Backyard burgers are delicious and grilled chicken is far from boring, but the king of the cookout is always perfectly grilled steak. Done well, you can make steakhouse worthy meal at home. But, believe it or not, steak is one of those foods you’ve likely been cooking all wrong. From the essential tools to the most refined cooking technique, this is how to grill the perfect steak every time.
Whether you’re cooking a rib-eye, porterhouse, filet, skirt or sirloin steak, you should know what you’re buying before you bring it home. The method you use for cooking your steak depends on the cut you get. Assess your budget, skill level and what kind of dish you want to make before you fire up the grill. Here's a guide to every cut of steak to help you tell flank from flatiron.
Before starting the grill or adding your marinade, if your meat is frozen then you need to first properly defrost your steak. And please, whatever you do, don't just leave it out on the counter all day — hello food safety risk! Instead, defrost your raw steak in the fridge a day or two before cooking or in a cold water bath, swapping out the water every 30 minutes. Once defrosted, it can last in the fridge for up to five days.
One steakhouse secret only the experts know is the importance of a dry steak. If the surface of your steak is not dry before it hits the grill, you aren’t going to get that desirable crust, so make sure you thoroughly dry off any excess moisture with a paper towel prior to cooking.
One way to take a budget-friendly steak up a notch is by making a good rub, a mixture of dry spices and seasonings that are rubbed into the surface of the meat. If you need a solid recipe, try Dinosaur BBQ's spice rub, which tastes good on everything. One great advantage of rubs is their ability to help create a particularly delicious crust on your steak, which helps seal in flavor and moisture. You can season your steak with dry rub in advance and keep it in the back of the fridge uncovered for up to two days. This gives it that dry aged flavor. You can also put it on right before throwing your steaks on the grill.
You can also add a marinade to your steak. Marinades, which are usually a mixture of oils, acid, herbs and spices, are great when cooking thinner, leaner and tougher cuts of beef. Try marinades that take inspiration from different global cuisines like Korean, Greek or South American. Just note that for the marinade to work its magic, you should leave a chunk of time — at least a few hours if not overnight —to let the meat absorb the flavors and get tender before cooking.
Whether you opt for a rub, marinade or just salt and pepper, one lesson you definitely learned from grandma’s cooking is to not be stingy with salt. When preparing your steak, make sure you coat the entire thing generously in salt before it goes on the grill, this will give it that restaurant-quality flavor you’re looking for. Just like with the rub, you can salt it in advance to mimic the dry aging process or just before you grill.
Common wisdom says to let the steaks sit at room temp for 30 to 60 minutes before cooking to so the meat cooks more evenly. But the truth is that likely doesn't actually make a noticeable difference in your final product. It won't cause any harm though, so if it makes you feel better, by all means carry on.
Next, it's time to get your grill ready, and that starts by putting safety first. Give your grill a once-over before firing it up, especially if it's the first time you're using it this summer. Make sure the burners haven’t rusted out and that there’s no damage to the propane tank.
After starting your grill and letting it heat up for about 5 minutes, make sure it’s clean — no, the residue from past cookouts does not make your steak taste better. You should use a grill brush with a long handle to thoroughly clean the grill grates.
Whether you're using gas or charcoal, get those flames going and let it preheat for at least a few minutes until it's nice and hot. Next time you go to the grocery store, invest in a grill thermometer. This will let you know when the grill is hot enough to properly cook on. The best temperature to cook steaks is between 450 and 500F.
Although steak doesn't take long to cook, it's easy to get wrong. Even leaving it on the grill for a few extra seconds can lead to overcooking. To avoid this, make sure have a safe zone on the grill so you can move the steak if it's cooking too quickly on the outside. This is where the heat is slightly lower than the rest of the grill. If you’re using a charcoal grill, one easy way to do this is by having a section of the grill where there are no coals underneath.
The next step to a perfectly grilled steak is to carefully coat the grates oil. Be very careful when applying oil to a hot grill because if the oil drips down this could cause big flareups. Take an old but clean rag, dip it in vegetable oil and use tongs to rub the oil all over the surface of the grill grates. This is a great use for that cooking oil you've been saving to reuse.
After putting your steak on the grill, leave it be for a few minutes. This will ensure that the meat gets a nice crust on the outside. Then, to achieve grill-master level, give the steak a 1/3-turn on each side — a technique that will give the steak those iconic criss-cross grill marks you see at great steakhouses. Flip and do the same on the other side.
Make sure you have a meat thermometer ready; if you don't have one, they are worth investing in if you are committed to perfecting your grilled steak game. A meat thermometer guarantees that the inside of your steak is the right temperature before pulling it off the grill. But everyone has different preferences on the color of their meat, so this will vary. To help you get there, check out our handy dandy guide to steak cooking temperatures.
For a hearty steak, perfect to pair with a refreshing beer, you’re likely going to want to cook it rare. To achieve a cool red center while maintaining safety, the temperature of the steak should be 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Note that the CDC recommends a conservative minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit for steaks cooked at home, so anything below that is at your own risk.
Unlike grilling chicken, steak can be a little undercooked. To cook a medium-rare steak, which has a warm red center, the temperature of the steak should be 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
Like the way you might grill a salmon, cooking steak medium leaves it with a warm pink center. To achieve this, the temperature of the steak should be 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
To cook a medium-well steak, which has a slightly pink center, the temperature of the steak should be 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’re cooking steak for your kids, they’ll likely want theirs without any pink in it. To achieve a steak that’s cooked through with very little to no pink, the temperature of the meat should be 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are plenty of cooking tools you need in your kitchen, and a good pair of tongs is one of them. If you’re planning to grill the perfect steak this summer, you shouldn’t be using a flimsy pair of tongs, or even worse, a fork. It’s dangerous and you could even end up dropping the steak.
Use your meat thermometer to make sure the steak is cooked to your preferred doneness. Remove the meat from the grill when the thermometer reads 5 degrees lower than the desired final internal temperature. Rest your steak for a little while before serving so the juices redistribute through the meat.
One mistake commonly made by amateur cooks is not investing in a sharp set of knives. Why cook a perfect steak and then ruin everything by slicing it with a dull knife? No way. Make sure to cut against the grain so you can enjoy your delicious, perfectly cooked steak the proper way.
Make dinner at home feel like a true restaurant experience by slicing your steak like a pro. After letting your meat rest for a few minutes, carefully slice against the grain to ensure maximum tenderness. Doing so results in shorter muscle fibers, which will ensure that each mouthful is buttery and delicious.
After you're done cooking the perfect steak, your job isn't quite done. It's time to shut down the grill. If you have a gas grill, turn off the burners and close the valve on the propane tank.
If you’re grilling with a charcoal grill, fully close the vents and dampers, cutting off the oxygen supply to the coal. Whether you’re using a gas or charcoal grill, be sure to clean the grate while it’s still hot — this will make it easier to get off any food stuck on the grill. Once you've perfected steak, you can move on to grilling shrimp, chicken, burgers and more with our best recipes.
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