How to Grill the Perfect Steak On Your BBQ

The first step in grilling the perfect Steak is to pick the best cut of meat for the job. There are some cuts of beef like skirt and flank that are technically called “Steaks” but are more often used in dishes like fajitas or London broil. When most people think of grilled steak, they think of the steakhouse experience. This broils down to 5 high-quality steaks. The Porterhouse, T-Bone, New York Strip, Top Sirloin, Ribeye, and Tenderloin, which is sometimes called Fillet Mignon. These cuts are known for their superior marbling, tenderness, and flavor. With Porterhouse, T-Bone, and Bone-in Ribeye steaks like the tomahawk, the bone can play into how you prepare it.

Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon is a French take on a steak cut from the tenderloin. They go so far as to wrap it in a strip of salt-pork or bacon. This has the net effect of adding a little bit of fat and flavor to a relatively lean piece of meat. This is also the most tender cut of steak, which means you can get them thick cut. Some between 1.5 to 2-inches and between 5 and 9 ounces. Filet Mignon Best Price

New York Strip

New York Strip is a very popular steak. This is essentially the loin side of a T-bone. It’s nicely marbled for good flavor. You can usually target one between 8 to 14 ounces. If you are going to try to pick one out for yourself at the butcher case, you want to avoid the ones that have a white L-shape of gristle. These tend to be from the end of the loin which can be a little bit on the tough side. High-end vendors keep an eye out for these steaks and don’t include them in what they ship out or put on their menu. New York Strip Best Price

Top Sirloin

Top Sirloin is sort of a budget cut of steak. It’s arguably the leanest choice, but it is a little bit tougher than some of the other options on this list. Sometimes you can find giant ones for a very low price per pound. If you want you can cut them down into two steaks ranging between 5 to 10-ounces. Top Sirloin Best Price

Ribeye

Ribeye has the most marbling and a little more gristle than most of the other steaks on this list. Though it is still very tender. All that fat also makes for great flavor, especially when you grill it medium-rare or you buy a high-end dry-aged steak. The ideal ribeye ranges from 10 to 16 ounces. Ribeye Best Price

T-Bone & Porterhouse

T-Bone & Porterhouse steaks essentially have a New York Strip loin-cut steak on one side and a small piece of the tenderloin on the other. This gives you a little bit of two steaks in one. Though the tenderloin side is a little on the small side, you still get a robust loin strip steak. Most T-Bone steaks weigh in between 12 to 18 ounces, which includes the weight of the bone. Just like the New York Strip, you want to keep an eye out for a white L shaped area of gristle in the loin side, which indicates toughness. You also don’t want to be lured into buying a T-Bone with an overly large tenderloin side. This isn’t a mislabeled porterhouse. It’s another sign that the T-bone comes from the larger, tougher end of the loin area. These issues are limited to grocery store windows where they need to move inventory. It’s not the sort of thing you have to worry about if you are ordering from premium vendors or when buying a “Prime” graded steak. T-Bone & Porterhouse Best Price

What Are The Different Levels Of Steak Doneness?

As a primal cut that is treated with the highest food safety standards, steaks do not need to be cooked to well-done like ground beef or chicken. In fact, the more you grill a steak the more of its natural juices it loses. This also means there are different levels of doneness to consider, based on personal preference. Terms like rare, medium-rare, medium, and well done directly translate into internal temperature as well as color.
  • Rare is between 130 to 140 degrees. This level of doneness gives you a steak that is very pink in the middle with just a hint of sear on the exterior crust.
  • Medium Rare is between 140 to 150-degrees. This gives you about a quarter-inch of sear with a mostly pink interior. This is one of the most temperatures for a steak.
  • Medium is between 150 to 160 degrees. This level of doneness translates to a steak with a small ribbon of pink in the middle.
  • Well-Done is any steak over 160-degrees and there is no pink left in the middle. While there are some people who prefer this level of steak, most argue that the end product is too tough and dry.

Is The Pink Juice Inside A Steak Blood?

Contrary to popular belief, the pink inside a steak is not blood. It’s actually denatured proteins saturated into the natural water content inside the muscle fibers. It just happens to be that denatured proteins are pink.

The Benefits Of Bench Resting A Steak Before Grilling

The process of grilling a steak to the perfect degree of internal doneness can be a little tricky. Especially if you are relatively new to the art and science of grilling. Sometimes even the most experienced grill master will take their eyes off a steak and accidentally overcook it a step or two beyond their intended level of doneness. One way to keep from accidentally overcooking your steak is to rest it on the counter for 15 to 20-minutes. This lets the interior temperature warm up a little bit. You can then fire up your grill with a rocket hot flame for a quick sear, without overheating the interior. It’s especially handy for bone-in steaks where the bone takes longer to heat over the flames and can leave the surrounding meat underdone. This step isn’t 100% necessary, but it lets you play with really high heat grilling temperatures, without reduced risk of turning your high-priced steak into shoe leather. While you are at it. Sprinkle a little extra salt on the steak when you take it out of the refrigerator. This will draw out water-soluble proteins to the surface. You can then dab them with a dry paper towel right before preparing your steak to meet the flame, which will lend to a more flavorful crust.

Preparing The Steak To Meet The Heat

How you season your steak can vary widely based on your personal preference. There are some people who love to apply a custom seasoning blend or one prepared by a seasoning company. This does take the guesswork out of seasoning and for some people this the best option. Though most steak purists advocate nothing more than salt, pepper and a little olive oil to bring out the natural beef flavor of a high-end steak. The steps for this method are:
  • Step 1: Use a clean paper towel to light path the surface of the steak dry
  • Step 2: Apply your desired level of salt to both sides of the steak. Roughly half a teaspoon per 8-ounces of steak. Lightly pat the salt into the surface. Then add fresh ground black pepper.
  • Step 3: You can lightly glaze both surfaces of the steak with olive oil or some other neutral oil like grapeseed. If you prefer you could also lightly glaze the grill grates with an oil-soaked paper towel and a pair of tongs.

Preheat Your Grill Before Preparing Your Steak

There are a few different grilling strategies to consider when making the perfect steak. The one that’s right for you will depend on the type of grill you have. Regardless of the one you choose, you want to give your grill a solid 10 to 15-minutes to preheat. This will get the grates hot enough to sear, as well as heat up the surrounding metal components for consistent heating. If you grill grates happen to be a little dirty from the last session, the flame will dry things off for easier scraping.

Different Grilling Strategies For The Perfect Steak

The type of grill you have can impact the way you grill your steak to perfection. Ideally you want to have high heat to sear the exterior for a flavorful crust, as well as a medium-heat area to cook the interior of the steak to your preferred level of doneness. For our purposes, let’s assume you want a medium-rare steak that’s cut roughly 1 ½ inches thick. If you wanted a rare steak, you can subtract 30-second from each step in the following procedures. If you wanted Medium, then add 30-seconds to the following procedures. For well-done at 60 to 90-seconds to each step.

Making The Perfect Steak On A Dual Heat Zone Gas Grill

With some larger gas grills, independent burner controls let you create different heat zones. If you have a grill like this, you should crank up one side to the highest heat possible. You are looking for something in the range of 450 to 500-degrees. Then fire up another area to medium heat, around 300-degrees.
  • Step 1: Lay the steak on the hot side of the grill for one minute to sear.
  • Step 2: Rotate the steak 90-degrees and slide it over to the medium heat side of the grill. This will help cook the interior while also creating visually attractive crosshatch marks. Let it sit for 3 minutes.
  • Step 3: Flip the steak back over the high heat side of the grill for 1 minute.
  • Step 4: Rotate the steak 90-degrees and move it over to the medium heat side of the grill for approximately 2-minutes.
  • Step 5: Test the thickest part of the meat with an instant-read thermometer. In the case of a medium-rare steak, you want a temperature of around 140 to 145-degrees. You can check with a probe thermometer or by touch.
  • Step 6: Gently remove the steak and wrap it in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Then let it rest for 3 to 5 minutes.

Grilling The Perfect Steak On An Adjustable Charcoal Grill

There are some charcoal grills that let you raise and lower either the charcoal firebox or the grill grate. This allows you to expose the steak to high heat for a sear, and lower the intensity of the heat to cook the interior, without burning the exterior.
  • Step 1: Fire up the charcoal and let the grill preheat. You are looking for a temperature at the grill grate of around 400-degrees.
  • Step 2: Once the grill has been preheating for 12 to 15 minutes lay the seasoned steak on the heat for 1-minute.
  • Step 3: Rotate the steak 90-degrees to make crosshatch grill marks. Then lower the charcoal down to the lowest position for 3 minutes.
  • Step 4: Flip the steak and raise the charcoal box back up to sear for 1-minute.
  • Step 5: Lower the charcoal down to the lowest level, and let it cook for another 2-minutes or until it reaches your desired level of doneness. Check with a probe thermometer or by touch.
  • Step 6: Gently remove the steak and wrap it in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Then let it rest for 3 to 5 minutes.

Grilling A Steak On A Single Heat Zone Grill

There are some smaller gas grills and traditional charcoal grills that simply can only create one heat zone. With these timing becomes a little more critical. It might take two or three grilling sessions to really dial in the heat control you want. Ideally, you want a temperature at the grill grate of around 350 to 400-degrees. An infrared thermometer is probably the best way to take this reading. Though there are some people who say you can feel it by holding your hand 6 inches over the grate. If the heat becomes unbearable to your sense of touch at 5-seconds, then you’re in the right temperature range for a steak. Though this isn’t the safest method!
  • Step 1: Fire up the grill and preheat it to 350 to 400-degrees.
  • Step 2: Lay the seasoned steak on the heat for 2 minutes.
  • Step 3: Rotate the steak 90-degrees to make crosshatch grill marks, and let it sear for another 90-seconds
  • Step 4: Flip the steak and sear again for 2 minutes. Turn and sear for another 90-seconds to create crosshatch grill marks
  • Step 5: Check with a probe thermometer or by touch.
  • Step 6: Gently remove the steak and wrap it in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Then let it rest for 3 to 5 minutes.

Why Should I Rest A Steak In Tinfoil After Grilling?

When you cook most solid pieces of meat like steak or chicken the rapid heating causes the meat fibers to contract. This expels some of the natural juices into the area surrounding the meat. If you cut into the steak immediately after removing it from the grill, these juices flood out, leaving behind a dry piece of meat. When you wrap the steak in heavy-duty aluminum foil, it lets the tension in these meat fibers ease, which then lets the juices back into the meat. When you cut into the steak more of the natural juices stay from the first bite to the last. If you are dealing with a large steak or a wait time before serving your guests for more than 4 or 5 minutes, you might want to cover the aluminum foil pack with a tea towel to help trap more of the heat.

How Can You Tell Steak Doneness By Touch?

The most accurate and scientific way to determine a steak’s internal temperature of doneness is to poke it with an instant-read probe thermometer. Unfortunately, this makes a hole in the meat, where a significant portion of the natural juices can escape. It can be especially bothersome if you need to check multiple times, or you have a bad habit of flipping your steak with a fork instead of tongs. To combat this there are a lot of chefs and grill masters who use the “Touch Test.” This basically involves poking the meat with your finger. A good barometer to compare with is to make a relaxed fist. On the other hand feel the fleshy area of your between your thumb and forefinger which should feel soft, and equates to the same feel like a rare steak. Slightly tense you’re your hand like you are picking up a ping pong ball and it will feel like medium-rare. A firm fit fee like medium and a tightly clenched fist is just like the firmness of a well-done steak. Obviously, this is an inexact science, but as time goes on, you can use it as a guide to spare you having to repeatedly poke holes in your otherwise juicy steak.  

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