When grilling the perfect steak, the beauty is in the simplicity. Some steak recipes call for elaborate marinades and rubs, which have their value depending on the occasion, but how to grill the perfect steak requires much less. All it takes to get it right is high-quality meat, some salt and pepper, and a methodical approach.
The biggest roadblock to tender succulence is being in a rush. Using whatever’s on sale, not letting the raw steaks rise to room temperature, or flipping them multiple times on the grill can all affect the final performance. By applying some patience and care, those near (or far) misses will be a thing of the past. With these steps and techniques, you can prepare steakhouse quality meals at home whenever you want.
How to Grill the Perfect Steak - The Cut
Some cuts of meat are better than others for grilling. Ribeyes are known for their rich marbling, whereas Top Sirloin is readily available and more affordable with little marbling. Some consider a Porterhouse to be the best of both worlds, consisting of a New York Strip and a filet mignon united by a slender T-shaped bone. Also, don't overlook tougher, meatier cuts, like sirloin, hanger steak, skirt steak, or flank steak, grilled medium-rare and thinly sliced across the grain.
How to Grill the Perfect Steak - The Grade and Marbling
Nothing ruins a good steak dinner like a lousy grade of beef. Prime is the highest quality designation, followed by choice and select. Look for USDA Prime or Certified Black Angus steaks if possible. Choice-grade steak is a good, less-expensive alternative, readily used in the restaurant industry. Also, pay attention to the marbling – thin white streaks of fat throughout a steak that keep the meat juicy and adds flavor. A lot of places sell poor quality meat, so choose a reputable supplier. Most importantly, form a relationship with a local butcher asking when they receive orders, how long they keep their meat, and about special cuts.
How to Grill the Perfect Steak - The Salt
Salt the meat at least 15 minutes before grilling, and some even suggest a much as a few hours before. The salt helps the cells retain water guaranteeing juiciness, and applying it early ensures that salt is dissolved into the meat and not left on the grill grates. Sea salt is all the rage now, or use Kosher salt, but using bigger grains makes for a superior crust.
How to Grill the Perfect Steak - The Rise
Take the steak out of the fridge about 20 minutes before grilling to bring it to room temperature. A freezing-cold steak won't cook evenly. Steaks at room temperature take seasoning better and will cook faster. However, meat takes time to cook, so take your time and learn to enjoy cooking your steak almost as much as eating it.
How to Grill the Perfect Steak - The Heat
Give the grill plenty of time to preheat. Build a three-zone fire: a hot zone for searing, a medium area for cooking, and have a safety zone to dodge any flare-ups. Grilling over high heat gives superior color and flavor. If it's hot enough, you shouldn't be able to hold your hand over the grates for more than 2 seconds.
How to Grill the Perfect Steak - The Patience
One of the biggest mistakes a home cook makes is continuously checking the food. Let the steak develop a seared crust on the grill before moving or flipping; otherwise, it will stick to the grates.
How to Grill the Perfect Steak - The Grill Marks
Use the hot grill to create “cross-hatch” grill marks. Set the steak down at a 45-degree angle from the grill lines. About a quarter of the way through cooking, give it a quarter turn. Halfway through cooking, flip it once, and then give it a final quarter turn for the last bit of cooking. Keep the grill grate hot, clean, and lubricated to prevent sticking and get killer grill marks.
How to Grill the Perfect Steak - The Touch Test
Use your index finger to poke the steak. A rare steak feels soft and spongy, medium springs back a bit when pressed, and well done feels firm. The only purpose served by stabbing a steak is to drain out the juices. (Tip: look for beads of blood that form on the top of the steak a few minutes after it goes on the grill. That tells you it’s time to turn.) Also, large steaks continue cooking after they come off the grill, so err on the side of undercooking a steak rather than overcooking it.
How to Grill the Perfect Steak - The Rest
Three to eight minutes of calm does wonders for a steak–no foil tent needed. The fibers relax, juices spread, and colors recalibrate, so all the flavors are retained in that short time. If sliced too soon, the juices will run rather than remaining where it belongs – in the steak!
How to Grill the Perfect Steak - The Finish
Plan the meal to get the extras done early to focus solely on the grilling, preventing overcooking, or serving cold steak. A great steak is good enough on its own, but consider finalizing it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a pat of butter or compound butter, melted beef fat, or even a slather of favorite steak sauce.