Grilling the perfect steak is an art. Choose the wrong cut, the wrong seasoning, or the wrong cook time and you end up with an expensive, inedible failure. Here’s what you need to know to grill the perfect steak every time.
Selecting the Right Cut
Always buy the best quality meat for your budget. Aim for steaks that are about 1.5 inches thick.
Ideally, your first choice should be a ribeye. The well-marbled cut of beef makes an excellent steak. T-bones are good too, but they require a little more finesse on the grill. Strip steak is suited to beginner grillers, both because of the lower price point and the lower fat content. Less fat means fewer scary grill flare-ups.
Preparing the Meat
You should let your steaks come to room temperature before grilling. When you put a cold steak on a hot grill, you end up with an unevenly cooked piece of meat that’s charred on the outside and raw in the middle. Let the meat rest on the counter for about half an hour before grilling.
Pat the steaks down with a paper towel before seasoning. Then sprinkle a generous amount of kosher salt on both sides. Pat the meat to make sure the salt sticks. You can add some fresh black pepper, too.
Some grillmasters will tell you to salt an hour or two before grilling. The idea is that while your salted beef hangs out in the fridge, the salt acts almost like a brine. In theory, this should help the steak stay juicy.
What About Seasonings and Rubs?
Seasoning blends and steakhouse rubs are for inferior cuts of meat. You invested in a good steak, so why would you cover up that flavor with a bunch of spices? Marinades are great for thin cuts of tough meat, like flank steak or skirt steak. That’s not what we’re going for today.
Salt (and maybe pepper) only! And don’t smother the poor thing in gravy or steak sauce when you’re done, either!
Cooking the Steak
Now you have an important choice to make. Are you cooking indoors on castiron, or outside on a grill? Both will work, but they involve different techniques.
If you don’t have access to a grill (or just don’t want to go outside), you can cook a great steak indoors. First, preheat your oven to 350. Then heat up a castiron skillet to the highest possible temperature and sear both sides of the steak. It should take about 2 minutes to get that nice crust on each side of the meat. Don’t scoot it around while it cooks!
Slide the entire skillet into the oven for about 3-5 minutes to ensure that the inside gets cooked. Personally, I like to put a pat of grass-fed butter on the steak when I put it in the oven.
When you grill outdoors, you’ll use a similar method of high heat and indirect heat. Make sure that one part of your grill is searing hot to get that crust on the meat. Once you’ve achieved it, move the meat to the cooler part of the grill to finish cooking.
Remember to turn your steaks with tongs, and resist the urge to press down on them with a spatula.
How Do You Know When a Steak Is Cooked?
First of all, never slice it open to see if the interior is the right color. You’ll lose all the juices and end up with a dry steak. You can try poking the steak with a finger to see how it feels. A rare steak is squishy. A well-done steak has almost no give to it. A medium steak is (no surprise) somewhere in the middle.
You can use a timer instead if the poking method sounds too vague. A 1-inch steak will be cooked rare at 3 minutes per side and medium at 5 minutes per side.
For the most accurate cooking method, use a meat thermometer. Rare steaks will show an internal temperature of 120-125 F. Medium steaks will be about 10 degrees warmer in the center.
The Most Important Step
Plenty of steaks have been ruined by skipping this simple but essential step. You’ve got to let your steak rest before slicing. Let them sit on a cutting board for 5-10 minutes under a tented piece of tinfoil. That allows the delicious juices to get sucked back up into the fibers of the meat.
If you cut it fresh off the grill, all that good stuff will run out onto your cutting board. You didn’t come this far just to fail at the final hurdle, did you?
Now, it’s time to enjoy your delicious steak dinner. Personally, I like to roast a pan of chopped veggies (potatoes, onions, and sprouts are popular at my house) while the steak comes to room temperature before grilling. Throw together a simple salad and you’ve got yourself a delicious homecooked meal that’s better than any restaurant. Enjoy!