There’s a special art to cooking steaks. The cut has to be just right. The meat needs to be cooked for a certain amount of time. The right seasonings must be used. Discover the way to cook the perfect steak to impress your guests. Steaks don’t need fancy sauces or over-the-top seasonings to taste amazing. All they need is a little know-how and a few simple techniques to get a juicy interior and a crisp exterior. Check out a few of the top techniques below.
1. Buy A Good Meat Cut
No matter your grilling skills, if you don’t buy the appropriate cut of meat for your grilling purposes then your steak won’t turn out right. Buying steak isn’t like buying ground beef for a burger. Your meat should be the best cut for your purposes. Yet you don’t need to spend a fortune for a great cut of meat. Your steak should be a USDA Prime cut of meat or a Certified Black Angus; if you can’t afford this cut, you can simply spring for the choice-grade steak. If cooked well, the choice-grade meat will still be a great alternative.
2. Choose Bone-In
Bone-in steaks generally take longer to cook, yet the bone creates a juicy flavor barrier for the rest of the meat. This is why T-bone steaks are extremely popular and considered a high-end cut. The phrase ‘tender to the bone’ is a saying because the bone actually adds flavor to the rest of the meat. Cooks even add bones to their stock or rice to add flavor. Yet it’s actually the connective tissue and fat that surrounds the bone that makes your steak so delicious. Though much of the fat will cook away, it will still add tons of flavor to the rest of the meat in the cut.
3. Consider the Thickness
The thickness of your meat will determine how your meat tastes, and it will also determine some of the flavor and texture. Depending on your cut of meat
, you should consider how thick you request your meat. T-bone steaks should always be between 1 inch and 1.5 inches thick. Filet mignon, which is also known as tenderloin, should be 1.75 inches thick. Ribeye, strip and top sirloin steaks should be around 1.5 inches thick. These guidelines offer the most tender cuts of meat when grilled. Thinner cuts of steak, like flank steak, should be used in recipes with other ingredients and marinades to ensure the steak stays moist and tender.
4. Buy Good Grades
The USDA recognizes eight grades of steak. You should consider the top three cuts of steak if you’re a casual griller. The most expensive grade of steak is USDA Prime steaks
. This grade is the best grade and has superior tenderness. This grade also offers optimum juiciness and flavor. The fine texture adds to the quality of the experience. The fat marbling is also superior to other cuts and comes from a younger animal.
The USDA Choice steaks are a great moderately priced grade of meat. The biggest difference between Choice and Prime is the marbling. While Choice has less marbling than Prime, the cut is still fantastic. This cut of meat comes from the loin and rib part of the meat; since this part of the meat is close to the bone, it has superior flavor. This is also the part of the animal that is considered the tenderloin, which is historically a higher cut of meat. The texture of this grade of meat will be a little grainer than the Prime, and the meat won’t retain the same amount of juice.
The third cut of meat is Select meat. This is the lowest quality and tends to have a tougher texture. It has little or no marbling and can be extremely tough or grainy.
5. Look for Marbling
Check for the fat marbling in the meat. Most butchers can point out the marbling, so you don’t even need to keep an eye out for it. The meat should literally have the look of marble. The fat and the flesh are what give the meat this look. When the meat is marbled correctly, the fat melts slowly and evenly and allows the meat to cook evenly on the grill.
6. Warm up Your Steak Before Grilling
A cold steak should never hit your grill. Make sure to let your meat rest on the counter before it even goes near the heat. This will allow the steak to cook evenly. If you throw a cold steak on the grill, the outside will cook fast and the inside will stay cold. Plus, the cold temperature of the interior will force your steak to cook unevenly. Pull the steak out of the fridge at least 20 minutes before you pre-heat your grill. Don’t fear the room temperature air; it won’t ruin your steak or make it inedible.
7. Have Proper Tools On Hand
Don’t run out to the store and throw down tons of money on grill tools! Simply keep to the basics. The best three tools you can buy are the holy trinity: the grill tongs, the grill brush and the grill itself. If you have these three tools, you can grill pretty much any steak. Buy tools that work well with your body and your grill. Get a pair of tongs with long handles that allow you to work over high temperatures
. Buy a brush that’s easy to clean. Your grill doesn’t need to be super expensive. In fact, a small charcoal grill can be one of the best options around.
8. Oil Before Seasoning
Massage your steak with a little olive oil before seasoning
– and before throwing the steak on the grill. The oil helps the outside of the steak reach a higher temperature faster. When you season after you oil, your seasonings will create a crispy crust on the outside of your steak that seals in all the juice. The oil allows the seasonings to stick to the outside of the steak and stay on the exterior even after you throw the steak on the grill.
9. Season Early
The earlier you season your steak, the more flavorful your steak will taste. When you pull the steak out of the fridge, make sure to rub it with oil and seasonings immediately. You only need to season your steak with a generous amount of salt and pepper. You can add other seasonings, like garlic, but salt and pepper is key. Season early, and keep it simple. The seasonings will create a nice crust over the surface of your steak, so they will keep the juices locked inside – and not out on your grill top.
10. Use Special Steak Seasoning, It Adds Flavor
If you want to kick up the amount of flavoring in your steak, season it with special flavors. You can buy a dry rub at the grocery store that has all the ingredients you need for a flavorful cut of meat. You can create a themed menu with teriyaki flavored rubs, smoky rubs and sweeter barbecue rubs. If salt and pepper aren’t enough seasoning for you, opt for a special seasoning to keep your steak moist and flavorful.
11. Use Charcoal
When it comes to grilling, keep it simple is the moniker of choice. Grillers love charcoal because charcoal grills require less set-up than other types of grills. They also reach temperatures of up to 700 degrees, which means more power during the grilling process. The charcoal grill is also easier to maintain than the gas grill, which needs plenty of tuning for its metal piping and connections.
12. Preheat Your Grill
Your grill needs to be screaming hot in order to create that amazing crisp exterior on your steak. Make sure to preheat your grill accordingly. You know your grill is ready for your steak to drop if you can’t hold your hand over the grill for more than two seconds. Once your steak hits the grill, everything moves extremely fast. Make sure your grill is ready before adding the meat.
13. Find Hot Spots on the Grill
Did you know your grill has ‘hot spots?’ There are spots on your grill that actually get hotter than other areas. This is the result of your grill’s grates. To check the hot spots on your grill, fire it up. Then place a piece of white bread on the grill, and let the bread cook for 10 seconds. Flip the bread, and let it cook for another 10 seconds on another part of the grill. Whatever side of bread is darker shows where the hot spots are located. Make note of these spots as you go.
14. Make it Pretty with Grill Marks
Your grill is not just a source of heat, but it’s a beautiful work of art. Make sure your grill marks look as great as your steak with these tips. First, place your steak on the grill at a 45-degree angle. You don’t need to create grill marks to create a great tasting steak. Yet the steak will look amazing with at least one set of grill marks on each side. Create cross-hatching grill marks for an impressive steak. After your steak has been seared on the first side, turn it 45 degrees. Flip your steak, and repeat the process on the second side.
15. Control Flare Ups
Flare ups are small grease fires that are created by extra fat dripping on the hot coals. Small flare ups are not a cause for concern, but you can squelch large flare ups with some easy tips. If you have two levels to your grill, you can simply move your meat from the bottom layer to the top. If you don’t have two layers, simply place a lid on your grill. The fire needs oxygen to flare up, so killing the oxygen is the best way to squelch these fires. Once the flare up has reduced, get back to the grill!
16. Don't Rush with Flipping
One of the biggest mistakes grillers make is to flip too soon. It’s tough to determine when your meat needs to be flipped. The rule of thumb is to wait until you have a thick crust on your meat before flipping. Try to lift the corner of your meat if you think it’s ready; if the meat sticks to the grate, it’s not ready to flip.
17. Don't Overdo It
Similarly, don’t try to overcook your meat. An overcooked piece of meat will smoke and smell like a charred piece of steak. This is one of the easiest ways to destroy a great cut of meat. If you’re not sure if the meat is done, take it off the grates. If the meat lifts easily, it’s probably done. It’s easier to pop a piece of meat back on the grill than it is to fix an overcooked piece of meat.
18. Don't touch It; Instead Use a Thermometer for Checking the Temperature
Don’t ever cut the meat to check its doneness! You could release the lovely juices that you’ve worked so hard to capture inside the steak. Use a thermometer to check the doneness instead. A medium-rare steak should be around 135 degrees. A medium steak should be around 140 degrees when done. A medium-well steak should be around 150 degrees when done.
19. Cook Everything Early Separate from the Steak
All your foods need different cooking times. If you are cooking veggies, chicken, pork and buns all at the same time as your steaks, your food will pay the price. Cook all meats and veggies separate from your steaks. Your steaks should get priority treatment, so cook them last.
20. Let it Rest
Let your steak rest before slicing into the meat. The steak needs to rest before it can be cut. This allows the juices to soak back into the meat. Once this happens, you can cut the meat. The juices will stay trapped inside, and your taste buds will thank you.
I hope these tips will make your steak cooking experience much more enjoyable.