I have always loved my steaks and learning how to grill a steak perfectly takes a lot of practice and patience. If you are new to grilling, don’t get frustrated on your first try. I urge you to keep trying and keep improving; grilling a great steak is an art form and can’t be rushed. If you need a few guidelines to follow in your journey of grilling the perfect steak well here are some tips to get you started.
8 Easy Steps on How to Grill a Steak
I found this great video on YouTube that does a great job summarizing steak grilling thanks to allrecipes.com
Step 1 – Choosing the right cut of meat
The first step in learning how to grill a steak is to choose a thick cut of meat. Whether it’s Ribeye, Tenderloin, New York Strip or even a T-bone steak, just make sure it is of high quality and thick cut. If you want to grill a steak that’s crispy and brown on the outside with a nice juicy, pink and tender center – then really, the thicker the better 1 ¼” or 1 ½” should be thick enough. Now don’t worry though, this does not mean that you have to eat the whole thing on your own; you can share it or save it for later. It is always better to cook one large steak for sharing than cooking 2 smaller steaks. And the thicker it is the easier it is for you to cook the outside without overcooking the center of the steak. With thinner steaks there’s more chance of you overcooking the whole thing and really that’s not a great way to grilling a steak. Especially since we are using a grill that exudes very high heat, the inside will tend to overcook faster than you can create that nice crispy brown exterior.
Step 2 – Seasoning your meat
Season your steak with salt about 40 minutes prior to grilling it. I’m sure you’ve heard debates regarding this step. There are those who tell you that putting salt on your steak will keep it from browning, or that it will dry out your steak. Salt does draw moisture out from the meat, which is really bad if you do it right before you start grilling. Now the reason why you should salt 40 minutes before you grill is because with nowhere to go the moisture comes back into the now tender meat. You can also season your steak with salt a few days in advance, yes that’s right days. This way it gives the salt maximum time to work its way into the meat. I suggest you use kosher salt though as it is easier to spread evenly with your fingers and it will also bring out more moisture out of the meat than ordinary table salt.
Step 3 – Letting your steak cool down
Allow your steak to come to room temperature before you start to grill your steak. Some people will tell you this step is unnecessary. But I personally like to wait till my steak is room temperature as it helps me cook the steak more evenly and I won’t need to cook it as long on the grill as if it came from the fridge.
Step 4 – Choose your coal wisely
Now while hardwood coal is really the best option for this as it gives your steak great flavor when done and it will also grill your steak faster than if you use briquettes. But if you don’t have the option of using hardwood coal, a briquette is also good for this as it is more inexpensive and easier to find. Briquettes burn at lower temperatures for longer compared to hardwood coal. You can opt to use more briquettes to get it hotter than just using a normal amount of coal. Oh, and please don’t use lighter fluid – spend some money and invest in a good chimney starter. We know that gas grills have been popping around everywhere and are more commonly used nowadays but don’t worry, gas is ok. But don’t expect the same exquisite smokiness of using coals and if you have a gas grill it will probably cook longer than using hardwood coals or briquettes.
Step 5 – Grill the steak slowly then sear at end
We’ve all heard people say that searing locks in the juices in these steaks, but if you’ve been grilling awhile you know it is not true. The juices of the meat runs out of the meat depending on the temperature you cook the meat to and not proportional to the temperature the meat is being cooked at. Searing the steak immediately cooks the outer layers and you start to lose the juices of the steak almost immediately. And by the time it’s properly seared, you would have almost overcooked your outer layer before even beginning to cook the steak through to the center. You should start your steak on the cold side of the grill; you can arrange your coals to one side too keep that side the hot one and the other half as the cold side, with the cover on. Once you get to the proper temperature, the exterior would be in good browning stage and all you need to do now is place it on the hot side of the grill to crisp it up.
Step 6 – Flipping stage
We’ve all heard the usual myths over the flipping of steaks. Some say you should only flip it once over the course of your grilling while others tell you to keep flipping it every chance you get. Flipping your steak every so often keeps it more evenly cooked and can also cut down your grilling time. Flipping keeps neither side exposed to the intense heat of your grill for too long, which is kind of like cooking it from both sides simultaneously. You can also just flip it once, but flipping it more often will result in better steaks. Now whether to use a fork or tongs or a spatula also depends on personal preference. I personally like using tongs or spatula better but a fork is more convenient in more ways than one. While some people argue that you lose juices when you use a fork, the size of the puncture holes of a fork actually is small enough to not be noticeable. But again, it depends on what you prefer.
Step 7 – Using a thermometer
Some people don’t like using a thermometer, as they’d rather rely on their instincts or experience to know whether the steak is already cooked. But if you’re only just starting, you should really use a thermometer. Make sure you pull it off the grill a good 5° F before you reach your target temperature, as the heat from the exterior will travel inside your steak while it rests. You can use the degrees below for your reference when cooking:
- 120° F – rare
- 130° F – medium rare
- 140° F – medium
- 150° F – medium well
- 160° F – well done
I urge you to invest in a thermometer you can use for grilling as it is very helpful not only in grilling steaks but mostly any grilling. We are almost finished with the proper steps on how to grill a steak.
Step 8 – Let your steak rest
This is very important; you should let your steak rest before cutting into it. You should let the steak rest until the steak’s temperature has normalized before cutting it. If you cut it immediately after grilling, the juices inside the steak will leak out and making your steak dry. But if you let it rest, the muscle fibers of the steak will relax and the juice will stay in the meat.
Enjoy your perfectly cooked, juicy, and tender steak!