Ten Thousand Foot-Pounds

How To: Properly Grill a Steak

Men, this is for you. All men should know how to properly grill animal flesh over open flame. We’ve been doing it for thousands of years to impress women, provide for our families, and just plain enjoy being alive. Women, you’re welcome to read this and take it to heart as well. You know, equal rights and all. All people should have equal rights to delicious steak.

Before you begin grilling, you must select a good cut of meat. For this particular post, I will be focusing on beef (of course.) I’ve grilled many steaks in my lifetime and I can say, unashamedly, that New York Strip is my favorite cut of steak for grilling. ‘But what about Filet Mignon???’ you might ask. Yes I’m including Filet Mignon in that group and in my opinion, while very good, Filet Mignon is one dimensional and I dare say… boring!

From Wikipedia: The strip steak is a cut of beef steaks from the short loin. It consists of a muscle that does little work, making the meat particularly tender,[1] though not as tender as the nearby rib eye or tenderloin. Fat content of the strip is somewhere between the two cuts.

New York Strip has the perfect balance of fat and flavor to really bring the house on what a steak is all about. For more information about where beef cuts come from, this is pretty handy.

Beef cuts. From: http://visual.ly/beef-cuts

Beef cuts. From: http://visual.ly/beef-cuts

So, down to business. You want to buy a cut that’s got a solid strip of fat on the side and some good marbling in between the good stuff. This will add that delicious flavor we all strive for. Your local grocer should have a good selection of strip steaks available, but take some time considering which will be lucky enough to grace your grill and your plate. Here is what I selected for this evening.

Fat on the side, marbling in between

Fat on the side, marbling in between

As you can see there is some fat (marbling) through the steak, but not too much. This particular steak is big, close to 16 ounces with it’s thickness. Thickness will play a key factor in how long it will take to grill a steak, so pay close attention to how thick your cuts are.

The next step is to get your cut properly prepped. You can get fancy with this or not, it’s up to you. I prefer to keep things simple and let the natural flavor of the steak shine through here. The basics are olive oil, salt, pepper, onion, and garlic. These ingredients should be the cornerstone of any kitchen worth half of its salt, so have them on hand if you don’t already. Add your spice preferences beyond that. Chopped garlic chars nicely on the grill for extra flavor and good presentation.

The spice cabinet cornerstone.

The spice cabinet cornerstone.

There are plenty of off-the-shelf steak rubs that are tasty as well. I like McCormick Montreal Steak seasoning since it’s mostly simple ingredients, and if you care about what you eat then you’ll appreciate that. Beware of many of these rubs, since they may contain junk you don’t want to put in your body or use to contaminate your beautiful steak.

McCormick ingredients

McCormick ingredients

Now may be the most important part… Prep those steaks and let them rest! It is so important to let your meat rest with those spices and rise in temperature slowly. The salt will draw tasty juices to the exterior of the steak and if you don’t over-do it, you won’t be at risk of drying the steak out.

You don’t want to throw a cold steak on the grill. Doing otherwise could result in a perfectly seared steak with a cold and raw center. A ‘normal’ cut may take 45 minutes or so to reach the appropriate temp and a thicker cut steak may take upwards of two hours.

Prepped and resting

Prepped and resting

Now that you’ve prepped and rested your steak, it’s time to grill. For this text, I will be discussing the merits of charcoal. The same principals apply if you’re using alternate heating methods, just know that charcoal will render an unmistakeably delicious flavor. Build your mound of coals big enough to produce a large amount of heat. Spray non-stick spray on the grate (this is a good practice for grilling practically anything.) After you light your coals, let them get quite bright and very hot, you’ll want to quickly sear the steaks not slow cook them. Spread your coals out after you reach this point, probably about 20-25 minutes after initial lighting.

Bright, hot flame

Bright, hot flame

Throw those steaks on the grill with some tongs, timing to the second how long you keep them on each side. Sear directly over your hottest flame, never closing the grill lid over the steaks. You want to sear that flavor in! Never pierce the steaks with a fork, handle them only with tongs or a spatula.

It may not take as long as you think to get perfect steaks, only 3-4 minutes per side depending on thickness and your preference. I prefer medium-rare average steaks since this provides the most flavor throughout. New York Strip steaks will have a big variety of flavor and a medium-rare sear will give you a good assortment of taste/texture for your entire cut.

Steak searin'

Steak searin’

Flip only once during this process, timing how long you cook each side precisely. If you’re going for extra presentation points, you can rotate the steaks 90 degrees halfway through their sear for square grilling marks. You know, like you see on the TV commercials. After they have seared for their allotted time, take them off the grill and cover them with foil.

IMG_3752

Foil covered steaks

After your steaks have rested 5 minutes or so under the foil they are ready to be served. Never cut into your steaks before they are done resting! Serve with a baked sweet potato, sauteed broccoli, or any vegetables of your choice. Red wine always makes for a good pairing with steaks, though this is topic for another post.

Baked sweet potato, sauteed broccoli, and some red wine

Baked sweet potato, sauteed broccoli, and some red

When you’re ready, cut into that delicious steak and enjoy. The ideal steak should have a flavorful, almost crunchy crust with a tender and juicy center. Follow these basic steps, practice often, and soon you’ll be enjoying delicious steak whenever you like.

Perfectly medium-rare

Perfectly medium-rare

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One thought on “How To: Properly Grill a Steak

  1. David Paulk

    Well written, buddy! I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about steaks from you over the few years I’ve known you. Perhaps the most valuable is the pre-grill rest. I’ve let this rule flow into my preparations for venison also. It can really change the tenderness a LOT!

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