If you have a great method and recipe for grilling steak, please carry on (but tell us about it below!) This post is for those who want a wonderful steak off the grill at home. It’s not hard, so let’s key in on the few main points that get you a juicy steak with bold flavor.
Choosing a Steak
The two factors that matter most for choosing grilling steak are 1) Grade 2) Cut. That’s it. The grade indicates quality (here are all the considerations: http://meat.tamu.edu/beefgrading/), in particular we’re concerned with “marbling” or how much fatty tissue is found throughout the meat. The greater marbling, the better the cut. The grades from highest to lowest are: 1) Prime 2) Choice 3) Select.
Key #1: Decide on a Grade (Choice+Dry Brine or Prime)
Buy Prime if you can find it and can afford it. Grocery stores often do not have Prime grades because restaurants buy it all up, which partly explains how they can make such great steaks. Stay away from Select grades for grilling; save it for stewing or some other cooking method that isn’t meant to show off the meat. So your choice often will be…Choice. It’s cheaper and less tasty than prime, but there is a trick explained below to elevate it to Prime levels.
Key #2: Choose a Cut (Ribeye)
You’re probably familiar with the various popular cuts of beef; filet mignon, sirloin, t-bone, porterhouse, ribeye, flank, etc. For the best chances of success, grab a ribeye because they are packed with flavor and often are cut very thick. The thick cut is going to make grilling easier.
See the end of the article for tips on each of the other cuts.
Preparing the Steak
Key #3: Salt (Dry Brine) Choice Cuts for About an Hour (But Skip this if You Bought Prime)
Skip this dry brining step altogether if you bought a Prime cut.
Assuming you bought a Choice ribeye that is at least 1.5 inches thick, this trick is how your going to tenderize and enhance the flavor of the meat. Simply put a liberal coating of salt over the entire steak, wrap it in plastic (include a bunch of fresh rosemary if you have it) and set it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Then pull it out and leave it wrapped on the counter for another 30 minutes while you prepare the grill. When you remove it from the plastic wrap, rinse and pat dry with a paper towel. Season well with pepper (there will already be enough salt in the meat).
Grilling the Steak
Key #4: Extremely Hot Grilling, but with a Safe Zone
While your steak is waiting on the counter coming to room temperature, prepare the grill. Create a very hot fire (you should only be able to hold your hand close to the grate for a 2 count), but leave a cooler area of the grill available to pull foods over if things get tense when you’re pushing all that meat around.
The hot fire is going to create a very dark crust on the steak, which is key to flavor.
Right before the steak goes on the grill, season it liberally with salt (skip if you did the salt method above) and pepper.
Key #5: Short Grilling Time, Do Not Overcook
A steak will cook in 2-6 minutes per side depending on thickness. You’re shooting for medium-rare to medium. If you have a crust already and the steak is in danger of burning, pull it to the cooler part of the grill to finish cooking with indirect heat.
Once meat goes above a certain temperature, it will become tough no matter what methods you’ve tried to keep it juicy and tender. For this reason, you must not overcook it. You can always put it back on the grill or in an oven if a guest wants it more well done or if you’ve pulled it too early. The easiest way to check for doneness is with a meat thermometer (go for about 125 degrees), but mastering the poke test is useful too: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/the_finger_test_to_check_the_doneness_of_meat/
Serving the Steak
Key #6: Rest for 10 Minutes
Let the steak rest for 10 minutes after cooking. The juices will redistribute back into the meat as it cools so you won’t lose them on the cutting board. Rest for 5 minutes if you have a thinner steak. You can also tent it with aluminum foil if you’re worried about it cooling off too much.
That’s it. Hit all 6 points and you’ll have a great steak that your guests won’t soon forget.
Addendum: What About Other Cuts?
- Filet Mignon: Skip the salting step no matter what cut you choose. This steak will definitely get tough if it’s overcooked. It’s a bit low on flavor, so considering making a sauce or serving it with steak sauce (some consider it in bad taste to put sauce on a filet, you’ve been warned).
- Flank Steak: All the steps above will work great with a flank steak, but there is one key difference to flank steak: you must cut it against the grain or it will not be tender.
- Sirloin: No comment. We’re interested in hearing from fans of sirloin to tell us how it’s done right.
- Porterhouse and T-Bone: We recommend skipping the salt step for these steaks, but everything else is the same.