Grilling The Perfect Steak
Wondering how to grill a perfect steak? Read this guide and find out the Do’s and Dont’s to grilling the perfect steak.
Don’t cook your steaks straight from the fridge.
Grilling steak until it’s a brown with a light char on the surface, while also making sure the interior is cooked to a perfect juicy doneness is the goal, right?
But if the steak is too cold it can require so much cooking time for the interior to reach that perfect doneness that the steak may overcook and turn gray and dry. To remedy this, allow steaks to stand at room temperature for at least 40 minutes before you grill them. They will cook faster through to the center and stay juicer.
Season the steaks a couple of hours in advance. Let them come to room temperature before cooking. Always wait at least an hour.
Don’t use the wrong kind of salt, and when in doubt, oversalt.
True sea salt is always the way to go when seasoning a steak. The grains are medium sized and have a pleasant minerality that lends itself perfectly to grilled beef.
Avoid table salt, iodized salt or small fine-grain sea salts as they have more weight to volume than larger grain salts and you can easily over season with them.
Kosher salt is virtually identical to sea salt. Both are different from iodized table salt however, which is usually ultra fine grain and containing iodine.
Should you over season your steaks? The short answer is yes. When you think it’s enough, always add a little more. A lot of salt and pepper falls off during the cooking process and doesn’t always penetrate the meat. Do this before you let the steaks rest so the seasoning has time to work its way deep into the meat.
Don’t season your steak too soon
There is a belief that salting meat too far in advance of cooking can draw out moisture.
It’s true that salt can draw moisture towards itself.
It’s also true that over the course of 20 or 30 minutes that can actually be a good thing as the salt will begin to dissolve into that little bit of moisture that’s been drawn out.
To Sear or Not To Sear
Using only high heat can grill most steaks perfectly. If you see flare ups is the only time you would really need to move them around on the grill. Some cuts of steak are so thick that they would burn on the outside if grilled over direct heat alone and wouldn’t reach the desired internal doneness.
This is why you should consider the sear and slide approach for steaks thicker than an inch. After you’ve seared both sides nicely over direct high heat, slide the steaks to a part of the grill that is not so hot, ideally over indirect heat, and complete the grilling process there.
So, when you drop the steak onto the hot cooking grate, all the sugars and proteins in the moisture will mix with the salt, and any other seasonings you’ve added, which creates a perfectly crisp crust. The flavor of that delicious crust is worth any moisture you may lose.
With larger steaks it’s always a good idea to finish with some large flake or finishing salt once it’s sliced. If you do not have an hour to temper and season ahead of time, season immediately before grilling. anything shorter than 40 minutes will only pull moisture out of the steak and not let the outside get those beautiful grill marks and crust.
Adding a bit of olive oil as well helps gets better sear or griddle marks. If you do decide to add some fat, stick with olive oil, not butter. There is no real need for butter when cooking a steak because it already has plenty of fat and flavor in the meat itself. Make sure it’s super dry before it hits the heat. Be sure you pat down your meat. Dry meat forms the best crust.
Don’t use lighter fluid or charcoal briquettes if you can avoid it.
Always avoid lighter fluid if possible, and while convenient, charcoal briquettes can add an unpleasant kerosene flavor to meat grilled meats and should be avoided. Propane grills will ultimately yield a better steak than charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid.”
The best way to go, however is hardwood, mesquite or hardwood lump charcoal. Natural solid fuels add the most flavor to steaks while complementing their natural flavors instead of overpowering them.
Don’t start without a super hot grill.
Be sure to let your charcoal fully catch and heat up before attempting to grill on it, about 20-30 minutes. Your fire should have a bed of red hot coals with even heat across the grill, and minimal flames and smoke.
A hot cooking surface is extremely important to caramelize the outside of the steak and secure in the flavor. This method will give you a crispy on the outside, yet moist and tender on the inside steak.
Don’t forget the thermometer.
Determining the temperature of your streak by hand can be tricky.
If you don’t have a meat thermometer on hand then using metal cake testers are the next best way. Insert the metal tester into the steak, leave it for five seconds, then pull it out and touch it to your lips or inner wrist. The internal temp of the steak will tell you how done it is. If it is cold, your steak is rare, if it is just warm, medium rare, slightly hot, medium, etc. No more pushing on it to test it by the juices. Cake testers are less than a dollar and you can get them in baking sections or on Amazon.
Use this chart to determine the doneness of your steak.
Medium rare: 130-135°F
Medium Well: 150-155°F
Steaks grilled over high heat will lose moisture. This means that the fat and juices are literally pushed out of the meat. Over time, as we’ve made steaks easier to digest, this is an unfortunate reality. Perhaps the most important part of maintaining this moisture when grilling a steak is to take it off the heat before it becomes too dry.
You usually only have a minute or two to execute this. When steaks go from medium rare to medium, or from medium to medium well drying out can happen quickly. You must be vigilant to catch that window. Never walk away from a steak on the grill. Be cautious as it’s always better to take a steak off when it’s underdone than to let it over cook, because you can always return it to the grill.
Don’t flip your steak more than once.
Keep away from overturning your steak. Some cooks believe searing your steaks can lock in flavors and aromas on the surface of the steak.
They let their steaks sizzle over direct heat until the surfaces are dark, dark brown.
Don’t forget to let the steak rest.
Cooking the steak to ten degrees below your desired temp and then resting it allows for the collagen in the meat to thicken the juices as it cools slightly. This creates a way juicier steak than just cooking straight to temp.
Just because the steak is off the grill doesn’t mean it stopped cooking. Keep it in a warm place and rest it for about half as long as you cooked it.
If you’re not able to keep the steak warm while it rests, or you want to eat it quite hot, return the steak to the grill after it’s rested and bring it up to the internal temperature of your preference before eating.