Summertime barbecues with friends and family are here, and whether it's burgers or steaks, grilling and beef go hand and hand. To help your weekend be a fiery success, we are continuing our Grilling 101 Series with "The Basics of Grilling Beef." If you're a beginner with a brand new grill, we will help you with some standard techniques to get you started.

Grilling can be a pretty intimidating task. The idea of cooking something over an open flame is not always easy to do, and most people don't know how to start. The good news is that grilling beef can be super straightforward if you follow a few basic guidelines!  Whether it's a ribeye, carne asada, juicy burgers, or steak kebabs - we've got all the tips on how to grill them perfectly every time. Cooking over flame is rewarding, fun, and you can experiment with different flavors by adding spices or sauces before and during cooking.

The Basics Of Grilling Beef: Preparation

The many different cuts of beef all require a slightly different preparation before they are placed on a hot grill. Some may need some trimming or boning, while others might even require tenderizing first. Read this guide for tips about what you should do with your meat beforehand.

Grilling 101: The Basics Of Grilling Beef

Boning & Trimming

Some beef cuts that contain an overabundance of fat may require some boning and trimming. While the flavor is in the fat, too much can create flare-ups, cause excessive burning, and make for a poor dining experience. Cutting away the excess fat or removing extra bones can all be done while the grill preheats, but it is essential to leave at least 1/8" of fat on meat, or you will not seal in the juices as well.

Prep the Fat

When grilling thinner steaks of half an inch to one inch, it is best to slash the fat around 1-inch intervals to reduce curling. Cuts with a thickness of over an inch should maintain their shape without this step.

Tying or Wrapping

Some beef roasts may require tying to maintain the shape during the grilling process and to allow it to cook evenly. Beef cuts that have already been boned are often rolled up, then tied with a string for cooking purposes, so they'll offer more even distribution in temperature as well as make slicing easier afterward.


Since beef is muscle tissue, it can benefit from tenderizing to yield a more tender and succulent texture. There are several ways to tenderize your beef before grilling it:

  1. Pound the meat with a mallet or rolling pin. Place the steak on a cutting board or butcher block, and lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on top to reduce splattering. Using a kitchen mallet, pound the steak evenly to break up the tissue.
  2. Another method is using a marinade from an hour before grilling to overnight so that the flavors can penetrate the surface of each steak.
  3. Use a rub of salt, pepper, and any other favorite spice. Thoroughly rub the mixture onto every inch and then allow it to sit and tenderize while refrigerated.

The Basics Of Grilling Beef: The Heat

Grilling 101: The Basics Of Grilling Beef

You can achieve a perfect steak by mastering some basic grilling techniques of using heat. The first step in creating that tantalizing crust is searing it over high direct heat to create those beautiful grill marks, sealing the juices inside. For roasts, on the other hand, you want a nice brown exterior with an evenly cooked interior, so they don't dry out when cooking them at low temperatures.

An understanding of direct and indirect heat is paramount in grilling various cuts and thicknesses of beef.

  • Direct Heat - Grilling over direct heat is accomplished by placing cuts of beef directly on a grate over the source.
  • Indirect Heat - Grilling with indirect heat allows larger, thicker cuts of beef to cook thoroughly without the surface burning. Indirect heat can be combined with direct heat for better results by finishing off seared meat over indirect heat.

For more information about direct and indirect heat and how to use them, check out "Grilling 101: What is Direct Heat and Indirect Heat?"

The Basics Of Grilling Beef: The Tools

When grilling steaks, use tongs or a spatula to turn the meat. It would be best never to use a fork because it pierces the beef allowing juices to escape. Hamburger patties should also be turned with a spatula and never flipped more than once during cooking, as this can cause them to dry out from excessive contact with direct heat.

The Basics Of Grilling Beef: The Beef

Thin Cuts (1/2-inch or less)

Thin steaks, strips, kebabs, and hamburgers can all be grilled in a couple of minutes per side over medium-high direct heat.

Medium Cuts (1/2-inch to 1.5 inches)

Most steaks fall in this category. Use medium-high direct heat for 2-3 minutes per side to create a sear. Then finish over indirect heat to the desired doneness.

Thick Cuts (1.5-inches or more)

Thick steaks, tri-tips, and roasts will require more time on the grill to cook throughout. Use direct heat to sear the sides, but most of the time will be over indirect heat. For roasts, grill with the fatty side facing up, allowing the fat to render into the rest of the meat.

Grilling 101: The Basics Of Grilling Beef


When grilling ground beef patties, they tend to swell or bulge in the center. Before grilling, to combat this effect, make an indentation with your thumb in the center of the patty. Grill these handfuls of joy over medium-high direct heat for a few minutes per side, depending on thickness. If desired, top with your favorite cheese during the last 30 seconds of grilling.


The resting period after the grill is vital to the flavor and juiciness of the beef. Every cut of meat will continue cooking for a couple of minutes or more after removing from the grill, so be sure not to overcook your meat. For example, if you want medium burgers, remove them at medium-rare and allow them to rest.

Grilling 101: The Basics Of Grilling Beef - What's on the Menu?

There's nothing like that bite of crunchy and tender carne asada or the salty crusty taste of a ribeye steak. Whatever your beefy fancy, these basic tips and techniques will get you closer to showing off your grilling skills instead of just guessing your way through. Grilling 101 will continue with the basics of grilling pork and lamb, so stay tuned for these beef alternatives.

Need to know about grilling chicken? Take a look at Grilling 101: The Basics of Grilling Chicken to get an understanding of this versatile poultry!
June 21, 2021 — Jason Klein