Your Guide to the Perfect Steak
Grilling steak is the quintessential grill cooking dish. It is about as ubiquitous as grilling up burgers or hot dogs. It is also easy to do. Then why do so many people get it so wrong? If you don't know what you are doing, you can turn a great steak into a piece of charred leather in no time. Wouldn't you rather have a perfect, juicy and succulent steak to enjoy? Of course you would. So here are some tips on how to cook steak on a grill the right way. You can get more tips and ideas about cooking steak on my Grilled Steak page.
The Importance of the Raw Ingredients
What you will need:
- Steaks: This is the most important part to cooking a perfect steak. Beef varies tremendously in quality. For great grilled steaks be sure to stick to the best and freshest meat. Prime steak has the most marbling of fat throughout the meat, giving you richer flavor and a juicier steak. They are more expensive but absolutely worth every penny if you want to prepare a basic steak that speaks for itself. There are many types of cuts you can use. Rib eye, New York strip, and Porterhouse cuts are some of the most popular for grilling. Try to pick thick cuts, at least 1-1/4" to 2" in thickness. Tenderloin or filet mignon is very tender but tends to be more lean, so it doesn't have as much rich flavor. While it is delicious on its own as well, I prefer to use it with sauces, such as Bernaise, to add flavor and fat.
- Salt: This may sound ridiculous to some of you, but salt matters! Be sure to use good salt. Don't use regular iodized table salt! Use coarse kosher salt at the very least and preferably good sea salt. This is the most important flavoring agent in grilling steak besides the steak itself so you don't want to skimp here either!
- Pepper: Again, use the good stuff. Use fresh cracked black peppercorns from a pepper mill. Pre-ground pepper that has sat in your cupboard for years losses much of its kick and aroma.
- Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil is a must! Just pour a bit in a small bowl or cup and have a basting brush available.
Grilling Steak: How its done
- First, take your steaks out of the refrigerator ahead of time. To properly cook and warm in the center, they need to be room temperature throughout when you put them on the grill. Depending on the size of your steaks this will take 30 to 60 minutes sitting on your counter.
- Build your fire in your grill. For thick steaks, build it so that you can use Indirect Heat. The easiest way is to leave one of your burners off if you are using a gas grill, or to push all your charcoal/wood to one side of your grill if you are using a charcoal or wood fire grill.
- Season your steaks well on one side with salt and then pepper. Don't skimp on salt! Salt helps bring out the natural flavors of the steak. You want a generous amount of salt and less pepper. It helps to gently rub or push the seasoning into the surface of the steak so that they stick and won't just fall off when you throw them on the grill.
- Lay the seasoned side down on your grill over direct heat, above the coals or lit burner. You want to sear that side over high heat. This will take about 2 to 4 minutes depending on the heat of your grill and the type of steak. You can check by gently lifting up one side of the steak to see if nice grill marks are forming but don't disturb your grilling steak too much once on the grill.
- When that side is nicely seared, season the top side with salt and pepper as before and then flip the steaks to sear the next side.
- After seared on both sides, move the grilling steak to the other side of the grill where it will be on indirect heat (ie. where they are not directly over the hot coals or burners). At this point, also brush the steaks lightly with the olive oil on both sides. Alternatively, some people prefer to rub them with olive oil before first seasoning and putting them on the grill. Either is fine but I have found that the former way creates a better, rich glazed surface to the grilling steak.
- With the grilling steaks on indirect heat, cover the grill with its lid and let them roast to bring their internal temperature up to the desired doneness. This can be tested a number of ways, from occasionally testing with a meat thermometer to simply pressing the meat with your finger to test for the firmness (more firm is more done). A chart estimating the time you will need can be found below.
- When done to your liking, remove the steaks and cover them with foil to let them rest in a warm place for at least 5 minutes prior to serving. This allows the juices and heat to redistribute throughout the meat so that it remains juicy and delicious.
**Note: For thinner steaks or if you prefer very rare steaks, you can skip the indirect heat roasting step. Simply sear on the first side until it starts to cook through a bit, often forming drops of fluid on the upper surface of the steak, and then flip them to sear the second side. I do recommend grilling thick steaks to at least medium-rare, particularly for prime meat. The reason for this is that you want the internal fat marbling to warm up and become liquified for the juiciest and most tender grilled steak! If the fat is still cool in the middle it will be firm and chewy.
That's it! Enjoy your delicious, juicy grilled steak!
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