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The Basics for Grilling Steaks
Grilling the perfect steak shouldn’t be hit or miss, but It does take practice and patience to achieve that desired goal of the perfectly grilled steak with great grill marks.
There are many different ways to prep and grill steaks. What I’m attempting to show here is a basic guideline that I use for grilling steaks.
You should get a feel for the meat you are going to grill.
Steaks change in texture and density as they cook. Knowing how it feels before it goes on the grill is going to help you determine your desired doneness. Given the differences between grills, cooking surfaces, and cuts of steak, there isn’t an absolute set rules for how long a steak will take to cook.
I use the poke and wiggle test to check my steaks. Press the steak with your index finger or the flat side of a fork to get a feel for it. Once you get the hang of this technique, you’ll see how easy it is to grill that perfect steak.
A raw steak is going to be soft and kind of spongy. The fat is usually hard, but the meat will be spongy to the touch. As the meat cooks it will become firmer and more solid through the middle. Knowing the feel of the meat will serve you better than any clock. If you want to use a thermometer I will list the temperatures with the doneness descriptions.
rare steak should be lightly charred on the outside, browned around the sides and bright red in the middle. The meat should be soft to the touch, feeling like the raw meat but browned over the surface. Internal temp of 120 to 130 degrees.
This is the best way to cook and serve a steak. IMHO
medium rare steak should be warm in the middle with a trace of red in the very center. Most of the center of the steak should be pink. The sides should be browned, the top and bottom charred to a dark brown color. This steak will have a firm surface but be soft in the middle. Internal temp of 130 to 135 degrees.
medium steak should be light pink through the middle but be more browned than pink towards the outter edges and top and bottom. The sides should be a brown color and the top and bottom charred darkly ,but not black. This steak will have some play through the middle but feel firm to the touch. Internal temp of 140 to 150 degrees.
medium well steak should have a silght trace of pink in the very center of the steak. The surface will be dark brown with good amount of charring on the top and bottom, but dot black. This steak will be stiff but still have a little squish in the middle. Internal temp of 155 to 165 degrees.
This steak should NOT be burnt on the outside but, there is not a trace of pink in the middle, it should be brown all the way through, through, but not burnt. This steak will feel solid all the way through. Internal temp of 170 to180 degrees.
Grilling Times by Thickness
Times are total cooking times, divide in half for each side of the steak, and are approximate and will vary depending on the type of grill, fuel, etc..
Thickness Rare Medium Well Heat
1″ 8-10 12-14 16-20 High
1 1/2″ 10-14 16-20 22-26 High
2 12-16 18-22 24-28 Medium
Ok, lets start with the steaks and their preparation.
The grade of steaks that you normally find on the shelves at the store is prime, choice, and select. Since a prime cut is difficult to find your best option is to purchase a choice cut. What to look for in a good steak is the color and marbling. The meat should be bright red and the fat a creamy white and with evenly distributed small streaks of fat through the meat.
For this tutorial I will be using choice grade sirloin steaks cut 1 inch thick.
Trim the steak of any excess fat. Any strips of fat should be about 1/4″ thick. Also cut through the fat strip around the edges of the steak about every 1 1/2 inches. Since fat shrinks faster than the meat when grilled, this will help keep your steaks flat on the grill and not curl up at the edges. One of the tricks to getting those great grill marks on your steak.
I like to let my steaks reach room temperature before grilling. Some people say this isn’t necessary, but I feel that it helps to let you grill your steaks more evenly and faster.
Seasoning is entirely up to you. A good steak doesn’t need a lot of seasoning. A little salt and pepper will enhance the flavor and small amounts of herbs and spices can go a long way. Some people like to give the steaks a light brushing of olive oil then add the seasoning. I usually just season with Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper without the oil, but either way works good and is up to you.
Lets talk about the grill and the temps we will be working with.
Preheat the grill. To grill your steak right you need to grill it hot and fast. This will sear the surface of the steak giving it a crisp, caramelized surface ( grill marks ) while letting you cook it to the doneness you want. This means that you need to get your grill as hot as it will go. If you are using charcoal grill, you will want a heavy layer of burning, white hot charcoal. If you are using a gas grill, you need to let the grill heat up as hot as it will go. It’s a good idea to know how hot your grill can get so you know when it hits it’s optimum temperature, because you’ll want to put your steaks on as soon as your grill reaches this point.
Oiling the cooking grates
You want good contact on the grate without your steak sticking to it. Make sure that your cooking grate is clean and oiled. I like to oil the cooking grate while it is hot, so while you are heating up the grill is a good time to give the grate a light coat of oil. The easiest way to this is with an oil soaked paper towel and the brush you use to clean your grates or a pair of long handled tongs.
Fold a paper towel until it is the size of your grill cleaning brush. Soak it with some oil ( use an oil with a high smoke point ). Brush a light coat of oil evenly over the cooking grates. It’ gonna smoke some, but that’s okay. As long as you don’t let the grill sit at its highest temperature for too long before you start grilling the oil will still be there when the steaks go on.
We’re ready to put the steaks on the grill
This is going to go quickly so have everything you need on hand. Make sure you have a watch or clock with a second hand and your Thermo-Pen ( if going by temp ) ready to go.
Before we put the steaks on, lets talk about time. I’m looking for a medium rare 1-inch thick steak, so our cooking times are going to be approximately 8 minutes total time on my grill. Half of that is 4 minutes, Half of that is 2 minutes. We want to keep the grill closed as much as possible to hold in the heat. That’s why the timing.
Now we want to place the steaks on the grill.
In the picture, I have one straight and one on an angle. This will give us diamond grill marks on one and square on the other.
Close the lid and let them grill for 2 minutes.
Now we are going to turn the steaks ( not flip ) to the new positions on the grill. This will make the other half of our grill marks.
Once you have turned the steaks, close the lid and grill for 2 more minutes.
Now that the steaks have cooked for 4 minutes on that side.
Now we will flip the steaks over ( WOW, look at those grill marks ) and position them the same way as when we started, close the lid and grill for 2 minutes.
Then turn ( do not flip ) them to the new position, just like you did for the other side. Now is when I give them the poke test or check the internal temp to decide how much longer to cook them. In this case another 2 minutes ( close the lid ) should do nicely. After these last couple of minutes, give the steak one last poke test or test the temperature of the steak to determine if it’s cooked to your liking.
Remember this is based on my grill, yours may cook differently. So, know your grill and how it cooks.
The steaks are done and are coming off the grill. This is one of the most important times of the cook. Resting meat is one of the most important steps when grilling.
Let your steak rest for 5 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness before serving. I like to put a pat of butter ( unsalted or garlic ) on top of the steak to melt over the steak while resting. Resting will allow the meat to relax, the heat and juices to spread out, and the meat to become more tender. This is a vital step to the perfect steak so don’t blow it now by getting in a hurry.
Now that you have grilled your perfect steak.
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