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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!

18 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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