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Six steps to grill the perfect steak

By Laura Folse
Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2005

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There's nothing better than a nicely grilled juicy steak.

But how come I can't duplicate that restaurant, expensive, juicy, melt-in-your mouth, perfectly grilled steak?

Well, I found out how to grill steak perfectly - and here's how you can too.

Rules of the grill

1. Choose the right steak.
The high, dry heat of grilling requires a tender cut of meat. It should be well-marbled (fat content within the grain of the meat). Thin (1 inch) is always better than thick (more than 3 inches).

2. Build the right fire.
Steaks need high heat to sear the meat and form a crust. To cook a thick steak such as a porterhouse or center cut rib-eye, you will also need a moderate heat zone to one side to finish the cooking without burning the outside. This is done by lighting your coals in the center of the pit. Once the coals are completely lit, rake a double thick layer over to one side of the grill and a single layer over to the other side. You should start cooking the steak when you can hold your hand over the hot zone for 2-3 seconds and over the moderate zone for 5-6 seconds. For gas grills, just turn one side down to medium.

3. Season to taste.
With steaks, you should keep the seasoning simple. Coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper from a mill and granulated garlic is best. However, some steaks such as flank or sirloin do well with flavorings such as herbs, soy sauce, Worcestershire, etc.

4. Know when and how to turn the steak.
Place the steaks on the grill at a 45° angle to the bars. Grill for 2 minutes, then rotate the steak 90° without turning over. This makes a nice crosshatch grill mark. You will know to flip the steak when you see tiny beads of blood beginning to form on the top, approximately 4-6 minutes for a 1" steak or 8-10 minutes for a 2" steak. The proper way to turn is with tongs or spatula. Never, ever, stab the meat with a fork, as this will cause all the juices to run onto the coals and create a flavorless, dry steak.

5. Never desert your post.
Remember, you're only grilling for a short time. Great steaks demand constant attention. Once they hit the grill, stay with them. Never forget the fact that, like polish on a mahogany table, a steak needs a pat of butter anointing it immediately upon leaving the grill. This rounds out the flavor, and it is a great time to re-season the meat with just a small pinch of salt & pepper. Try my herb butter for grilled steaks at the bottom of the page for a flavorful finish on the perfectly grilled steak.

6. Let it rest.
All steaks need to rest a few minutes before serving. The high heat tends to tighten the protein. Transferring the steak to a warm platter and letting it rest for 3 minutes will allow the juices to return to the center of the meat as it sits.

Best steaks for grilling:

Rib-eye - Juicy and well-marbled.
Rib steak - A bone-in rib-eye, thicker than a normal rib-eye, but you all know how much more flavorful a steak on the bone can be.
Strip steak - Lean, meaty and firm texture.
Sirloin - Rich, red and meaty. Flavorful, but tends to be tough. Slice thinly when serving.
Porterhouse - Two steaks in one: a firm strip sirloin and a succulent tenderloin. Normally 2-3" thick.
T-bone - Similar to a Porterhouse, but the tenderloin is smaller.
Filet Mignon - Lean and tender; you can cut it with a fork.
Flank or Skirt Steak - From the underbelly of the steer. Highly flavorful, but tough and stringy. Cook medium rare; slice against the grain.

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