Grilling outdoors is one of our favorite ways to cook beef. Sometimes we’re grilling for a party with friends, and other times it’s just for us. No matter how many people are gathered around the grill, there are some secrets on how to grill steak to perfection.
Before we dive in to the actual grilling, we need to cover some basics about beef and steaks. You may think you can skip this beef 101 part, but it’s really important. If you want a good steak, it starts with choosing a good cut of beef.
How to choose a cut of beef that’s tender and flavorful:
In choosing a steak, think location, location, location. Steaks come from a variety of areas on a steer. The Ribeye Steak comes from the rib section. The Strip and Tenderloin Steaks comes from the loin section. The Sirloin Steak comes from the sirloin steak. The Flank and Skirt Steak come from the flank section. Just to name a few.
Since meat is a muscle, the tenderness of a steak is related to how much work the muscle does. A good rule of thumb to remember is that beef gets more tender and flavorful as the distance from horn and hoof increases.
Since an animal is constantly using its legs and neck, those muscles are more developed and a steak from those areas will be less tender.
If you want a tender steak, you need to pick a steak from the loin section since that’s the center of the animal and those muscles don’t work as much as others.
What’s the best cut of steak to grill?
Most people pick their favorite steak cut based on a specific characteristic of the steak – such as a steak’s tenderness, juiciness, flavor and leanness. If you only care about leanness, you’ll probably want a sirloin steak. If your taste buds want a juicy steak that’s full of flavor, go with a ribeye.
Even though taste buds vary, there are four cuts that generally rise to the top of all steak lists: Tenderloin, Ribeye, Strip and Sirloin.
- Tenderloin: An extremely tender cut of beef that will melt in your mouth.
- Ribeye: Known for being well-marbled and the most flavorful cut.
- Strip: Strip steaks are a steakhouse classic and an all-around favorite. They’re known for marbling, tenderness and flavor.
- Sirloin: This is a lean, beefy-flavor steak that’s moderately-tender.
How to grill steak:
1. Preheat the grill
Preheat the grill with all the burners on high and lid closed for 10-15 minutes.
2. Salt your steak
When salt is added to beef, it breaks down the beef’s muscle protein, draws moisture to the surface of the meat, and has a hydrating effect. It ultimately creates a juicier steak. There are lots of types of salt and we’ve talked about them before. Our go-to is kosher salt. When salting steak, it’s recommend to use ¾ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon per pound of beef.
As a side note, there’s a debate among chefs if the steaks need to be at room temperature before grilling. Some are advocates of it being room temperature and others say it’s best to cook it straight out of the fridge. We’ve used both methods, and the biggest difference we’ve seen is that if your steak is room temperature before placing it on the grill, it will cook slightly faster. If you do decide to go with a room temperature steak, only let it sit in indoor room temperature for one-hour or less.
3. Place steaks on grill
Once your grill is hot (approx. 450 degrees), place the steaks on the grill, close the lid, and sear your steak. Searing is a process of cooking the steaks so that it creates the beautiful grill marks and crusty surface that is the trademark of good steaks. When searing, you’re looking for a deep brown color. Many experts say that you’ll achieve a sear on the first side and be ready to flip your meat in 1-3 minutes, but it really depends on the steak cut and the thickness. Searing does take a little practice, but it’s an easy skill to master.
4. Flip the steaks
When ready, flip the steaks to a previously unused part of the cooking grate and sear the second side of the steaks. The amount of time the steaks are on the second side should be about the same as the first side.
5. Test for doneness
The million dollar question when grilling is “how long to grill a steak?” There is only one way to answer this question accurately and it requires a digital meat thermometer. Period.
Yes, we know there are ways to guess-timate if a steak is done by touch, color or cook time (and we’ve written about touch tests before), but none of these methods are as accurate as a digital meat thermometer. If you need a thermometer, we’ve talked about how to find a good digital meat thermometers, and if you’re on a budget, you can get a good one for around $30-$35. That’s not much considering you probably just spent top dollar on quality steaks and you don’t want to ruin them. (Our personal favorite is the Thermapen Mk4, and our second favorite is the ThermoPop.)
When using your digital meat thermometer, push the probe into the center of the steak from the top. Push it just past where you think the center of the steak is and then pull the probe out slowly. Watch the thermometer’s display as you do this; the numbers should lower slightly as you get closer to the center. The low temperature indicates the internal center of the steak. The lowest temperature you find is the best indication of the internal doneness of the steak.
When you’re getting close to the correct temperature, be very attentive watching the steaks. It usually only takes a minute or two to go from medium rare to medium. Don’t walk away from the grill at this key time. It’s always better to take it off underdone and then return it to the grill than it is to let it overcook.
6. Remove steak from the grill
When your steak reaches the target temperature, remove it from the grill. Remember, the temperature of cooked beef will continue to rise as it rests. Remove beef from heat when the thermometer reads about 5-10°F lower than the desired doneness.
Also keep in mind that all steaks cook differently, even if they look identical and are the same weight and cook. Be sure to use your digital thermometer to test each steak individually and pull each steak off the grill at its perfect time.
The temperatures in this chart are final doneness, so you need to pull your beef off the heat about 5-10°F before these temperatures are reached.
7. Let it rest
You never want to cut a steak that’s hot off the grill because the steak will continue to cook even after you remove it from the heat. This process is called carryover cooking. While it rests, the steak’s fibers will relax, and the juices will redistribute back to the center. If you don’t let your steak rest, when you cut into it your plate will quickly fill up with steak-juice liquid and you’ll be disappointed. Regarding how long steaks rest, we recommend approximately five minutes for every inch of thickness. A one-inch steak needs about five minutes to rest.
8. Enjoy your steak!
One more thing!
Do you want to learn more about cooking steak? Here are a few other beef posts and recipes you may like. Plus, we have an entire ebook about beef.
- What Everybody Ought to Know About Beef Cuts
- Dry Rub or Marinade for Steak? Know What’s Best
- Is It Done Yet? Why Every Kitchen Needs a Digital Meat Thermometer and the Best One
- Ebook – An Essential Guide to Beef: A Cattle Farm Shares How to Purchase & Prepare Beef
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