Home - Articles - Everything You Need to Know About Grilling the Perfect Steak
Savory Januray 2020

Everything You Need to Know About Grilling the Perfect Steak

Become your household grill master with these easy tips. 
grilling Savory Januray 2020 Savory May 2020 Savory November 2017 July August

Summertime means grilling, and few foods love the grill as much as a good steak. The charred flavor, the juicy interior, and the overall experience of cooking a special dinner outside – this is what grilling steak is all about. But there are key things to keep in mind to achieve the perfect dish—after all, it’s usually a splurge, so you want to get it right. Here, we break down our go-to method for cooking steaks, answer some of the more confusing grilling questions, and pull together some of our favorite recipes. You’ll be prepped and ready to wow your family and friends in no time. 

 What Cut of Steak Is Best for Grilling?   

Facing the endless types of steaks can be intimidating! Rib–eyes, strip, skirt, flank, tenderloins, porterhouses, T–bones, top sirloin – these names can become confusing.  

You’ll want to consider your budget and how you’re going to eat your steak. If you want to wow your guests, check out strip steaks, T-bones, tenderloin steaks (also known as filet mignon), and of course, rib-eyes. These cuts will be more expensive since, but if you’re looking for wow factor, these cuts are it! Alternatively, choose affordable London broil, steak tips, flank, skirt, or flat iron to marinade and slice or use in a recipe like tacos. 

 No matter what cut you choose to cook with, be sure to check for good marbling, the flecks of white fat in meat. This intramuscular fat is what makes meat juicy, tender, and flavorful. Make sure the meat itself has a rich pink or light red color. Don’t be afraid of larger pieces of fat on the outside of the meat—you can always trim it off at home if you’d like. 

How Do I Prep My Grill for Steak?  

A nice clean grill is the best way to start. Clean grates mean your steak won’t pick up flavors from whatever you grilled earlier, and will also keep your food from sticking. Use a grill brush, scraper, or some bunched-up aluminum foil to get off any stuck-on food. Once the grates are clean, give them a light coating of a high smoke point oil, such as canola oil, with a brush or paper towel.  

Now that the grates are prepped, it’s time to preheat the grill. A nice hot grill will help the food  cook evenly and not stick to the grates. You’ll want to ensure you have two zones for cooking: a hotter zone and a cooler zone. This will help your steaks cook to the perfect doneness without getting too charred on the outside. If using a gas grill, set one burner to high and leave one burner off. If you have a three-burner grill, leave the middle burner off and heat the outside burners. If you’re using a charcoal grill, move hot coals to one side and leave the other side with fewer coals. Let your grill preheat like this for about 10 to 15 minutes to get everything to the ideal temperature.   

What Should You Put on a Steak Before Grilling?  

Our favorite way to prepare a steak for grilling is with just three ingredients: oil, salt, and pepper. If you’re a planner, you can salt and pepper the meat ahead of time, about 45 minutes to a day before cooking, to let the seasoning work its way into the meat. When it’s time to cook, pat your steaks dry, do a quick light brush of canola or olive oil on both sides, and season with salt and pepper if you haven’t already.  

 What About Dry Rubs and Marinades? 

Think of a dry rub as being like a marinade without any wet ingredients. Rubs are simply a mix of salt, spices, herbs, and even some pantry staples like coffee, that are then rubbed all over the steak to boost flavor.  

You can also choose to marinate your steaks to add flavor. The best steaks to marinate include flank, skirt, and steak tips or cubes. The extra flavor boost adds delicious caramelization from the marinade’s sugar. Just be sure to pat the meat dry once it’s done marinating before you put it on the grill, or you’ll get flare-ups. 

How Long Should You Cook a Steak on the Grill and to What Temperature? 

If you’re cooking a thinner steak, like a skirt, you can cook it over direct heat and keep the grill open so you can keep an eye on it. But if you’re cooking a thick cut, like a strip, rib-eye, or T-bone, start them on the cooler side of the grill. You’ll then want to close the lid (yes, we said close it!), and cook them until they’re about 10 degrees Fahrenheit below when you want to pull them off the grill—but we’ll get to that in a moment. Closing the lid makes your grill more like an oven and will help the steak cook more evenly if it’s thicker.  

Next, you’ll want to flip your steak. There are different opinions on how many times to do this, so it’s really up to you. Flipping once will develop those iconic grill marks for a picture-perfect meal, while flipping multiple times can help the meat cook more evenly. Just be sure to flip your steak with tongs (not a fork!) and give it the wiggle test. If the steak is sticking to the grill when you grab it with your tongs and lightly jiggle, it’s not ready to flip yet. If it easily releases, it’s time to flip.  

How long you grill steaks depends on what kind it is, how hot your grill is, how thick it is, and how done you want it. Following a recipe for your specific cut of meat is a great way to get an idea (try some of our recipes below!). Our favorite (and the most reliable) way to check if a steak is done is by using an instant-read digital thermometer. Stick the thermometer into the side of the steak until the tip of the thermometer is in the middle of the thickest part.   

To make sure it’s perfectly cooked every time, pull the meat off the heat when the thermometer reads about five to 10 degrees Fahrenheit below what you’re looking for. Remember, food keeps cooking even after you’ve taken it off the heat.   

Follow this guide to determine what temperature you’ll want your steak to be at after it’s been removed from the grill and rested.

  • 120°F – rare (cool to warm red center)  

  • 130°F – medium-rare (warm red center)  

  • 140°F – medium (hot pink center)  

  • 150°F – medium-well (barely pink, mostly brown center)  

  • 160°F – well-done (little-to-no pink, brown center)  

How Long Should Steak Rest Before Cutting? 

Once you’ve pulled your steaks off the grill, it’s time to leave them alone for about five to ten minutes. Letting them rest allows the liquid that was forced into the center of the meat while it was cooking to move its way back throughout the whole steak. Slicing too early keeps that from happening, meaning all your hard work will literally leak out onto the cutting board.  

 How to Cut a Steak 

Once rested, it’s time to slice. One phrase you may have heard of is to “slice against the grain.” The grain refers to the lines of muscle fibers running through your steak. Cutting across, or “against” them, makes them easier to chew and, therefore more tender. Cutting along, or “with” the grain, doesn’t disrupt the muscle fibers, leaving them harder to chew through and therefore tougher.  

To slice against the grain, hold your knife at a slight angle rotated outwards, look for the fibers, and cut perpendicularly through them, keeping your knife at a slight angle. This increases the surface area of each slice, making them even more tender.   

Steak Recipes to Try 

Now that you’ve officially become a grill master, check out our favorite steak recipes below.  

Grilled Coffee-Rubbed Sirloin Steak 

For a really special meal, you can’t go wrong with this recipe, which is one of our go-tos when grilling sirloin. It’s worth making a double batch of the rub for the next time you’re in the mood for steak or to give away to a friend. 

Grilled Steaks with Italian Salsa Verde 

Perfectly grilled steaks shine when coated in an Italian-style herb and garlic sauce. Plus, it’s ready in just 15 minutes for an impressive weeknight main.  

Grilled Beef and Tomato Skewers

Skewers are a great way to enjoy grilled meat with some extra charred flavor. Boneless top sirloin gets cut into cubes and then served with a store-bought pesto.   

Grilled Steak Quesadillas

Cook your steak, veggies, and quesadillas all on the grill! Grilled top round or London broil is a treat for anyone who has never tried it before. This easy dinner for a crowd is ready in no time.  

Grilled Skirt Steak over Creamy Blue Cheese Slaw

 Skirt steak is the star of this speedy recipe. Steak loves some extra richness, especially with the blue cheese dressing on this store-bought slaw. Crumble some extra blue cheese on top for even more flavor.  

Search and shop our 5,000+ recipes

Popular articles

Search and shop our 5,000+ recipes