There are few more iconic grilled foods than a grilled steak. The meat is begging for a good sear, and while the process for getting a perfect grilled steak can seem a bit complex at first, you’ll find that you can get it done quite easily as long as you follow the necessary steps. If you’re a visual learner, BBQ Outlets’ own Chef Teri has broken down how to grill the perfect ribeye steak on our YouTube channel and included a tasty seasoning suggestion, but you can also follow along (and get some additional tips for grilling steak) below!
How to Pick the Best Steak Cuts
Picking the best steak cut is a lesson in knowing your audience. There are multiple cuts of beef that work well on the grill, but the size, flavor and cooking methods can change slightly from cut to cut. Here are the best steak cuts for grilling and what to keep in mind when you’re cooking with them:
- Ribeye – If you’re a fan of steak with some fat, this is the cut for you. Ribeyes can be either bone-in or boneless, but the fattiness of the steak allows it to carry the meatiest flavor of any cut. An excellent candidate for grilling, this steak does well with a sear on high heat.
- Filet – Also known as the tenderloin or filet mignon, the filet comes from a part of the cow under the ribs. It’s the most tender and also the most expensive. Because it’s small, it’s also often cut thick, which means the best way to cook the filet is by giving it a good sear and then finishing it off in the oven.
- New York Strip – A neighbor to the filet, strip steaks come from behind the ribs and are slightly larger than the filet mignon. It typically has strips of fat around the outer edge, as well as marbled within. These are great steaks to cook over a high heat.
- Porterhouse – The steak version of a combo meal. Porterhouses, also known as T-bones, contain tenderloin on one side of the bone and New York strip on the other. The steak is actually tailor-made for grilling: if you try to sear it in a cast iron, the meat will shrink towards the bone and won’t make contact with the cooking surface. When you’re grilling a porterhouse, remember there are two different kinds of beef on the bone, which is why it’s an excellent candidate for cooking over indirect heat.
- Tomahawk Steak – The tomahawk steak: the carnivore’s holy grail. This steak has become popular due to its eye-popping size and flavor. Measuring in at around 36 ounces, the tomahawk steak is essentially a large, bone-in ribeye with a bone handle still attached. Because of its thickness, this is a two-step cooking cut where you’ll need to both sear and cook the meat over a lower heat. An indirect grilling method will also work well here–we’ll go over how to do that below.
When to Season a Steak
A quick note on seasoning a steak: just about any cut of steak is improved with a healthy sprinkle of salt and pepper on each side. That’s because the salt is essentially brining the steak from the outside, leaving it more tender and juicier once reabsorbed into the meat. Be sure to salt your steak either right before grilling (steakhouse style) or ideally more than 40 minutes beforehand to allow that brining process to occur. Kosher salt works better than table salt.
Tips for Grilling Steak
Once you’ve chosen your preferred steak cut, you’ll have a bit more information on how to grill it. Regardless of cut though, you should take your beef out of the refrigerator and give it enough time to come up to room temperature before cooking. This is also a good time to pat the steak dry and season with salt if you haven’t already.
Some cuts are relatively thin and will get up to the necessary cooking temperature after searing, while others take a bit longer. For a thick steak, you can either sear or reverse sear your steak.
The concept behind this is simple: in a normal sear process, you would first sear the steak over direct heat (right over hot coals, or on a gas burner set to high or 450-500 degrees) and then cook the steak over low heat, either off coals to get indirect heat or in an oven or gas grill set to around 225 degrees. The reverse sear process is much the same, but you would cook your meat on the lower heat first and then sear to finish it off. Both processes work much the same: the science indicates that when you sear doesn’t impact the overall flavor or juiciness that much.
Using Meat Thermometers
You also need to know how done you want your steak to be. Some folks will tell you that you can measure the level of doneness by poking the steak and comparing it to the fleshiness of your thumb. But are all thumbs really created alike? Using meat thermometers is the best and most accurate way to measure the level of doneness.
Meat Cooking Temperatures
Once you’re armed with a meat thermometer, you’re ready to check the doneness of your steak. At BBQ Outlets, we like cooking our steaks to medium at most in order to maintain both good juiciness and flavor, but the beauty of cooking at home is that you get to be the judge of the perfect steak temperature! Here’s the temperature range you should be checking for internally:
- Rare: 120-130 degrees
- Medium Rare: 130-135 degrees
- Medium: 135-145 degrees
- Medium Well: 145-155 degrees
- Well: 155-165 degrees
Once your steak is done, be sure to rest it on the counter before serving. Doing so allows the juices to be more effectively absorbed throughout the steak, which will give you a better bite. If you’re thinking of garnishing your steak with some compound butter once it’s plated up and served, now’s the time to whip some up!
Marinades for Steak
If you’re getting one of the prize cuts listed above, you may not need a marinade for your steak. But if you’re getting a cut like a hanger or flank steak, which are typically a bit leaner (and cheaper!) the meat will be well-served with a marinade to really bring out the meat’s juiciness and flavor. We found a few recipes you can use for marinades for steak here:
- Allrecipes’ Best Steak Marinade
- Good Ranchers’ Recipe #2 (Dijon Mustard Marinade)
- Coco and Ash’s Juicy Steak Marinade
And don’t forget to check out Chef Teri’s seasoning choices for a good ribeye, which perfectly complements the steak’s natural flavors!