How to Grill Steak Step by Step Guide
Grilling is the great American summer pastime, and steak is as traditional and delicious as food comes hot off the grill. Every kid has memories of backyard barbeques with friends and family, and chances are, most of those children wanted to grow up and host their own gatherings, complete with grilled steak. Follow this simple guide, and you’ll have all the skills and knowledge of how to grill steak perfectly!
Best Cuts for Grilling
Starting with a good piece of meat is the best way to ensure good results. There are some tried-and-true favorites out there, but you will also find new and interesting choices on grocery store shelves these days.
These cuts have been used for home and restaurant steaks since forever. There are unique qualities about each that make them perfect for grilling. Marbling determines the quality of the meat in most cases. It adds flavor and guarantees tenderness. Bone-in ads flavor as well, and you typically get a larger piece of meat with bone-in.
Distinctions such as Prime, Choice, and Select (in order from highest quality) have long been used to help shoppers chose the best steak for the money.
Boneless Rib-Eye – Arguably America’s favorite steak, the boneless rib-eye is also sometimes called Delmonico or cowboy steak. It has an above-average amount of marbling and comes in a variety of sizes.
Boneless Strip Steak – Also known as a New York strip, Kansas City strip, or top loin, the strip steak has an adequate amount of marbling and is extremely tender.
Top Sirloin – Sirloin has little marbling, but many people prefer it that way. Cooking a sirloin can be tricky since it is easy to overcook due to the low amount of fat within.
Bone-in Rib-Eye – Just like its boneless brother, the bone-in rib-eye has lots of flavors, enhanced by leaving this one attached to the bone.
Bone-in Strip Steak – Same situation here, too. You can increase the flavor of a low-marbling steak by leaving the strip on the bone.
T-bone – The T-bone is close to the front of the short loin, and it contains both the tenderloin and a strip steak. T-bones are usually between 18 and 24 ounces.
The steaks listed here are only a couple of the latest cuts to be used for grilling steak. The USDA has given cuts such as these labels such as USDA Certified Tender or USDA Certified Very Tender to guide consumers with so many new choices.
Flat-Iron – This steak from the shoulder is can be grilled to tender, juicy perfection, too!
Porterhouse – The porterhouse steak is enormous, at 24 ounces or larger, but it can serve more than one person, so it’s sometimes a better value that two separate steaks. This cut has a larger tenderloin than the T-bone and more flavor than the filet.
What You’ll Need
When the time has come to grill your steak, you will hear all sorts of advice about what tools, spices and cooking method to use. We’ll give you some options below, but be aware that the steak itself has natural flavor that doesn’t need a lot added to it.
Restaurants and professional chefs often only use these things to grill excellent steaks: salt, pepper, and high-quality oil. If you choose, you can coat your steaks with a rub, but it certainly isn’t necessary for excellent flavor.
Purists will tell you that a charcoal grill is the only way to go. The direct heat and smoky flavor of a charcoal grill are undeniable, but great steaks can also be produced on gas grills. An alternate way of cooking steaks is to use your oven and a hot iron skillet (more details on this in a moment!)
Seriously, you need to consider the size of the steak you’ll be grilling for the level of doneness you desire. The size of the steak – both thickness and weight – will determine how long you’ll need to leave it on the grill. One advantage of a large steak is that there is less risk of overcooking it since it will cook slower than 4- or 6-ounce varieties.
You don’t have to choose from whatever is on display. You can have steaks cut to order by a butcher and at most grocery stores to get the exact size and cut you want. Individual steaks are traditional, but you could opt for mega-sized sharable cuts that make potlucks and barbeques a lot of fun!
Not a lot of fuss and work goes into great steaks. We recommend that you buy fresh and avoid freezing steaks ahead of time unless you have no other choice. In that case, you’ll need to thaw them completely before grilling.
We will assume that your steaks are freshly cut and have not been frozen.
First, remove steaks from fridge 20 minutes before cooking. Bringing the steaks to room temperature before grilling ensures that you get the level of doneness you expect.
Next, you’ll pat the meat dry about 10 minutes before cooking and brush with oil, then coat it with coarse salt, adding regular pepper if desired. This coating helps develop a nice crispy exterior regardless of how done the inside will be. If you have a seasoning rub that you prefer, that can be added this time instead.
It’s finally time to get those steaks over the coals! Every steak should be seared three to five minutes on each side to give it a delicious and beautiful outer crust. If it sticks to the grill grates, it needs another minute or two. Just watch it and flip it when it releases on its own.
You’ll then move the steak onto indirect heat – to the side of the grill, away from the hottest coals – and cook it for as long as it takes to achieve your preference of doneness.
There are a few ways to tell if your steak is done. Here are two that work every time:
Use a thermometer – It’s recommended that steaks are cooked at 135 degrees for 5-7 minutes for medium-rare. Cook at 145 degrees for 5-7 minutes for medium. Medium-well steaks will need to be cooked longer, from 8-10 minutes, at 150 degrees.
Use the touch test – This trick requires no fancy equipment! You can test a steak’s doneness with the fleshy part of your palm just below your thumb. Use these guidelines:
Index finger to thumb (OK sign) – Rare
Middle finger to thumb – Medium
Ring finger to thumb – Medium-well
Pinky to thumb – Well-done
Steaks need to be cooked over direct heat, but there’s definitely more than one way to do that. You don’t even have to stand in the rain or cold for this one! It’s perfect for indoor grilling, just like restaurants do!
You can also slow roast steaks in the oven. Cook them at 250 degrees for 20 minutes in the oven for medium-rare, longer for medium and well-done. Then, heat a skillet to high with 2 tablespoons of oil. Finally, remove steaks from the oven and sear for 3 minutes per side. They will just as flavorful and tender as if you grilled them outside!
A very important step that can’t be ignored is resting the steak. We know how tempting it can be to cut right in and take a big bite, but you want the juices settle throughout the meat so there’s tastiness in every single bite.
Resting the meat for 2-5 minutes with a loose tin foil tent over the steaks will help to retain flavor. Just make sure the steam can escape; otherwise, the steaks will continue cooking with residual heat.
Follow this foolproof guide for how to grill steak, and your guests will be begging for your secret recipe!