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Grilling Steak, Step by Step

 

Tampa Tribune

Last week we talked about how to grill a perfect hamburger by focusing on technique.  This week we’ll keep focusing on grilling technique and walk step by step through grilling steaks like an expert.  You see, a lot of people really over-think grilling steaks.  I have had some really elaborately prepared beef jerky grilled by some great people with the best of intentions.  It’s often hard to sit back and watch the host destroy a perfectly good steak, but hey, it’s not my party.  I’ll do the next best thing and break down what I think are the simple steps to grilling the perfect steak.  In this case, I’m grilling sirloins (they were on sale!), but this technique is the same for all cuts of beef up to an inch thick.  Steaks over an inch thick will require a little more time to cook through, so adjust your times accordingly and remember to err on the side of rare (you can always throw it back on the grill, but you can’t reverse jerky!).  Enough intro, let’s get down to it…

Grilling Steak, Step by Step

  1. Warm that steak up!  Let’s start with one of the most important steps in grilling steaks.  We want to grill our steaks quickly and evenly, so it is very important to let the steak come to room temperature before grilling.  Remove your steaks from the refrigerator and set them on the kitchen counter for about 30 minutes prior to grilling.  Don’t leave it there too long though, that’s just gross, just get it to room temperature.
  2. Seasoning. Just like we talked about when grilling hamburgers, there is no need to over-think seasoning.  Let that steak’s natural taste prevail!  I like to keep it simple and first brush the steaks with a little olive oil and then use Kosher salt, FRESH ground black pepper and a little garlic powder.  Combine the seasoning and rub it all over both sides of the steak.  That rub is what is going to help create that delicious crust we are after during the searing stage.
  3. High heat. Now that the steak has warmed a bit and has been coated in a simple layer of seasoning, go ahead and light the grill and prepare it for direct grilling over high heat.  Another important technigue in grilling steaks is to use high (around 600 degrees is perfect), direct heat and grill them quickly!  The longer the steak stays on the grill, the more moisture leaves the meat.  So crank that baby up as high as it will go and turn on the sear burner if you have one.  Keep the lid closed until the grill has heated as high as you can get it.
  4. Clean that grill! Once the grill is nice and hot, make sure you give those grates a good scraping with a wire grill brush.  Some people lube their grates with some vegetable oil, but that shouldn’t be needed between the clean grates and the little bit of olive oil we brushed the steaks with earlier.
  5. Grill those steaks! We are now ready to grill the steaks.  Using tongs, place the steaks on the hottest part of the grill and don’t touch them for about 2 minutes.
  6. Grill marks are important. Why?  Because you want those steaks to look good right?  It is more than that though.  The caramelization that occurs in those grill marks is really tasty.  Pick your steaks up with the tongs and turn them 45 degrees and put them back on the grill to make those perfect, crosshatch grill marks (we want a total of about 5 minutes on the first side).
  7. Flip the steaks as little as possible. It is very tempting to keep flipping the steak.  However, when meat is cooking over a direct heat source like on your hot grill, the juices get pushed through the meat away from the heat source.  To grill a juicy steak, you want to disrupt the juices as little as possible, so that means flipping the steak as little as possible.  After a total of around 5 minutes on the first side, flip the steaks over using your tongs (never pierce the steaks with a fork!).
  8. Rotate again. After another 2 or 3 minutes on the other side, again rotate the steaks 45 degrees to create our grill marks on the other side.  Grill for an additional 3 – 4 minutes after rotating.
  9. Check to see if they are done. Once you get a few dozen steaks under your belt (literally and figuratively), you will be able to tell doneness just by pushing down on the meat.  The firmer the meat, the more done it is.  A great instant read thermometer is a must for the kitchen and grill though and takes the guess work out of cooking.  The Thermapen is the best on the market and I highly recommend it.  Remember, you can always throw an undercooked steak back on the grill but you can’t reverse beef jerky, so err on the side of undercooked.  Not sure what temperature you are aiming for?  There’s an app for that.
  10. Let them rest! Once the steaks are grilled to your desired doneness, remove them and place them on a platter.  Now DON’T TOUCH those beautiful hunks of meat for 5 minutes if you can help it.  Remember, the juices on the inside are disrupted a lot when you are grilling a steak.  They need about 5 minutes to “calm down” and redistribute.  If you cut into it too soon, all of those juices will leak out (which is no sweat if you can’t help it, just soak them up with the baked potato!).

See?   There is nothing to grilling steak like an expert.  Focus on technique, not the seasoning or (God forbid) sauces and let the natural flavor of the steak be the star of your grilling show.  Also, make sure you check out some of our other grilling recipes for those guests that don’t eat red meat.  If you are looking for a great appetizer, grilled shrimp kabobs make a great tasting and quick cooking treat!

22 Responses

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Sweet G

03-30-2009

You forgot to say anything about the thickness of the steak. I don’t mind searing over high heat but I like my steaks medium rare so I’m generally cooking them about 4 minutes per side over maybe 450. Most of the time my steaks are just under 1″ thick. Too long over 600+ and you get charcoal or a grill fire.

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admin

03-30-2009

Good point Sweet G. I will update to be more specific. I honestly don’t know the surface temp of my grills and I obviously can’t trust the lid thermometers. I use the hand-1-inch-above-the-grill method to determine the hottest parts of the grill. I like to grill over my hot spots and move to a less hot spot (usually right over the shields) if I am just cooking through for another few minutes.

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Newbie

11-06-2009

Do you close the lid when grilling steaks and burgers or with just meats that take longer like chicken?

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Steve

11-06-2009

Hi Kirk. I do not close the lid on steaks and burgers. These meats are best when cooked over high heat using direct heat. You are correct, I recommend closing the lid and using a cooler temperature for meats that take longer to cook, like chicken breasts. For split chicken breasts (with bones) and thicker meats like pork loins and roasts, I recommend using an indirect heat source, cooking the meat over the unlit portion of the grill with the lid closed, after searing the meat on the hot side. Hope this helps!
Steve

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SteelyPhan

10-14-2010

Hey man, I just grilled a ‘fresh-off-the-cow’ sirloin and followed your advice exactly. Dude, it was the best. I seriously had people asking that famous question…..”omg, this is sooooo good, how did you grill it?….like, do you have a method?” Thanks bro.

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AK

05-21-2012

First steak grilling expedition with my first grill. Sirloins using these steps were delicious, way better than best case expected. Tongs to you steakmaster!

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T.G.

07-25-2012

So, I’ve heard about ‘searing’ the outside of your steaks by putting them on high heat for a short while to get those grill marks, which it sounds like you are advocating here too. But I don’t see anything about moving the steaks to a cooler part of the grill after searing for the rest of the cooking. Do you keep them on the same high heat you used to sear those grill marks for the entire cook, or do you move them after you get the grill marks?

Thanks!

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Steve

07-25-2012

Hi T.G. It depends on the thickness. If you have steaks over 1.5 inches thick, you are going to want a bit more time on a medium side of the grill to cook through. I always recommend getting a good instant read thermometer. That way, you can check what is going on inside there and keep from over-cooking.
Steve

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T.G.

07-25-2012

Thanks! Just got my new Weber performer (moving up from our old 18.5 OTS) last night; can’t wait to give this a shot :)

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Mo (San Diego)

08-28-2012

For those of you that are interested in high heat grilling, which is the only way to BBQ steak, is to modify your grill. Most grills (under $1000) barely can go as high as 500 F. Recommend to buy Weber ($700 to 900 range) and then remove the orifices and opend them up (I would go 50 to 60% larger. Simply go to Home Depot and buy a set of small drill bits. Find one that fits the original size then go one size up at least. Then you’ll have to adjust the injector air breather. More gas needs more air- basically you must make sure that at full open flames is completely blue- yellow flame is not good (not much heat it produces). If you buy a new Weber make sure to buy the one that has double layer top lid- it keeps the heat inside the grill. Start up the grill and watch that baby heats up. Mine heats up to 700 F in five min. Always use the thickest steak you can buy- for 1.5 inch Fillet it should take about 12 min max for mid rare.

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Tony

01-20-2013

I am an advocate of indirect cooking…but not for steaks, burgers or thin chops. I rarely cook steaks under 1-1/4″ to 1-1/2 inch thick, but ALWAYS cook them direct over charcoal, with a medium rare leaning toward rare with a bit of myoglobin (most of you call it blood, which it is not)on the plate after they rest abot 5 to seven minutes. My success is based on allowing a generous amount of charcoal, (3/4 chimney full) to cool a bit after spreading them, so that there is an intense heat, but not an all out red coals. (in my grill about a 10 or 15 minute wait time after spreading the coals.) I am an advocate of using a good digital thermometer, but I do not for steaks, contrary to popular beliefs and many VERY respected grilling sites. I use time and touch with 100% success rate. (KNOW YOUR GRILL) Boned meats, Bones/Porterhouse/Bone in rib eye/bone in strips will take about 4 to 4-1/2 minutes a side. Boneless cuts are 3-1/2 to 4 mins per side. I do not understand oiling a grill or piece of beef. If you have selected a piece of meat with ample marbling, and do not move it or touch it for the first 2 mins., IT WILL NOT STICK to the grill. Do not slide your steak across the grates! USE A FORK/MEATHOOK to move or flip your steaks. There is so much juice/myoglobin in a steak you will NEVER dry it out by using a 2 tined fork to flip it. For this cooking method: 1) room temp for 20 mins. 2) Over season a bit compared to indirect method. 3)Heat your grill grate as soon as you spread you coals. 4)just before you throw your streaks on, slip a FEW (4 pieces) small (NOT SOAKED or it will kill your fire!) pieces of hickory chips through your grates and begin to grill using the above method… for me this is 8 minutes ,or one adult carbonated malt beverage. By the time you take them off the grill and let them rest you will be done with your favorite adult carbonated malt beverage, and you can pour that nice glass of Cab, or Zin, (ZIN is not pink) to accompany your perfectly cooked favorite cut of meat! This is NOT how I would cook a non fatty (Tenderloin/Fillet) piece of meat. That story is another glass of wine. Happy grilling!!! T.

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T.G.

05-14-2013

Weeell, I’m back!

I tried my first steaks using this method the other day, and I have to say for my first try they really came out great! I DID overcook them a bit though, and they were even on the grill for a shorter time than recommended here (rather large steaks as well, probably just at an inch thick)

The main problem I think was flareups. I’ve had this issue with burgers too, but the burgers seem to come out ok so I thought maybe the flareups were an expected part of the process, but I’m pretty sure that was the problem here. Outside was cooked too fast. Can you give me some tips to manage flareups so I can cook to desired internal temp without overcooking the exterior? Thanks!

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Ray Phister

05-15-2013

Just a question. Doesn’t a thermopen defeat the purpose of not penetrating the meat while it’s cooking or until it has rested?

I have learned to push with my finger to determine how done my steaks are but would love to use a therm. Would an infrared or thermal sensor work better? Point and shoot with out poking?

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