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10 Steak Grilling Tips

Do you know how to grill a great steak? If you answered no, this article is for you. Follow these steak grilling tips for exceptional results every time.

Who doesn’t love grilled steak on the barbeque? The enticing BBQ grill marks, flavorful crust, tender meat, and countless flavor compounds that develop make this cooking method practically unbeatable! And guess what? Anyone can master the art of grilling a perfect steak with the right know-how. You can consistently achieve the best-grilled steak by following essential measures before, during, and after grilling. These invaluable steak grilling tips will help you attain steakhouse-worthy results, regardless of your skill level.

Top 10 Steak Grilling Tips

Tip 1: Select High-Quality Steaks

One of the best steak grilling tips on the BBQ is to start with high-quality meat because it sets you up for success. Numerous cuts are available, but if you’re firing up the grill, you’re likely cooking something impressive like strip steak, ribeye, t-bone, or filet mignon. You’ll also want to consider steaks such as prime, USDA certified, wagyu, or a well-raised grass-fed option.

Therefore, step one is deciding what you want. Next, consider grades and marbling. The USDA classifies cattle sold in the U.S. based on tenderness and marbling. They include:

  • USDA Prime: It is the most expensive and has the most marbling.
  • USDA Choice: Choice comes in second. It is high quality but has less marbling than Prime.
  • USDA Select: Not bad, but it only has slight marbling, meaning less flavor.

Tip 2: Dry Brine

Another steak grilling tip is to dry brine your steaks before cooking. Dry brining entails sprinkling both sides of each steak with kosher or sea salt and then letting them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or in the fridge for up to 4 hours. During this time, the salt pulls excess moisture from the steak to tenderize and encourage browning while also seasoning the meat.

Tip 3: Bring the Steak to Room Temperature

Whether you decide to dry brine or not (you totally should), let your steaks sit out for 30 minutes to come to room temperature. This is an essential tip because taking steaks from the cold fridge and transferring them directly to a hot grill will cause the meat to cook unevenly. To do this, remove any wrapping, place the steaks onto a plate, and sit it on your kitchen counter. It is that simple.

Tip 4: Clean Your Grill

Cleaning your grill before every cook is an essential tip on the list of steak grilling tips. Starting with clean grates ensures easy flipping and doesn’t impart flavors from previously grilled foods. Instead of using a barbeque grill brush with metal bristles that can detach from the brush head, get stuck in the grill grates, and end up in your food, clean with a crumpled ball of foil, half an onion, or create a vinegar-baking soda paste if you’re cleaning well in advance. For the paste, mix and apply it to the grates, leave it to sit, then wash it off.

Tip 5: Set Up a Two-Zone Fire

Create a two-zone fire with a high-heat area and a medium-low-heat area to cook over. A two-zone fire means half the grill has flames and the other doesn’t. The high heat area is for searing the steak and developing a nice crust, while the cooler side is for cooking the steak to the desired temperature – whether medium-rare or well done. This is as easy as turning the burners on if using a gas grill. As for charcoal, arrange all the coals to one side to create a two-zone fire. For those using a pellet grill, sear on high, transfer the steaks to a platter, reduce the heat, give the grill time to reach that decreased temperature, then finish the steaks.

Tip 6: Oil the Grates

Instead of oiling the steaks, oil the grill grates to prevent the steaks from sticking. Once the grill is nice and hot, use a rolled-up paper towel and tongs to oil the grates. Use an oil that can withstand high heat, like vegetable, canola, avocado, or extra-virgin olive oil.

Tip 7: Use a Surface Thermometer

Please don’t depend on the one on your grill; it isn’t very accurate. No matter the quality of your grill, these thermometers are of very low quality. For this reason, you want to use a grill surface thermometer or an infrared surface thermometer to ensure the grill reaches the proper temperature. For the hot side, you want it to register anywhere between 450-550 degrees Fahrenheit and 225-275 for the indirect side.

Tip 8: Use An Instant Read Thermometer Too!

There are other methods to determine steak doneness, like the poke test, but they lack accuracy. Instant-read thermometers are inexpensive and handy devices to have around. Just insert it into the thickest part of the steak and wait for your results. An internal temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit indicates a rare steak. Medium-rare comes in at 130 degrees, and medium is 140 degrees. Those who like their steak medium-well should aim for 150; the internal temperature for well done is 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tip 9: Leave the Steaks Alone

This made it on the list of steak grilling tips because people, especially those new to grilling steaks, tend to mess with them a lot as they cook. Understandably, you’re concerned about your steaks and don’t want to burn them (they aren’t cheap). Still, you MUST leave them alone because opening and closing the grill plus constant flipping can cause uneven cooking and may also result in moisture loss, especially if pressing down on them with a spatula or poking with a fork. Steaks should only be flipped once. The general rule is that 60% of the cooking time should be on the first side, while the remaining 40% should be on the second.

Tip 10: Rest 

Last on this list of steak grilling tips is to let the meat rest after cooking. Although tempting, you don’t want to slice a steak hot off the grill. You’ll lose all the juices as soon as you cut into one, and a dry steak will remain. Instead, let the steaks rest on a cutting board or platter for 5 to 7 minutes. During this time, juices redistribute, flavors are retained, and fibers relax. Anthony Bourdain call this that “magical moment following its removal from the heat.”

Bonus Tips

  • Tenderize the Steaks: We mentioned dry brining with salt but there are also other ways to tenderize a steak to varying degrees including marinating, baking soda, using a meat tenderizer, dry rub, or rubbing the steak with papaya or pineapple puree. Scoring, using a meat mallet or poking with a fork to quickly tenderize steaks will work as well but typically are not as effective as the methods above.
  • Create a Two-Zone Fire: Divide the grill into two zones – a high-heat zone and a cooler zone. Sear the steak on the high-heat side and finish cooking on the cooler side.
  • Keep the Grill Lid Closed: Keeping the lid closed will keep the grates hot enough to sear the steak, speeds up cooking time, traps the smokiness and prevents flare-ups by limiting the oxygen.
  • Ensure the Grill is Hot Enough: Do not start grilling the steaks until the grill zones are at the desired temperature.
  • Don’t Overcook: Opt for slightly undercooking the steak rather than overcooking. If it’s too rare, it’s easy to put it back on the grill for further cooking.
  • Don’t Poke with a Fork to Check Doneness: Poking with a fork to check doneness while grilling will just allow all the tasty juices to seep out. For the same reasons, don’t press down on the steaks with a spatula.
  • Re-season after Grilling: Seasonings falls off during grilling so re-season to your desired preference after grilling.
  • Resting Steak Butter: Before removing the steaks from the grill, enhance the flavor and juiciness by placing a spoonful of butter on the serving platter where each steak will be placed. Reserve the remaining butter for topping the grilled steaks as they rest, allowing the butter to infuse into the steaks for a delicious finishing touch. Take your resting steak butter to another level by using a compound butter made with your favorite flavors.
  • Duck Fat: Similar to resting steak butter, duck fat is a secret ingredient you can add to your steaks for a restaurant quality steak.
  • Cutting the Steak: Put the rested steak on a cutting board that has a well or groove to catch any juices. Cut across or against the grain, or perpendicular to the direction of the fibers. This technique helps break down the fibers and makes the steak more tender to chew. 1/2 to 1-inch thick slices are the most common but cut to the thickness you prefer.
  • Grill Lettuce Too: Don’t stop with grilling just your steaks and infuse the lettuce with a little smokiness by grilling lettuce wedges or romaine lettuce.

Steak Rules

When grilling steaks there some general rules people go by within the three-step process to achieve a perfectly grilled steak: sear, flip, and rest. Here are some of the more common methods used, including the “Rule of 3”, where steak thickness is the most common variable for adjusting the rules:

  • 3-3-3-3 Rule (1 Inch Steaks): Grill 3 minutes per side on direct heat, then 3 minutes per side on indirect heat. 
  • 3-3-4-4 Rule (1 1/2 Inch Steaks): Grill 3 minutes per side on direct heat, then 4 minutes per side on indirect heat.
  • 3-3-2-2 Rule (1/2 – 1 Inch Steaks): Skillet or pan fry 3 minutes per side on direct heat, then 2 minutes per side on indirect heat. 

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Monique McArthur
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