For two million years, humans have hunted for meat and have cooked it. Is it any wonder that even now, we crave it? But what’s the best way to grill steak? This basic cooking query is one that both haunts culinary neophytes and inspires experienced chefs to write dissertations.
When I first started cooking for myself, fresh out of college in my own apartment, I believed the best made steak was in a restaurant. Could I even hope to get that perfect-for-me, medium-rare, juicy steak? It turns out, yes, I could! As far as I am concerned, learning to cook a steak well is a top life skill, right along with changing your own oil and folding a fitted sheet. If you love meat, steak is one of life's great pleasures, particularly when you learn you do not have to always pay a fancy restaurant to partake!
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FAQ: Best Way to Grill Steak
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The truth of the matter is that, like most things, the best way to grill steak is relative. As long as you have a decent cut of meat and a good source of heat, you can have an incredible grilled steak. But before you can determine the best way to grill steak, you need to examine the factors that go into making a great steak in the first place.
Choose the right cut
Grilling is a cooking technique that involves a lot of dry, direct heat to cook food quickly. It’s great for cooking vegetables and of course, meat. While it is a widely held belief that meat plus fire equals deliciousness, the truth of the matter is that not all cuts of beef are suitable for grilling.
Determining the best way to grill steak starts with what cut of beef you are using. According to Charbroil, there are several cuts of steak you can never go wrong with when it comes to grilling. Ribeye, skirt steak, and sirloin are all mainstays of the summertime grill.
However, some steaks should cook using other cooking methods. Taste of Home lists brisket, short ribs, chuck roast, and rump roast among these cuts. (I tend to disagree with their take on short ribs.)
Quality and fat matters
Fat is vital in a steak. Yes, you read that correctly. The fat in a steak not only means flavor, but it also helps to naturally baste the steak while it is cooking, keeping it moist and tender. Ideally, you will find a piece of meat that has a good amount of marbling in it. Marbling is the streaks of white fat that run through the meat.
Quality matters when it comes to steak so buy the best quality that your budget allows. USDA quality grades include Prime, Choice, and Select.
Prime is the best type of meat you can buy and has the highest amount of intramuscular marbling. It also carries the highest price tag so plan accordingly. Choice is also high-quality meat but has less marbling than Prime. It is readily available in most good supermarkets. Select is leaner than both Prime and Choice but is still a good cut of beef if you want a quality steak on a smaller budget.
Marinate or dry rub
While a good steak will have plenty of flavor on its own, there’s no harm in helping it along a little bit. To do this, you can choose either a dry rub or a wet marinade.
A marinade is a flavorful liquid that you dunk the meat in and let it soak. According to Clover Meadows Beef, there are four main components in most marinades: salt, oil, flavoring, and acid. These three components work together to flavor and moisten the meat.
Marinades work best on thinner cuts of steak. The trick with marinades is knowing how long to marinate your steak for. More tender cuts like tenderloin only need an hour, maximum, for full flavor. However, tougher cuts, like flank steak, benefit from a longer soak. But even then, you need to be careful because marinating meat for too long can toughen meat rather than tenderize it.
Unlike marinades, dry rubs can be put on right before you cook so are great if you are short on time. The simplest of dry rubs is just salt and pepper. Bon Appetit recommends salting your steak liberally with kosher salt saying, “to make steak -- or anything rich and fatty -- taste good, you need to season aggressively.”
Salt and pepper may be the basic seasoning, but from there, you can add your riff. Paprika? Granulated garlic? Za’atar? Cumin? Gochugaru? The only limit is your imagination and your pantry.
Doneness: Time versus temperature
Recipes often suggest a time frame to grill your steak. However, there are so many factors that can affect the cooking time that this is more of a guideline than a method to judge doneness.
Experienced cooks can tell the doneness by touching it. Rare to medium rare has a softer feel while more well-done pieces are much firmer.
However, the best, and most foolproof method is to use a digital, instant-read thermometer. To take a steak’s temperature, insert the thermometer into the steak’s center through its side. Be sure not to hit any bone or fat as this can give a different temperature reading.
The USDA recommends cooking all meat to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit, also known as Medium. On a steak, the meat will appear pink and warm.
However, everyone has their preferred doneness level. Rare steaks have a cool, red center and will register 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Medium rare has a warm red center and registers 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Medium well is only slightly pink and registers 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Well done has no pink and is 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
The steak will continue to cook after you pull it off the grill. This phenomenon is known as carryover cooking. Be sure to remove it about five degrees before your desired doneness level.
The Best Way to Grill Steak- Tried and True Recipes
Scouring the internet yielded some mouthwatering recipes for grilling a steak. There is something for just about every type of taste.
How we Reviewed
I have collected some of the best recipes based on my experience as a home cook. These recipes are perfect for the weekend cook just starting as well as the burgeoning home gourmet. Any of them could just be your best way to grill steak.
Steak with herb butter
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In a world where quick cooking is all the rage, people overlook time as an essential ingredient. This recipe from Summer Miller from Simply Recipes calls for an up to 48-hour rest for a steak, but the results promise to be worth it. Sometimes the best way to grill steak is to let it marinate.
Trim the extra outside fat off of your ribeye and then season with salt and pepper. Summer recommends that this steak rests uncovered in the refrigerator for at least an hour but preferably up to 48 hours. This long rest will help the steak dry out, concentrate the flavors, and help develop a nice crust when cooking.
An hour or so before cooking, prepare your herb butter by melting the butter and adding the herbs and aromatics. Letting the aromatics sit in the melted butter on a warm burner will help the flavors infuse into the fat, which is a good thing.
Prepare your grill to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, building a fire to one side so that you have a place to cook directly and indirectly.
The best way to grill steak using this method is to start cooking on the hot side, over direct flame. Baste with the butter, close the lid and cook for two minutes. Open the lid, flip the steak, baste with butter, close the grill and then go for another two minutes. Repeat this for about 10 minutes or until the steak registers 5 degrees less than your desired doneness.
Let the steak rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Cut the steak against the grain and serve with any extra herb butter.
How to make cheap chuck eye steaks taste like rib eyes
Do you want a juicy rib-eye steak but they're a bit pricey for your budget? Never fear because Lauren from Wicked Spatula has an excellent recipe for making the cheaper chuck eye taste more like expensive stuff.
Take your chuck eye steaks and season them liberally with salt and pepper. The best way to grill steak according to Lauren is to sear them on the grill. Lauren recommends about five minutes per side for medium rare, but I recommend using a thermometer to check for doneness.
Her secret to delicious steak is her herb butter. To make it, mix the butter, herbs, and chili. Top the warm, rested steak with a tablespoon or so of the herb butter and serve.
Grilled filet mignon with herb butter and Texas toasts
This recipe from Eating Well takes the luxurious filet mignon cut and elevates it to healthy decadence by serving it over whole-grain Texas toast with watercress. (If you do not like watercress, you can easily substitute another leafy green vegetable.)
Combine the butter, olive oil, chives, one teaspoon of marjoram, half a teaspoon of lemon zest, and a dash of salt. Stir to combine well and set aside in the freezer until needed.
Grill the bread over high heat until toasted. Remove to a plate.
Season your filet mignon with salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary. Grill over high heat, three to five minutes per side or until five degrees from its desired doneness. Eating Well recommends the best way to grill steak with this recipe is until it's medium-rare.
Remove the steaks and set on top of the grilled bread. Let the steaks rest for about five minutes.
Grilled "Shaking" Beef
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One of my family’s favorite Vietnamese recipes is bo luc lac or “shaking beef,” served over a bed of greens. The dish gets its name for the traditional method of stir-frying cubes of seasoned beef in a wok. In this grilled version, I use sirloin but feel free to substitute with rib eye or filet if your budget allows.
Combine the soy sauce, garlic, shallot, oyster sauce, sugar, oil, and black pepper in a bowl. I recommend using Maggi seasoning sauce for this recipe. However, a dark soy sauce will also work.
Marinate the steak in the sauce for at least two hours and up to six. Be careful not to marinate too long, as the steak can get too salty.
Remove the steak from the marinade and pat dry. Grill over direct heat until five degrees from your desired doneness. My recommendation for the best way to grill steak with this recipe is medium rare. Remove from heat and let rest.
While the steak is resting, assemble the dressing. Combine the fish sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the olive oil, garlic and birds eye chili and whisk to combine.
To serve, arrange the lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes on a large plate. Slice the steak into 1/2-inch cubes. Place in a bowl and toss lightly with half the dressing. Plate the steak cubes on top of the salad and then drizzle the remaining dressing onto the meat and vegetables.
Korean-Style Short Ribs
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This recipe is my take on the incredible Korean-style short ribs, known in Korean as galbi. These ribs are a must-have summertime (or anytime) dish for my family. If you can find them, use flanken cut short ribs or, otherwise, butterfly your own. The pureed fruit in the recipe may seem a little unusual, but it lends a nice, sweet flavor to the dish. Korean pear is traditional, but you can easily substitute another pear or sweet apple.
Combine your pear (or apple) and onion in a food processor and process until pureed. Try to use a sweet apple like a Fuji apple. Combine your soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic, ginger, green onion, and the puree in a large bowl. Stir until well mixed. If you like a little bit of spicy heat, add a tablespoon of Korean pepper flakes. If you do not have Korean pepper flakes, red chili flake will also work.
Add the beef short ribs, mixing to coat each piece well. Marinade the meat for at least four hours and up to overnight.
Preheat your grill from medium-high to high heat. Remove the meat from the marinade and cook until your desired doneness. For this recipe, the best way to grill steak is entirely up to you. Serve with rice and Korean pickled cabbage kimchi.
Cleaning Your Plate
When it comes to finding the best way to grill steak, there are about as many recipes and methods as there are people in this world. It all comes down to finding the steak you like. Season it well, treat it right and cook it to your desired doneness and you are sure to find the recipe for you.