How To Grill the Perfect Steak

Grilling the perfect steak can seem like such a simple process and yet for years we somehow screwed it up. We must have gone through most of our 20’s overcooking and under-searing our steaks, time and time again.  No wonder it was such a treat to go out for a nice steak!  Hats off to my husband (Mike), who finally decided to get serious with his steaks; conducted endless research , tried out different techniques, combined them, and developed what we feel is the perfect technique for the perfect steak!

Steak Doneness

The type of steak, the thickness of the steak, and the temperature of your grill all play a role in knowing when your steak is done and how long it will take to cook.  However, only one indicator determines the doneness of your steak and that is the internal temperature. To measure internal temperature, we rely on the scientific method … the instant read thermometer.  It never lies.  Many chefs use the “poke test”; by comparing the springiness of the surface of the steak and often comparing it to a part of their body (cheek, fingertip, or fat pad of the thumb). We just don’t find this method very reliable for ourselves.  That doesn’t mean it may not work for others. I do not doubt there are chefs out there that cook steak everyday and have perfected this method; it just isn’t a method that is full proof for us. 

Doneness Levels With Chart

RARE : basically a quick sear on the exterior of the meat.  The center of a rare steak is red AND cool. Internal temperature = 120oF – 130oF.  Cooking time ~2.5 – 3 min. per side. 

MEDIUM-RARE: a medium-rare steak is how top chefs and meat virtuoso’s prefer to eat their steak.  This doneness really allows you to taste the natural flavors of the meat.  A good sear on both sides leaving the center pink and room temperature. Internal temperature = 130oF -135oF.  Cooking time ~3.5 min. per side.

MEDIUM: a common request.  It seems to please most as it isn’t seeping with blood, nor is it super dry.  The center remains slightly pink and is slightly warm.  Internal temperature = 135oF – 145oF.  Cooking time ~4.5 min. per side. 

How to Grill The Perfect Steak inforgraphic

Use our Steak Doneness Chart for Reference

MEDIUM-WELL: this steak is almost cooked right through…leaving just a sliver of pink in the middle.  The center is just barely pink and definitely warm.  Internal temperature = 145oF – 155oF.  Cooking time ~5.5-6 min. per side. 

WELL: you will get the oddball that requests this; but we certainly don’t recommend it. This steak is definitely cooked right through.  It is most likely tough with minimal flavor.   The center is brown.   Internal temperature = 155oF – 165oF +.  Cooking time ~7 min. + per side. For those of you that choose your steak well done, you might want to read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential to understand what happens to your steak in the kitchen. You’ll never order well done again. 

Getting the Sear Right

When cooking your steak, there are really two main aspects you want to get right.  You want a hot grill to create a crisp, cooked outside char;  while heating the inside of the steak to a lower temperature to keep the meat juicy and tender.  You can only obtain this by searing. You need a high heat to perfect the sear; so set your grill to high (500oF +).  Let the grill preheat to the high temperature (about 10-15 minutes) before placing the steaks on the grill. 

The other thing that can affect the perfect sear is moisture. If there is too much moisture on the steak, it takes that much more energy (heat and time) to evaporate the moisture before the outside browning occurs.  When this happens, you end up with your internal temperature rising too high before getting the brown, seared outside.  Nobody likes a non seared steak with an over-cooked center… you may as well boil it! 

Searing a Steak with a Pellet or Charcoal Grill?

If you are lucky enough to own a gas, charcoal and pellet grill, I strongly recommend doing your steak on the gas grill. Gas grills can create the heat needed for a proper sear. I personally have a Traeger Ironwood 650 which can be cranked up to 500F but it just doesn’t provide the high heat needed for a good sear. My Broil King Regal S590 can get really hot, fast and sear steak amazingly. It is my go to.

Charcoal grills can create the searing heat needed for steaks if you have the right tools. I use a charcoal Vortex to get searing temps on my Weber Kettle. You simply put the charcoal into the Vortex and the heat will be focused at the center of the grill grates. This creates high searing heat and works perfect for steak.

Getting Rid of the Moisture

Angry BBQ’s favorite : Salt!

We prefer to pull our steaks out of the refrigerator about 1 hour before grilling and generously salt  the steak on both sides.  It is important not to salt the steaks right before grilling.  The salt needs that hour to absorb the extra moisture. With our method, we also prefer to allow the steaks to come up to room temperature before grilling.  So typically, once salted they will sit in the refrigerator for ½ hour and then on the counter for ½ hour.   There seem to be varying differences on whether it is necessary to bring the steak to room temperature before grilling.  We have just found better results with the latter; so it is our personal preference. 

salting a steak

Other Methods to Remove Moisture : 

  • About 24 hours prior to grilling, pull all the wrapping off the steaks, place them on a plate, and put back into the refrigerator. The refrigerator has a low humidity and will allow for the moisture to slowly evaporate. 
  • Prior to grilling, take a paper towel and blot the steaks (both sides) to soak up any remaining moisture. 

Resting Your Steak

Again, there are varying opinions on whether to rest meat in general or not.  You can read more on the science behind this in our article “Resting Meat”.  However, when it comes to steak; we absolutely advise to take the extra time and rest your steak for about the same time it took to cook the steak. Use some aluminum foil to cover the steak during the rest. While the steak rests; the juices redistribute through the meat giving the steak a more tender taste.  Also important to note, while the steak rests it will continue to cook.  Therefore, it is best to pull the steak off the grill about 5oF below the final temperature. 

Angry BBQ’s Perfect Steak

Ingredients

  • 4 New York Striploins (1.5″ thick are our favorite)
  • Salt

Instructions

  • About 1 hour prior to cooking, remove steaks from fridge and completely unwrap. 
  • Trim excess fat from individual steak
  • Generously salt both sides of each steak and place back in the refrigerator for ½ hour. 
  • Remove steak from refrigerator after ½ hour and allow steak to come to room temperature for another ½ hour. Dab the steaks dry with paper towel.
  • Pre-heat grill to high heat. 
  • Place steaks on grill.  Grill for approximately 3.5 min per side or until internal temperature reads 130oF.  (medium-rare) 
  • **** see chart for doneness levels and corresponding temperatures and approximate times)
  • Expert Tip: If you want that awesome diamond pattern on your steak, place the steaks in a 45 degree angle on the grill and flip in half the time above (Ex. 1min 45sec). Flip again but turn the steak 90 degrees. Flip after another 1min 45sec. until done.
Diamond Pattern Grill Marks
Diamond Pattern Grill Marks
  • Remove from heat, place on serving dish, and tent with aluminum foil.  Allow to rest for 7-8 minutes. 
  • Serve!

Now enjoy eating a steak that is as good or possibly better than your favorite steak house New York strip. It’s a really simple process and you’re probably shocked at the results. When you’re feeling up to the challenge, move on to smoking a brisket.

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