There’s really nothing quite like a good steak, that’s for sure. No matter how you like it, or whether you eat it with a baked potato or a fresh salad, steak can really make a meal into something special. Of course, steak is always delicious out at a restaurant when a professional handles it, but it can just as easily be made just as tasty at home.
However, for as delicious as grilled steak can be, it can also be easily ruined if you don’t prepare and cook it properly (via The Spruce Eats). No one wants a raw steak, but at the same time, a steak that’s burnt might as well go straight into the garbage.
So, how can you ensure that your steak doesn’t come out underdone or overdone? Well, if you want to know the best tips for perfectly grilled steak, keep reading. Because as simple as steak might look, it can actually be quite complicated, and there’s somewhat of an art to making the perfect steak.
Yes, the cut of your steak matters
The first step in grilling a steak perfectly actually takes place before you’re even standing in front of a grill. To that end, when you go to purchase the steak you want to cook, you have to know what will work best for you. Because no matter what, the cut of the steak is seriously important, and there are different scenarios where different cuts will be a better choice for your meal.
For example, Chef Dan Sharp of The Meatball Shop told Food & Wine that a skirt steak will be best on a hot grill, and both a New York strip and a ribeye will be best over a burner. Additionally, Sharp said that you have to look at the thickness of a cut of steak as well. You don’t want it too thick or too thin because "the thickness gives you the time to get a nice crust on the outside without overcooking the inside," he said. So before you even start to get cooking on your steak, make sure you have the right cut picked out, because it can make all the difference.
The quality of your steak is key, too
When you set out to buy a steak to cook for dinner, the cut isn’t the only thing to look out for while you’re at the store or the butcher. Quality counts, and while that does usually translate into a higher cost, there are ways you can try to find a good quality steak without paying a ton of cash.
"Finding the best product you can get your hands on is always the hardest part of cooking a great steak," Ryan Prentiss, an executive chef at Prime + Proper, told Food & Wine. "Fat is flavor, so look for beef that looks plump, bright red and has the most marbling. Marbling is the intramuscular fat present in high quality beef that gives it a ‘marbled’ appearance."
So remember, when it comes to steak, the right balance of fat is so important when it comes to taste. So, choosing a high-quality steak should be a top priority before you even start grilling it, even if it costs a little more.
Do this before anything else when you grill steak
The process of grilling the perfect steak can certainly be intense, especially if you’ve never done it before. While a delicious steak requires relatively simple ingredients, it also requires a lot of time spent preparing the meat to be grilled. After you’ve picked out the perfect steak, you don’t just throw it on the grill. Instead, you have to have some patience as the best steak needs to set out and come to room temperature before you cook it.
Specifically, according to Bobby Flay’s recipe for the perfect steak, you should remove the steak from the refrigerator 20 minutes before you grill it, and leave it covered while it comes to room temperature. However, Ryan Prentiss, an executive chef, told Food & Wine that he recommends you remove the steak from the fridge about an hour before cooking it and letting it rest on a roasting rack to warm up. In all likelihood, it depends on how big and thick your steak is, but to be safe, give yourself plenty of time to let the steak sit out before you grill it. After all, you don’t want to mess up this seriously easy step.
Don’t be afraid of oil when you’re grilling steak
For the most part when you cook any kind of meat (or even a vegetable), you need some kind of oil to help it not stick to the grill or the pan and provide some extra flavor. So, it’s only natural that steak would require the same. It might sound strange to some, but oiling up a steak before you grill it is a crucial step in achieving a perfect piece of beef, and even professional chefs agree.
Both Bobby Flay and Michael Vignola, a corporate executive chef who spoke to Eat This, Not That! about the perfect steak agree that you shouldn’t skip oil. "Either an 80/20 or 90/10 ratio [of canola to olive] will get the job done," Vignola explained. "The oil will allow the surface temperature to get seared fast, ensuring a juicier final product as well as greatly aiding the charring of the meat’s surfaces."
Yes, steak tends to have plenty of fat on it, but oil will just add to the flavor and overall cook of the steak, so don’t be afraid to use it.
Putting the right kind of seasoning on your steak is key
Even if you buy the best and most expensive cut of steak in the world, you can’t just throw it on the grill without a care in the world. No matter what kind of steak you’re making, and what you’re making it for, it’s important to remember that using the right kind of seasoning is key in grilling the perfect steak. Fortunately, the perfect seasoning for the perfect steak is actually pretty simple.
Basically, all you need to best season a steak is salt and pepper, though a high-quality salt is key. "Always overseason your steaks a bit," Christian Ragano, an executive chef in Chicago told Food & Wine. "When you think it’s enough, always add a little more. A lot of salt and pepper always falls off during the cooking process and doesn’t always penetrate the meat." Gordon Ramsey also recommends using salt and pepper to season your steak, so you know that’s truly all you need for a great steak.
Yes, the grill should be piping hot when you cook steak
Whether you’re cooking your steak outside on a gas or charcoal grill, or indoors on the stove or griddle, it’s imperative that you don’t put the steak on the grill until it’s hot. Like, really hot. The hotter the grill, the better the sear will be on the steak and therefore the juicer your meat will be overall. And while getting your grill or stovetop hot enough to sear a steak might take some time, it will be worth it.
No matter what, just know that you cannot put a steak in a cold pan or grill and expect it to come out perfectly. Chef Dinesh Jayawardena told Food & Wine that the importance of a hot grill before the steak goes on can’t be overstated. "A hot cooking surface is extremely important to caramelize the outside of the steak and secure in the flavor," Jayawardena explained. "This method will give you a crispy on the outside, yet moist and tender on the inside steak."
In sum, a hot grill will give you a perfect steak, so make sure you give it time to heat up.
Try to avoid this kind of grill enhancement while cooking steak
So, you know that having a piping hot grill is necessary for a delicious piece of steak, but how can you make sure your grill is hot enough? Well, at the end of the day, the best thing to do is to wait it out while your grill or pan is heating up, and don’t try to take any shortcuts. And if you’re grilling your steak outdoors on a charcoal grill, you can’t exactly speed up that heating time, so it’s best to be patient.
Robert Liberato, an executive chef at STK LA told Eat This, Not That! the importance of a hot grill is clear, but there are certain heating tools you should avoid. "Don’t rush the process with extra lighter fluid or throw a steak on the grill when there is an open flame," Liberato revealed. "That only immediately burns the meat." Indeed, no one wants a steak that’s charred black on the outside and tastes slightly of lighter fluid, so just be patient while your coals heat up the grill, and thank Liberato later.
Tame your flames for the perfect grilled steak
If you’ve ever grilled anything on an outdoor grill, whether it’s gas or charcoal, then you know just how meticulous you have to be to prevent any flames from attacking your food. A drip of fat in the wrong direction can set off a whole mess of flames from underneath the grill that threaten to destroy your food if you aren’t careful. Fortunately, there are some ways to tame your flames while grilling a steak that will ensure the meat is protected from any unnecessary burns.
According to Bon Appétit, the most important thing to do is to not spray water onto the flames if they flare up, as that will just bring up ash if you’re cooking on charcoal grill; if you’re on a gas grill it could end up getting the steak wet. Instead, simply grab a long pair of tongs and slide the steak to a flare-free area until the flames die down. Again, it’s practically impossible to avoid flare-ups altogether, but with the right tips, you can definitely reduce their damage and end up with the perfect steak.
A meat thermometer is a great investment for steak lovers
Anyone who does a lot of cooking is usually pretty good at knowing when meat is cooked through. The thing is though, no matter how good of a chef you think you are, there’s absolutely no shame in using a meat thermometer to make sure your steak is cooked exactly how you want it. After all, just because a steak is cooked doesn’t mean it’s good. Especially if you are serving guests, a meat thermometer can ensure each steak is cooked to everyone’s liking.
Chef Christian Ragano told Food & Wine that using a meat thermometer is a great way to get the perfect cook on a steak. "Temping a steak by hand can be tricky," he explained. "It takes a ton of practice and a ton of experience. Thomas Keller once said, ‘You have to cook a steak a thousand times just to suck at it.’" So really, unless you’re a professional at a restaurant, invest in a meat thermometer.
Don’t be flippant when flipping your steak
At some point, you’ll obviously need to flip your steak while grilling it to make sure it’s cooked evenly on both sides. But just because you can flip your steak over and over again doesn’t mean you should. Specifically, in order to achieve a perfectly grilled steak, you have to remember not to be too flippant while flipping it.
Michael Vignola, a corporate executive chef, told Eat This, Not That! that one of the keys to cooking a perfect steak on the grill is not to flip it too much. "Once you have started the steak on the hot spot leave it be, allow it the meat to sear evenly," Vignola shared. "Once the meat is charred, pick it up and flip onto the cooler spot of your grill. Flipping the steak too often can sabotage the charring of the meat and eliminate most of the seasoning on the steak." To that end, try to only flip the steak once for the optimal texture and flavor.
If you don’t have a grill, it’s possible to make a delicious steak on the stove
Because not everyone has an outdoor grill, there are a ton of ways you can perfectly grill a steak inside, right on the stove. For people in apartments without a balcony, or those who just don’t grill a lot, cooking a steak on the stove is the only option, and it’s not a bad one! According to Epicurious, though, there are some things to keep in mind while grilling a steak on the stove.
Specifically, Epicurious notes that it’s important to use a "well-seasoned cast-iron skillet," and heat it up to high. Once that’s hot, go ahead and add the seasoned steak to the pan and let is get good and charred before turning the heat down; then, continue to cook it for about three minutes for a medium rare finish. Do the same thing on the other side and most importantly, don’t pierce the steaks while turning or you’ll lose some essential juices. And, if you prefer a more well-done steak, simply cook it longer on both sides. Really, cooking a steak on the stove is pretty simple.
Don’t dig into your steak right after it’s done cooking
Perhaps the hardest part of grilling a steak is waiting for it to be done. Unfortunately, the perfect steak takes a bit longer than you might think, and you shouldn’t serve it straight from the grill or pan. Seriously, don’t dig in right after it’s done cooking, no matter how hungry you are. If you need something to eat, dig into some of the side dishes or pop some chips in your mouth. Letting the steak rest is vital.
Chef Dan Sharp told Food & Wine that letting a steak sit after grilling it is essential for finishing it off perfectly. "Let it rest. This is crucial," he explained. "Just because the steak is out of the pan doesn’t mean it stopped cooking. Keep it in a warm place –you don’t want a cold steak — and rest it for about as long as you cooked it."
Letting a steak rest might be hard, especially when you can smell how delicious it is straight off the grill, but it really will make a huge difference and you won’t regret it.
This is how to slice and serve your perfectly grilled steak
So, after you’ve picked out the perfect steak, purchased a high-quality cut, seasoned it, let it come to room temperature, gotten your grill perfectly hot, seared it and cooked it evenly avoiding any and all flames that flare up, then flipped it just once, and let it rest, you probably think you’re done, right? Well, you could be, but if you want the Gordan Ramsey version of a perfectly grilled steak, then that involves slicing it perfectly in order to serve.
According to Ramsey, the perfect steak is sliced before it’s served. "When slicing a steak, never slice it too thin," Ramsey advises. "To maximize on the flavor and keep it moist, keep it at least half a centimeter thick." What’s the reasoning behind this? A steak that’s sliced before being served will definitely make it easier to eat, and it also looks a lot prettier on a plate served with some veggies and carbs on the side. So, to finish off your perfect steak, make sure it’s sliced carefully. Now you can finally dig in!