Barbecue season is in full swing, and there are plenty of reasons to fire up the grill. Seasonal vegetables, fruits, poultry, and seafood are summer favorites, but your steak can trump them all — if you prepare it properly. Strip House's corporate executive chef Michael Vignola is here to share a few tips that will help you grill the perfect steak.
Don't Spare the BTUs
It’s all about heat. High heat sears the cooking surface of the meat, ensuring a juicier steak, and allows charring to happen. With high heat, one can get a nicely charred rare steak. A little flame is your friend; a lot of flame is a definite concern. Keep two sides of the grill hot and move the steak to the second hot spot if the first grilling area flares up. Dousing with water is a last resort; you want to keep the grill as hot as possible. But if it's between the house going up and a well-charred steak, I'd give a nod to keeping the house intact.
Don't Flip Out
Don't drag the steak over the grill when turning. Once you’ve started the steak on the hot spot, leave it be, allowing it to sear evenly and gain a beautiful char. Once the meat is charred, pick it up and flip onto the cooler spot of your grill. Flipping the steak too often sabotages the charring of the meat and eliminates most of its seasoning. Pick it up and place it back in one motion.
Make It Thick and Marbled
The best steaks for home grilling are nature’s perfectly marbled beef rib eye steaks or bone-in rib eye steaks, sometimes called cowboy steaks. The marbling enhances the flavor of these cuts, while basting the meat during the cooking process to ensure a juicy steak. When selecting your steak, try to get one that is at least one to one-and-a-half inches thick. The thickness will help you achieve that bullseye-red center of perfection. I prefer buying a larger, thicker-cut steak and carving for my friends and family.
Use a canola and olive oil blend to lightly coat the steak before seasoning it. Either an 80/20 or 90/10 blended oil will get the job done. The oil will allow the surface to sear fast, ensuring a juicier final product and greatly aiding the charring of the meat's surfaces. Save your expensive olive oils for salads, where their subtle flavors will shine brightest.
Rest and Relax
Once you have achieved your desired temperature, remove the steak from the heat and allow it to rest for at least five minutes on a grate over a pan before cutting it. You want to make sure there is air all around the steak to stop the cooking process. The internal juices will redistribute throughout the steak, letting it relax and become tender. Cutting too soon lets the juices to spill out, turning a medium-rare steak into a medium-plus steak. I have done this and I was sad.
Real Men Sizzle and Use Sea Salt (aka Good News/Bad News)
The good news: After the steak has rested, return it to the grill for about 30 seconds on each side just before serving to get a surface sizzle going. A little sprinkle of a gray sea salt allows for a gentle and focused re-seasoning of the steak. The bad news: People will make you do all the grilling from now on.
A well-marbled steak needs only coarsely ground black pepper and kosher salt for flavor perfection. It really is a case of the sum being greater than the parts. Be sure to season a bit more than you might a sautéed item — some of the steak's seasoning will be lost in the grilling process. You want to be sure to have enough on the steak to get the job done.