavors of well-cooked beef. With this meat I like to uncork our winemaker Yves Gras’s stellar cuveé, Gigondas Prestige des Hautes Garrigues. The wine is a blend of 80 percent old-vine Grenache, 15 percent Mourvedre, 3 percent Syrah, and 1 percent Cinsaut. It’s aged for 2 years in oak barrels and oak tanks, and bottled without filtration. A perfect match for a perfectly cooked steak.

This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.