Want to know the secret to grilling one perfect steak after another?
Here are five guidelines that will lead you to steak nirvana time and time again:
1. You deserve the best so be picky!
Would you rather pay $7.99 per pound for a big, old chunk of fat attached to a knot of gristle 'labeled' as rib eye...
...or a steak that's fresh, has nice marbling to keep it juicy, and just enough edge fat to impart a dose of rich, savory flavor?
Serious grillers are always choosy when buying their steaks – it very little time or effort to inspect a few different cuts of meat and you'll be rewarded ten-fold.
When selecting a steak be look for cuts that:
♦ Don't have gristle or excessive edge fat...
♦ Have little if any silver skin (silvery sinew running with the grain of the meat on the outside of the muscle)...
♦ Are a vibrant, deep red rather than light reddish-pink (less fresh) and don't have any brown spots (bruising)...
♦ Have good marbling – e.g. white fat flecks – throughout the steak (unless, of course, your looking at lean cuts such as tenderloin, flank steak, skirt steak, etc. which will have little if any marbling in the interior of the muscle)
♦ And last but not least, make sure they're cut to the right thickness.
- "To marinade or not to marinade: that is the question."
Although it isn't difficult, pairing the right type of steak with the right recipe and grilling method is one of the first steps in becoming a master griller.
Not every steak is created equal. Some have the perfect amount of marbling for delivering one savory, succulent mouthful after another when seared over high heat then finished over medium... some are so thin that anything more than a quick, two minute sear will turn them into dry, rubbery chew toys... and others are so lean and tough that nothing less than a long, slow, gentle braise is capable of unlocking the tenderness and flavor hidden within them.
For rib eyes, strip steaks, porterhouses, or t-bones your best bet is go with a simple recipe that doesn't involve much more than basic seasonings and two-temperature grilling (more on this in a moment...). The natural marbling and tenderness of these cuts bring just the right amount of juiciness and flavoring to the party all by themselves.
In other words, avoid recipes that involve long cooking times, heavy sauces, or enough seasonings to start a spice shop. All you really need is a good dash of salt and pepper bring out the natural flavors you've worked so hard to awaken...
...or, to add an extra special touch, top off the salt and pepper with some sauted mushrooms and onions, a little olive oil and rosemary, or a bit crumpled blue cheese.
What about a mild marinade? Well, alright, it might nice from time to time as well but that's the limit – anything heavier though and you might as well be pouring that sauce over a piece of cardboard because you won't taste much steak anyway and cardboard is a lot cheaper...
The same holds true for filet mignon, with one slight exceptions: the addition of fat or a marinade. The tenderloin is a very lean, mild muscle. So in this case a mild marinade would help provide more flavor and help to keep it from drying out should you happen to overcook it. Another popular option is add some fat – e.g. flavor and moisture – by wrapping a piece of bacon around it.
Flank steaks and strip steaks LOVE marinades.
- Mmm, mmm, listen to that steak sizzle
The most popular method of grilling a steak – and the one preferred here at AtG – is the two-temperature sear-and-finish method.
Put simply, you sear the meat over high heat (450-650° F) for 1-2 minutes on each side then move it to medium heat (325-350° F) until it reaches your desired doness – e.g. about another 4-7 minutes for medium with a 1" thich steak.
A word of caution: what most cookbooks and websites fail to point out is that this works best with steaks that one inch or thicker. Anything thinner will cook so quick that you're better off leaving your steak over high heat until it reaches your desired doneness.
To see the two-temperature method explained in five easy steps check out How to Grill Steak. And to get ball-park grilling times for different types of steaks as well as different thickness, take a look at How Long Do You Grill Steaks.
- Don't touch that steak!
Yes, I know you put a lot of effort into grilling that steak... But the steak worked hard too so give it a rest!
As a steak is grilled, the high heat of the fire pushes its juices further in toward the center. By letting the steak rest on the plate for 5-10 minutes (a piece of foil can be loosely draped over it to keep them warm), the juices will have a chance to redistribute themselves throughout the steak. This will ensure each and every bite you take is dripping with goodness instead of just those few that came from the center.
- Time for one last bit of magic
This is it – the final trick that separates the amateurs from the pros: knowing when to carve your steak London Broil style.
For most steaks – such as strips, filets, rib eyes, sirloins, and t-bones – it's simply a matter of dropping the entire steak on a plate and letting the diners dig in...
With porterhouses or other thick, supersized steaks you'll want to take the extra step of cutting out individual servings, dropping them onto plates, and letting everyone dig in.
However, when it comes naturally tough steaks – such as flank steaks and skirt steaks – the way you slice your steaks can mean the difference between meat that's melt-in-your-mouth tender or tennis-shoe tough...
When you're serving cuts like these – which are naturally tough – the last thing you want to do is cut the meat by holding your knife perpendicular to the cutting board.
Instead, hold the knife at an angle of 45 degrees or less to the cutting board while making your slices. This helps causes the long, tough muscle fibers to be cut into small cross sections that are very loosely held together and easily fall apart when chewed.
In other words, you'll have quickly and skillfully transformed a tough piece of meat into beautiful,broad slices of steak that are charred on the outside... luscious, juicy pink on the inside... look totally irresistible on your plate... and nothing short of tender and divine when you bite into them.
And there you have it – the key to serving up a steak that'll have the entire neighborhood drooling uncontrollably.