It seems that people approach grilled meat in two ways: casually, or perhaps with a little too much attention. Some will heat up the grill with abandon, toss in the steaks, flip once, then remove and serve; others will fidget and worry, cutting into the meat every two seconds and wringing their hands whether the meat is cooked or not. Both techniques have some advantages, but an intermediate method is ideal.
Grilling a delicious steak is easy if you just follow a few simple steps. As with everything, a little practice always helps. Follow a few tips, cook some steaks on the grill, and you’ll be serving up perfectly cooked, juicy steaks in no time.
Bring the fillets to room temperature.
Too many people take their steaks straight from the cold fridge to the hot fire. You won’t get an evenly cooked steak this way – the outside of the meat will cook faster than the inside. It is best to take the fillets out of the fridge half an hour before cooking; remove the wrapper, place on a plate, and allow to come to room temperature on the counter.
A good piece of meat doesn’t need much seasoning and will be quite tasty with a generous amount of kosher salt. Once the fillets are at room temperature, sprinkle with salt or another seasoning of your choice.
Clean and lubricate your barbecue
Regardless of what you are cooking on the grill, you should always start with clean grates. Not only does this make it easier to turn food over and off the grill, it also doesn’t impart flavors from previous grilled foods, such as rotisserie chicken, to the steaks. Be sure to clean the grill grate with a stiff wire brush. It’s best to do this after you’ve finished grilling while the grates are still hot, but you can also clean the grill while it’s preheating if you notice any residue stuck to it. Taking the time to remove old stuck-on food pays off when steaks easily come off the grill.
You also want to coat the grates with vegetable or canola oil (or other neutral-flavored oil) before heating the grill. Pour a little bit of oil on a paper towel and rub onto the clean, cold grill grates.
Heat your fire
To get a crust on the outside and keep the inside of your steak cooked to your liking, set two different temperatures on your grill. To get those nice grill marks, you’ll need to heat your grill to high heat to sear your steaks. To determine if the heat is hot enough, you should be able to hold your hand about an inch above the cooking grate for 1 second before it feels too hot and you have to remove it.
You’ll also want a cooler, moderately hot area of the grill to move the steaks around once they’re seared and crisp on the outside. If you have enough burners and space on your grill, set them to a lower temperature; if you don’t have enough space, just turn off the burner. If you are using a charcoal grill, one side should have a hot fire and the other should have a smaller, cooler flame.
If you are cooking very thin steaks, they will only need a little time on high heat.
Touch the steaks
Chefs and those who know the kitchen (or grill) know what meat feels like when it’s raw and when it’s cooked. The only way to learn this is to spear the steaks at different stages of cooking. Raw meat is almost soft, red meat is quite soft, medium red meat stands up to your punctures a bit, and medium meat bounces back. Once the meat feels firm, it’s at least well-done, if not overcooked. Gently press a finger over your fillets, being careful not to burn yourself, to learn the difference.
Don’t play with the steaks
Yes, you do have to touch the steaks to check if they’re done, but that doesn’t mean you have to turn, move, and poke them a lot. Steaks can only be flipped once and moved from a higher temperature to a lower temperature only once. And don’t touch them with anything but your finger! Place the meats on a hot grill (they should sizzle immediately) and leave them there until they come loose on their own. If you pull or wrestle them, they are not singed and ready to spin.
When they are done, flip them once and cook them until they feel well done. Don’t poke them with a fork, as this will release their flavorful juices into the flames below. Do not press them with a spatula. Let them cook.
Use a thermometer and/or stopwatch
Whether you’re cooking a thick steak or a thin, flat piece of meat will determine whether or not you need a meat thermometer. For steaks that are at least 1 1/2 inches thick, you’ll want to use a meat thermometer to get an accurate reading. Remove for steaks rare at 120 F to 125 F, medium 125 F to 130 F, and medium 130 F to 135 F.
It’s nearly impossible to get an accurate temperature reading on steaks smaller than 1 1/2 inches, so it’s best to use a timer. For 1-inch-thick steaks, cook on high heat for 3 minutes per side for quite well done, 4 minutes per side for medium, and 5 minutes for medium.
Try to avoid this if possible, but if you must take a look, remove the steak from the grill and use the tip of a paring knife to make a cut down the center of the steak to see how it fares. Keep in mind that the steak will continue to cook as it sits after it is removed from the grill. It is not recommended to cut the steak as this releases the precious juices that help to flavor and tenderize the meat.
Always let the meat rest
Perhaps the most important step that most people don’t do is let the steaks rest once they’re removed from the grill. Steaks should rest for 5-10 minutes before serving or slicing. This gives the juices a chance to redistribute throughout the steak, helping it cook evenly and keeping the meat moister and more flavorful. Place the cooked steaks on a cutting board or platter and cover with aluminum foil. Once rested, cut or serve the fillets whole.
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