Nothing beats a freshly grilled steak, still sizzling hot! Unfortunately, many a good steak is ruined by poor cooking techniques. Follow the steps below for steaks that don't require a hammer and chisel to eat.
- Know your meat. Different cuts of steak require different preparation and cooking methods for optimum results.
- Tougher cuts that can still be grilled, such as top round, bottom round and skirt steak and flatiron, should be marinated before grilling.
- The best cuts, including tenderloin, top sirloin, porterhouse, NY Strip, T-bone and rib eyes (also called Delmonico), benefit from as simple a preparation as possible to showcase their flavor and texture. No marinating is needed.
- Some steaks, including chuck, seven-bone or blade steaks, and some flank steak, cannot be successfully grilled no matter what the label at the grocery store says. They are designed for moist cooking such as braising. London broil is another tricky one; don't attempt it unless you are very confident and experienced with grilling beef (technically, London broil is a recipe made from shoulder steak, but most supermarkets sell steak labeled London broil today).
- For those cuts that need marinating, marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator or one hour at room temperature. Try McCormick's garlic/peppercorn marinade or this simple recipe:
- For three pounds of steak: combine two cups red wine (merlot, burgundy or cabernet work well), four cloves finely minced garlic, one tablespoon freshly ground pepper, two teaspoons dried thyme or tarragon and one tablespoon fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, minced, in a gallon-size plastic bag. Add the steak and shake well. Marinate 12 to 24 hours in the fridge.
- Do not overcook beef. The internal temperature of beef or any meat goes up even after it is removed from heat, so it should come off a few degrees before it reaches the desired stage. A digital meat thermometer or one that indicates the doneness level with a color change is indispensable for grilling steak. Very rare steak is done at 115F (46C). For rare steak, heat to 125-130F (52-54C). Medium steaks are finished at 155F (69C) and well-done steaks should be 170F (77C). I do not recommend grilling steaks to well-done, as they toughen too much after medium doneness, especially the best cuts.
- Do not salt beef until after it is browned well on both sides. Salting meat before that point removes the juices and dries the steak (marinades contain salt to help the marinade penetrate, which counters dryness, so that's okay).
- Use tongs or a spatula rather than a grilling fork to turn steaks. Poking fork-holes in the meat allows those flavorful juices to drip away, leaving the meat dry.
- After removing steaks from the grill, allow them to rest on a foil-covered plate for five minutes to finish cooking and allow the juices to resettle. I always flip them over so that the side most recently on the grill is on top; that way juices from the bottom will redistribute through the steak.