February 16th, 2010

Top 10 Steak Grilling Tips

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Top 10 Steak Grilling Tips (From a Real-Live Chef!)

If you think grilling a steak is as simple as slapping a piece of meat you bought at the supermarket on a grill and flipping it a few times, you’re missing out on what could be THE GREATEST STEAK OF YOUR LIFE.

Here are some grilling tips from an honest-to-goodness chef that’ll make your next steak meal your finest work ever.

1. Choose the right cut of meat — Some cuts of meat are better for grilling than others. I, personally, prefer to grill strip steaks over other cuts because you get a nice combination of fat and meat for a great flavor. Filet mignon, on the other hand, I prefer to pan sear because it is so lean and I can add fat and flavors in the pan.  Experiment!  Ultimately, no one can tell you what you like, you have to find it for yourself.  Here are the pros and cons of each cut:

2. Choose the right quality of meat — Nothing ruins a good steak dinner like a bad steak. A lot of places sell poor quality meat, so make sure you choose a reputable supplier so you know you are getting your money’s worth.  I always find premium quality steaks online.  By law, all meats are inspected for wholesomeness so no one is selling you meat that will kill you, but grading is a voluntary system.  Meats are graded on several categories, including the marbling of fat and the amount of connective tissue.  Sure, it may be fit to eat but do you want to eat it?  Prime is the highest quality, followed by choice and select.  Choice meats are very high quality steaks and the most common steak used in the restaurant industry. Here are a few pointers to track down the perfect quality & cut of steak:

  • Get to know your butcher, call and ask when they receive orders
  • Special order cuts you know you want
  • Ask them to cut meat just for you (you’d be surprised what they will do for you)
  • Order just the grade that you want
  • Ask how long they keep their steaks if they don’t sell them

3. Season early — You should salt your meat even before you start your coals. If you throw salt on right before you put it on the grill you end up leaving salt all over the grill, not on your steak. So season your steaks about fifteen minutes before you put them on the grill. That gives the salt a chance to dissolve and evenly flavor your meat.  Sea salt is all the rage now and chefs like to fancy up a plate by using specialty salts like Hawaiian Pink Salt or Fleur de Sel. Sometimes a little good salt is all that a steak needs.

4. Take ‘em out early — Let your steaks sit on the counter for at least twenty minutes. I know it doesn’t seem sanitary, but since steaks are whole muscles and you are cooking the outside well above safe levels, you won’t need to worry so much about food-borne illness. The problem with throwing your steaks on the grill right out of the refrigerator is that it will take them a lot longer to cook. Steaks at room temperature take seasoning better and will cook faster. Unfortunately, meat takes time to cook and if you are in too much of a hurry to cook it you are probably in too much of a hurry to really enjoy it.  Take your time and learn to enjoy cooking your steak almost as much as eating it.

5. Use charcoal — Gas grills work great for cooking food but can sometimes impart a gas flavor to your meat. I like to use natural hardwood charcoal started in a chimney. Don’t use lighter fluid; it defeats the purpose of using hardwood charcoal.  You want to smell the steak roasting over the coals – that is the best part! Some people swear by mesquite soaked in apple juice others say you cook your steak too fast to get any benefit.  Wood chips can add flavor if you are smoking your meat but that usually takes a lot more time than it takes to grill a steak.  My recommendation is that if you are curious, play around see if you can taste and enjoy the difference.

6. Hot coals — Set your coals up so that you have zones of cooking. Always start off on a hot spot. You want good color and flavor from the high heat. When you flip it, don’t put it down on the same spot as before — it will be cooler. Find another hot spot to continue getting good color and flavor.

7. Don’t touch it! — This is one of the biggest mistakes a home cook makes. Everyone wants to keep checking the food to see if it is done. Leave it alone. Know how thick your steak is and roughly how long it takes to cook. Flip it once and give it a quarter turn once on each side. The more you touch it the better chance you have of screwing it up. Check out this grilling chart as a guide on how to cook steaks:

Grilling Chart courtesy of www.kansascitysteaks.com

8. Make it pretty — Use the hot grill to create “cross-hatch” grill marks. Set your steak down at a 45-degree angle from your grill lines. About a quarter of the way through cooking, give it a quarter turn. Half-way through cooking, flip it once. Give it a final quarter turn for the last bit of cooking. When finished you should have a steak that looks like it belongs on a commercial. This might not be the most important thing in your day, but if you’re on a first date or trying to impress then try this!

9. Leave it alone — There’s nothing worse than taking a beautiful steak and covering it with other flavors. Sauces, rubs and butters are fine but if I’m going to eat a steak I like to taste steak. If you are using a lesser cut of meat or poorer quality, marinades are a great tool. But we are talking steak here and all it needs is a little salt, pepper and some heat to cook over.  So refer to rule #2 and source and buy only good quality meat.

10. Make all your condiments early — One trap many people fall into when they grill meat is trying to cook the rest of the meal at the same time. Your kitchen is inside; your grill (if you are following tip #5) should be outside. Don’t try to run between the two. You will only end up ruining your steak or your side dish — or both. Plan your meal to get your extras done early so you can focus solely on your grilling. I mean, it deserves it, doesn’t it? I like a simple compound butter made of softened, unsalted butter, garlic, a little red wine and some cracked pepper. Mix it all together, (in a mixer, if you can, so it is smooth), roll it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge up to two weeks before you cook your steak. One pat on top of each steak can be a nice treat.


  • John M

    What about using tongs to move and turn the meat? I’ve always heard you shouldn’t use forks.

  • Garry Kansas City

    very nice article. I consider myself a grill master, and I always read these types of article with amusement, but I must say all of your points are perfect.

    The only thing I have been changing up recently is going back to using starter fluid. The problem I had with using a chimney is the grill itself. With the chimey I can not heat up and “sanitize” the grill surface. I am against washing ….so … I use fluid, soak the coal … wait ten minutes.. soak them again….. and then light them … then I splatter the fluid all over the place …… over the grill , the sides …. everywher …. then it become a bonfire. I use top quality fluid, and I wait until the fire is totally out. This method ensure the grill is sanitary…

    GREAT ARTICLE>>> AAA Prime

  • http://www.century-properties.com I sell Philippine Properties

    If you think grilling a steak is as simple as slapping a piece of meat you bought at the supermarket on a grill and flipping it a few times, you’re missing out on what could be THE GREATEST STEAK OF YOUR LIFE.

    ^ I think it was. I never thought it was this complicated.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrddbMa1zy4 James

    Hi, great site and thanks for the tips! I always wondered how they got those nice lines on a steak. Unfortunately I don’t have an outdoor grill. Do you recommend a grill plate for indoor steak cooking? Also, I’ve heard that you shouldn’t finish the steak on the stove, but that you should cook it just until it has a nice crust on the outside and finish it in the oven. Is that true? What do you think about it? Thanks for the article!

  • Holycowsteak!

    What an insightful information, great article!!!
    very nice indeed, back to grillin now!!
    twitter account : @holycowsteak

  • Derek

    I will add a few tips that have served me well to this good article.

    1) I have yet to perfect my grilling times (which differ with every grill), so I use a grilling thermometer to poke a single hole and take the center temperature. An important thing to remember is that the center of the steak will continue to cook even after you remove it from the grill (up to 10 deg. more)

    2) After you remove your steak from the grill, let it cool about 5-10min before serving, cutting a steaming steak will cause you to loose a lot of juices.

    3) I use a gas grill (I am too busy to wait for charcoal, if you can wait, that is preferred). In order to get those nice steak lines, you want to take the grill up to at least 400 deg. BEFORE you put the steaks on. This not only makes the steak look good, but it also sears the bottom of the steak locking in the tasty juices inside.

    4) I like adding just a hint of Feta cheese, or salt to top my steak. This adds a slight flavor but does not cover the flavor of the steak like A1 or other heavy sauces do.

    That is all I can think of off the top of my head, hope these help others. Cooking your first great steak is a great feeling!

  • JR

    Great tips! I’m very partial to salt and pepper only on steak, regardless of the cut. I’ll usually put a small splash of a good olive oil on both sides of a cut like London Broil to add a bit of fat and flavor, but otherwise, S&P is fine.

    As for gas grilling, I agree that charcoal is the best method, however, when you don’t have time to get charcoal ready, or it’s 10 degrees outside, a natural gas grill is much better than propane. There’s no nasty propane smell, the heat is high enough to get a good char on the outside of the meat, and it’s ready to go at a moment’s notice!

  • marc

    Great article! I will put these tips to use.
    By The way…not to be a grammer nazi but I believe “others say you cook your steak to fast to get any benefit” should be “others say you cook your steak too fast to get any benefit”

  • Dena P

    Marc,
    I LOVE grammar Nazis! Thanks! It’s fixed now. :)
    Dena

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

  • Dena P

    Yes, you should always use tongs to turn the meat so not to lose any delicious juices.
    Dena

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

  • Dena P

    I’ve used a regular heavy duty pan like a cast iron skillet and a grill plate on top of the stove and both work equally well. But it definitely depends on the cut of steak when cooking on top of the stove as to whether it should be finished in the oven or not. If you have a thinner steak such as strip or ribeye, finishing on the stove would be much easier than with a filet mignon. Click here to see more helpful tips on pan searing!
    Dena

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

  • http://Digg 2fat2fly

    What? New York steak is not on the list?

  • Ron in Houston

    Learned this tip from Cooks Illustrated –

    build a dual zone fire – pile the coals on one side of the grill – that way you have one side to sear and give you good grill marks and another side to finish the cooking at a slower rate.

  • Garry

    Would you please address how you heat/sanitize the grill surface when you use a chimney? If you unleash the coals and wait for them to heat the surface you lose valuable cooking time, coals do not last very long once they are ready. I would rather use a chimey than fluid …but ….. How did you solve this?

    PS
    I use a regular sized Weber grill when using charccoal and a 1993 styled Ducane grill when using propane.

  • Dena P

    FatFreddy,
    New York Strip is the same cut as Kansas City Strip. So, we’ve got you covered!
    Dena

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

  • Garry

    I will take that as a no.
    Allrighty then.

  • justin

    a backup to learn how done it is by how soft it is to prod. Prod your face, then compare: Cheek = rare, chin = medium, forehead = well done.

  • Gough

    The only tip I take exception to is #7 “Don’t touch it.” My brother-in-law is a retired chef/restaurant owner and taught me how to judge the “done-ness” of a steak by touch. The more well-done the steak, the firmer. Practice by touching the steak (with a closed set of tongs) and checking the temp with an instant-read thermometer. It doesn’t take long to develop this skill.

    This is especially handy when grilling over charcoal, as the fire by be a bit hotter or cooler from one time to the next. That makes timing the cooking aproximate at best.

  • http://www.tasty-italian-cooking.com Maria

    I just found this website -my husband is gonna love it! Can’t wait to try out these suggestions!

    Tasty Italian Cooking

  • Dena P

    Hey, Garry!
    Prior to emptying the coals from the chimney take a cut lemon and cover the cut side with kosher or sea salt and then rub it over the grill. It will clean and help sanitize. If you do this beforehand, you won’t have to wait to clean the grill and can just let it get hot. This trick also works well for sanitizing cutting boards when you are camping. If you are using a chimney, once the coals are hot and you empty them in the grill put the lid on for a few minutes to allow the rack to heat up. Unfortunately, you are right, natural charcoal burns faster and your window for cooking is less so you don’t want to wait and lose that peak window. You can increase the amount of coals you use slightly to compensate or add a few extra coals at the bottom and pour the hot chimney coals over them It’s a trade off to avoid that lighter fluid flavor. Hope that helps!

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  • Dena P

    Hey, Garry!
    Prior to emptying the coals from the chimney take a cut lemon and cover the cut side with kosher or sea salt and then rub it over the grill. It will clean and help sanitize. If you do this beforehand, you won’t have to wait to clean the grill and can just let it get hot. This trick also works well for sanitizing cutting boards when you are camping. If you are using a chimney, once the coals are hot and you empty them in the grill put the lid on for a few minutes to allow the rack to heat up. Unfortunately, you are right, natural charcoal burns faster and your window for cooking is less so you don’t want to wait and lose that peak window. You can increase the amount of coals you use slightly to compensate or add a few extra coals at the bottom and pour the hot chimney coals over them It’s a trade off to avoid that lighter fluid flavor. Hope that helps!

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

  • DNA

    These tips are all spot on.
    If you don’t have a grill, try broiling in the oven using the same chart.
    Put the meat about 2 inches from the broiler, keep you oven door ajar so the heat stays on and TURN ON THE VENT FAN!
    I would broil a steak in the oven before putting on a gas grill.

  • http://www.portable-gas-grills.net mike vandepeer

    Turning with a fork or tongs doesn’t seem to matter mutchto me.

    I think the bit that really matters is the “Take Em out Early” strategy.
    Too many people are obsessed with the idea that getting the meat a little warm before you cook the steaks will let the bugs grow.
    Sure it does but they only grow on the surface and we sear them off anyway. (don’t leave mince out only solid cuts like steak or chops-with mince its all surface).
    The shock of fridgecold muscle(steak) dropped on a hot plate causes the muscle to toughen so bring em out early to lessen that shock.

  • http://www.beefitswhatfordinner.com Steve

    Now I have found how this thing works, let me get to the commits.
    ieSpell is a great tool.
    I have been cooking a porterhouse t-bone steak for my wife and I for each Saturday night for the past 20 plus years. Their are some basic rules I have learned doing this.
    1. Lay the steak out and season it 30 min. before cooking.
    2. I use charcoal in a small round smoker with a pan and the charcoal is 8 inches from the grill. The charcoal has to burn for 15 mins. put the lid on the cooker, let it burn for another 15 mins. The new Premium charcoal burns faster and hotter.
    Clean the grill and oil it, let it set another min or two. Place the steak on the grill and replace the lid. Let the 1″ steak cook for 10 mins and turn over the steak and let it cook another 10 mins.
    Let the steak rest for 3 to 5 mins before you cut it.
    I eat the NY strip side and my wife eats the filet side.
    Enjoy If your steak is tuff, you miss treated!

  • http://www.beefitswhatfordinner.com Steve

    If you stick it with a fork you let the juices out.

  • http://www.beefitswhatfordinner.com Steve

    Best way to ruin a steak is cook it in the oven. Charcoal and wood fired works best.

  • http://electricalgrill.blogspot.com JTNK

    Thanks ! This the great grilling tips for everyone who like delicious grilled steak and BBQ.

  • Jophus

    What about marinades? I plan on grilling some top sirloin steaks soon and I planned on marinading them for 24 hours. Is this a bad idea? Is it better to just put some oil, salt and pepper on them instead of marinading? I would like to add either feta or blue cheese on top of the steaks. Should I add the cheese as the steak is simmering after grilling? Thanks.

  • Maureen

    It’s always a personal preference when seasoning steaks. If you want to use a marinade, check out this list. When adding cheese, it’s always best to add it after the steak is off the grill, while it’s resting. It will still be hot enough to melt the cheese.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

  • Chuck Hurst

    I’ve been grilling for the past 25 years and I’ve never done any of the steps outlined above, but my steaks come out fantastic everytime. Gas grill, right out of the fridge.

  • nando

    I’m heading straight to my grill all this STEAK talk made me hungry YUMMY . Thanks for the article

  • http://www.kalmesseasoning.com John

    If you really want a good steak try Kalmes Deluxe Seasoning and Tenderizer on a USDA Choice Ribeye. I use it in my catering business and often hear. That is the best steak I have ever had. And I grill several thousand steaks every year.Once you try it you’ll never grill a steak without it again .

  • Johnny

    Great tips! Thanks!!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/georgetown-youth-baseball georgetown youth baseball

    this is really great tips on steak

  • bruce

    I do a steak exactly like that but I was taught sometime ago not to salt raw beef before cooking. Maybe I’m confused and that just refered to ground beef for burgers. I just use a little onion powder and pepper, and salt can be added as desired after cooking. But as far as the rest of the technique… perfect steak every time!Thank you.

  • Jack

    I see lots of mythology in these posts. Here’s what I’ve learned:

    Reducing the chill from a fridge ahead of cooking does help to cook more evenly inside and out.

    Salting ahead of cooking doesn’t extract enough moisture to make any difference, but does add lots of flavor to the sear.

    Searing doesn’t seal in juices, it only makes it taste and look better.

    Tongs are just easier to use and provide better control. Unless your stabbing the beast to pieces, a fork is just fine.

    Charcoal fluid contains carcinogens, use with extreme caution! Also, it is not a medium for purifying, it doesn’t burn with enough heat for that.

    Using the oven does not dry out the meat. It’s all how you use it. Many if not all chefs start a large steak on the grill (400-500F) and finish it in the oven (350F). Same can be done on a grill with varied heat zones.

    Use a combination of timing and touch to determine doneness. Use a quickprobe if you must. It all depends on grill heat (factoring outdoor temp, wind, rain, surface size), meat thickness, muscle to fat ratio and whether it has a bone or not.

    To turn frequently or not is interesting. Consider the Churrasco method where is it constantly turned and is cooked perfectly. I tend to turn once for under one and a half inches and maybe more turns for thicker. A full roast beef is great when periodically turned.

    –Enjoy

  • Damon

    Jack just dominated this forum with fact and logic. Thank you Jack!

    I’ve actually never ever heard anyone worry about sanitizing the surface of a metal grill that is 450+ degrees. Cleaning, sure. But germs, doubt they’re a problem. Stay away from petroleum starter fluids and you’ll be healthy enough to eat some germs.
    ;)

    The article is great! Good tips, but if you do the total opposite and love your steaks, stick with it! Enjoy!

  • Steve Fleischman

    Doneness: THE BOUNCE
    Get you know your steak by pushing on the surface
    with your spatula and understanding “the bounce” of the spatula.
    What you are trying feel for is the wellness-rawness of the meat. It takes some practice but once you get it you amaze your guests by always knowing Med to Rare and becoming a grill expert.
    ALSO: BUTTER
    The major steak houses pass salted butter on the top of the steak
    before serving for flavor and presentation. I always make one or two passes with a stick of butter on each side. Creates flavor and the “look” of a really moist steak.

  • http://tensawmerchantoutlet.com Lyla Burns

    Thank you so much for this information. My husband and I love to grill, especially steaks! We just bought a vertical smoker and we can’t wait to see how meet cooks in it! thanks again!

  • Mark B

    I have a Weber. I usually put the lid on after the first few minutes, seems to cook them through more evenly, but I’d be interested in your thoughts on the question – lid on or lid off?

  • wayne m.

    This may seem silly but, after the steak sits for 5-10 minutes. It gets cold, do you put it in the micro-wave? Or just eat it as is? Thanks

  • Dena P

    Hi, Mark!

    Lid on is the way to go! It definitely seems to cook more thoroughly. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Dena

  • Dena P

    Hi, Wayne!

    Definitely it’s a personal preference as far as the microwave goes. But…I don’t like to put my beautiful steaks in the microwave. I’d rather put them back on the grill just long enough to take the cold away or make sure to eat them after they sit, but when they are still warm!

    Thanks for your comment!

    Dena

  • http://londonsteakreview.co.uk Ali C

    Well prepared guide to steak cooking. Here is a similar blog I’ve put together recently.

    http://londonsteakreview.co.uk/2012/06/11/the-perfect-bbq-steak/

  • http://www.delightfulcuisine.com lolokech

    Thank you dena for this artiicle its very helpful :)

  • http://none Bob O

    I just want to thank you all so much for your words. I love a good Steak to the limit and have never been able to make my own like Out Back. I see I have been making some major errors and look forward to my next time at the grill.

  • BBuzz – 2

    This is the best guide I have found. I’ll never grill any other way. Thanks

  • Pingback: Grilling Tips for the 4th of July Cookouts | One Norman Square

  • http://BatCaveRiverCottages.Com Bruce & Marion Baker

    We always have renters on vacaion that would like to grill out with us. The most important thing is ask how they like their steak & room temp & good choice of meat.
    Bruce & Marion Baker Owner Operated

  • ron

    I think some people try to make grilling more difficult than it needs to be. I’m about quick,and easy and little fuss. I don’t care for charcoal because it takes to long to set up. I use my gas grill often for burgers,steaks,chicken,garlic bread,etc. I don’t fret about grill marks either for myself.To much char is not healthy. Charred food contains carcinogens. Also I use aluminum foil on the grill because it makes for easy clean-up and my grill and parts last a lot longer.I also happen to think that charring meat over open flame is not too healthy. Despite breaking every cardinal grilling rule I still know how to char, cook medium rare,done,well done,sear,how to cook chicken on indirect heat,etc,etc,etc. Grilling is an art, not a science and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Thanks for all the helpful tips though. Enjoyed the article .

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About Me

Hi! My name is Dena P., and I love steak. In fact, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect steak for a few years now.

I love experimenting with food and I like to get my family, friends and neighbors involved. They add a lot to my cooking experience by helping me perfect techniques and sharing recipes.

Read More About Me »

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