While grilling steaks is usually done during the summer, some people still hanker for a piece of that tender, grilled-to-perfection beef on their holidayplate. This is why knowing how to grill steak is one of the most important culinary skills you need to know because it’s an expertise you can use all-year-round.

 Here are some expert tips that will help you know how to grill steak the right way.

The “Absolutely Necessary” Preparations

Remember, the whole process does not only involve grilling — you also need to be diligent with the preparations. Unbeknownst to most, grilling the perfect steak relies heavily on choosing the right piece of meat. Selecting the best kind of meat is the first step to steak success. The rest of the ingredients are pretty simple — salt and fire.

Learning how to grill steak may seem like a simple task, but it requires a lot of skill because the flavors will depend highly on how you handle the meat before, during, and after the cooking process.

Choosing the Right Kind of Meat

Ideally, the best choice is the highest-grade USDA Prime beef. The secret is in the fat content because this is what gives flavor to the meat. Marbling is crucial to the selection process along with freshness. Remember that grain-fed beef has more marbling than grass-fed ones. A steak which shows plenty of marbling also means that the meat is less tough. Look for marbling that’s firm, white, and evenly distributed.

When it comes to cuts and thickness, consider your available equipment and preferred method of how to grill steak. For example, a skirt steak is best cooked on a hot grill while a New York strip steak or ribeye is better off in a cast-iron pan over a stove.

Setting, Seasoning, and Prepping for the Grill

It is recommended that you cook your steak an hour after taking it out of the refrigerator. Preferences may vary when it comes to the length of time to let your steak rest at room temperature, but overall, a half hour should be the minimum.

Season your steaks with salt while they sit at room temperature, but not more than 40 minutes before grilling, as the salt will remove moisture from the meat. Most chefs prefer medium-grain sea salt as their ideal choice. Avoid table, iodized, or fine-grain sea salts.

You may also add pepper for more flavor. Overseasoning the meat is actually advisable because some salt and pepper grains may not infiltrate it. Be generous in seasoning because salt is just as important as the meat itself. Add a little more even if you think you’ve seasoned the meat enough.

Pat the steaks down and ensure that they are dry before placing them on the grill.

Preparing the Perfect Grill (the Right Heat, Temp, & Time)

With your first two ingredients prepped and ready, it’s time to address the third most important component of the grilling process — heat, and along with it, exercising due diligence in checking temperatures and cooking time.

Woods

Use hardwood or hardwood lump charcoal to bring out the best flavors. While more convenient, lighter fluid and charcoal briquettes can affect the flavor of your meat (such as making it taste like kerosene) so avoid using them as much as possible. Propane grills are more advisable to use if natural, hardwood, or hardwood lump charcoal are unavailable.

Hardwood or hardwood lump charcoal are always the best options because they enhance and complement the natural flavors of the meat.

Charcoal

Make sure that the charcoal is fiery hot before grilling. Let it burn for about 20-30 minutes until the coals become red hot. By this time, the flames and smoke should be at the minimal level.  

Having a sufficiently hot cooking surface will yield a crispy exterior while locking in the flavors and tenderizing the meat inside.

Testing

Have a meat thermometer or a metal cake tester ready to check the temperature. This is very important because even chefs don’t rely on their instincts alone. The following temperatures will tell you the level of doneness:

  • 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit - Rare
  • 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit - Medium rare
  • 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit - Medium
  • 150-155 degrees Fahrenheit – Medium well
  • 160-165 degrees Fahrenheit – Well

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, a metal cake tester will suffice. Check the internal temperature of the steak by inserting the metal cake tester for five seconds then touch your lips or inner wrist to feel the temperature.

The following temperatures indicate the level of the steak's doneness:

  • Cold – rare
  • Warm – medium rare
  • Slightly hot – medium

Cooking Times

Cooking times vary for each type of meat and level of doneness. While there are no set rules on the length of cooking time, here are some typical ones:

  • Medium rare ribeye – 5 minutes on each side at 120 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Medium ribeye – 10 minutes on each side at 135 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Medium rare sirloin – 4-5 minutes on each side
  • Medium sirloin – 5-6 minutes on each side
  • Medium rare filet mignon – 5-6 minutes on each side
  • Medium filet mignon – 6-8 minutes on each side

How to Grill Steak like a Pro

In order to know how to grill steak properly, do not overturn your meat. The ideal way is to turn the steak only once on each side and to flip it one time.

If you're grilling for a big group, it's better to cook larger steaks rather than individual ones. Larger steaks are easier to manage on a grill than smaller, individual ones because you need to monitor their internal temperatures.

When you’re done grilling the steak, heed the great Anthony Bourdain’s advice - let it rest and do not touch it after removing from the grill.

Bourdain stressed “the most overlooked feature or factor in the success or failure of a steak,” which is letting the grilled meat “rest and sit on the board at room temperature for 5-7 minutes."

Bourdain emphasized that even if the meat is off the grill, it continues “to cook,” and that “more importantly, the juices are distributing themselves in a truly wonderful alignment.”

It is recommended to let the steak sit for half of the time it took to cook it. For example, if it took 8 minutes to cook, let it sit for 4 minutes. However, you still need to keep the steak warm while it’s resting.

If you’re unable to do so, put the steak back in the grill to warm it up to your preferred internal temperature before serving.

Conclusion

Don't fret if you are unable to make the perfect steak right away. Knowing how to grill steak takes time and a lot of practice but you will certainly get the hang of it.
Just remember to keep the most important things in mind:

  • Choose the right steak in terms of marbling, freshness, cut, and thickness
  • Do the necessary preparations and follow the recommended length of time for the steak to rest at room temperature before grilling
  • Use medium-grain sea salt instead of table or iodized salt
  • Don’t be afraid to overseason, then pat down the steaks to dry before grilling
  • Use hardwood or hardwood lump charcoal or propane as an alternative
  • Use a meat thermometer or a metal cake tester
  • Follow recommended cooking times for each type of meat and level of doneness
  • Grill large steaks instead of multiple individual ones
  • Let your steaks rest after taking them off the grill

Learning how to grill steak the proper way is a step-by-step process — one that you will eventually master over time. Take these tips to heart and work on learning how to grill steak perfectly. Be sure you also love the preparation and cooking process; it will give you a better understanding of how to grill steak that your friends and family will enjoy. 

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