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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
Grilling steaks is an American tradition, and everyone has their opinion on the best way to prepare their meat. There have been many heated debates over the years as well-meaning friends and family provide the outdoor chef with advice on how they should be grilling their steaks. Often, the advice isn’t incorrect; it’s just slightly different from another chef’s method.
However, there are some tried and trusted techniques that can produce the perfect steak every time. There will be no complaints that someone’s steak is under-or overdone or doesn’t have enough seasoning if you follow these top 7 expert steak grilling tips.
1. Choose Your Meat Cut Carefully
There is no right or wrong answer as to which steak cut you prefer. However, some choices are better than others for grilling. Ribeye steaks contain a nice blend of tender meat and fat, making them an ideal choice for the grill because much of the fat melts during cooking. Filet mignon is a much more delicate steak cut and may be a better option when pan-searing.
You can grill any steak cut, but thicker slices generally require more cooking time. Placing them on the grill for an extended period is easier than pushing them around a skillet.
2. Season Your Steaks Early
You don’t want to add too much seasoning to your steak in case you overpower its natural flavors. Using milder ingredients such as garlic butter and some salt can produce tasty results while still allowing you to appreciate the steak’s natural texture and juicy flavors.
Add seasonings at least 15 minutes before placing your steaks on the grill. If you add them later than this, it’s likely the condiments will stick to the grill grates instead of infusing your steak.
One of the best grilling steak tips is to take your steaks out of the fridge 20 minutes before you’re ready to cook. If you place cold steak on the grill, it takes longer to cook. It’s also harder for meats to absorb seasonings if their surface is too cold. Room temperature steaks cook quicker and have better flavoring.
It can be more hassle and a bit messier to use a charcoal grill, but you’ll get that authentic smoky outdoor cooking aroma coating your steaks. You won't go wrong in preparing meals on a charcoal grill. This includes grilling hanger steaks, veggies, and briskets.
It’s easier to light your coals in a charcoal chimney. The coals go in the cylinder’s open-top, and you light some newspaper in the bottom section. After approximately 10 minutes, the charcoal should develop a thin white ash covering, indicating they are burning well and are ready to go into the grill. Try to avoid using lighter fluid, as this can leave a chemical taste on your steaks.
To add additional flavors, you can add wood chunks on top of the charcoal. Soak your chips in cold water for 30 minutes before placing them on the charcoal to reduce the risk of burning. There are plenty of wood chunk flavors, allowing you to experiment until you find the aromas and tastes you prefer. Avoid purchasing smaller pellets that burn too quickly on the coals because you won’t get a good smoky flavor.
4. Position Your Charcoal Carefully
One of the most essential grilling steak tips is to ensure your coals are in the correct position. Pouring them out of the chimney into one pile creates a giant hotspot while leaving the rest of your grill cold. Gently tip the coals from your charcoal chimney so they evenly cover the bottom of the firebox.
Using this method, you can have multiple hot spots over your grill’s surface area. When you lift the steak off the grill for turning, the site it was on will instantly cool down. Because you have an even coal distribution, you can quickly find another hot spot to place the steak over for superior cooking results.
5. Take Time to Focus on Grilling
Many outdoor cooking enthusiasts overlook the importance of preparation. They focus on grilling their steak without considering all the additional tasks they need to prepare a full meal. This factor inevitably leads to chefs leaving their steaks unattended on the grill while fetching condiments from the kitchen.
If you have side plates ready and condiments on your grill shelves, there is no need to be away from your steaks during cooking. This extra level of organization can be the difference between serving a good steak and a great one.
6. Know Your Grilling Times
Turning steak too often increases the chances of overcooking on one side while undercooking the other. Use a cooking chart to understand how long your steak should take to grill.
As a rough guide, a ¾” steak, grilling at a temperature of 125°F, should take around 11 minutes to be ready to eat when cooked rare. The first side should be on the grill for 6 minutes, while the second side should face the heat for 5 minutes. If you prefer to eat medium-rare steak, the grilling time will be longer.
Overcooking a steak toughens the texture and robs it of flavor. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal steak temperature to ensure it’s safe to serve. A digital meat thermometer provides exact temperature readings, so you know exactly when your steaks are done to your preference.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides a list of safe temperatures for steak preparation. Steaks should reach an internal cooking temperature of 120-155°F depending on your taste preferences and have a 3-minute rest period before serving. The meat’s temperature rises or will remain steady during the rest time as the juices redistribute for a moister steak.
7. Serve Professional Looking Steaks
Few outdoor grilling enthusiasts can produce steaks that look like they come straight from a restaurant kitchen. Find the spot where your grill seems hottest and place the steaks at a 45° angle from your grill lines. Rotate your steaks a quarter turn at approximately one-quarter of the total grilling time.
Flip your steaks at the half-way mark, and give them another quarter-turn toward the end. Your steaks should now have stunning cross-hatch marks. Adding these sear marks to steaks is a great way to impress your family and friends at your next cookout.
Read more: Most flavorful BBQ rubs.