How to Cook the Perfect Steak

Nothing beats a thick, juicy steak. And summer is the perfect time to fire up the grills. Steak and summer are inseparable. But when you’re trying to get dinner on the table, it’s easy to rush things. And that can mean sacrificing flavor and texture. Steaks are simple — they require only salt, pepper, and heat — so there’s no excuse to mess them up. If you love meat, you know that getting a delicious crust on the outside is one of the most important things. You’ll want to make some real summer memories, so get out there, roast up the meat, and enjoy the smells and tastes of the season.

There are no hard and fast rules about the type of grills you should use when it comes to preparing meat. There are a variety out there, and each has its pros and cons. While backyard cooks with gas grills may be able to turn out a good meat, nothing beats the smoky flavor that can only come from firing up some charcoal. Even if you’re using a gas sear with smoke boxes, this is true.

The wrong cut, the wrong preparation, and poor fixing technique will inevitably result in a dry, tough, and bland piece of meat that’s not fit to eat. Get it right, and you'll be rewarded with a delicious dinner. A good meat is tender, juicy, and bursting with flavor, but there are many obstacles standing in the way of achieving perfection. Get it wrong, and you'll be chewing on a dry piece of shoe leather all night.

Grilling is about more than just getting dinner on the table. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family, bask in the warm glow of an open flame and drink a beer (or two). The first step toward getting there is understanding your meat: what cut you should buy, how to season it properly, and most importantly, fixing it right. Many people prefer rare or medium-rare, but if you like well-done meat, there's no reason to feel bad about it.

Simple steps on grilling

Place the meat on a plate and sprinkle both sides liberally with salt and pepper. Turn the meat over and repeat the process. Allow half an hour for the meat to come to room temp.

Fire up your grill to high heat, about 500 degrees F with all burners. Leave the burners on high throughout the process. With a brush, coat grates with oil to keep meat from sticking.

Place each meat on the sear and leave it alone! It should not be moved until it is ready to be turned. The first side should take about 6-7 minutes for rare, 8-9 minutes for medium-rare, or 10-11 minutes for medium doneness (remember, the meat will continue to cook while it rests).

Use tongs to flip each meat. Prepare on the second side another 6-7 minutes for rare (3 to 4 minutes less for medium-ravenous), 5 to 6 minutes for medium-rare, or 4 to 5 minutes for medium doneness. Prior to serving, remove the meat and set them for 5 minutes to rest.

This procedure produces excellent results; crispy crust on the outside tender and juicy meat inside. It’s the ideal way to prepare meat.

Tips to consider for a perfect grilled meat

The Cut

Let’s start with the basics. There are three main sections of beef on a steer: the chuck, short loin, and round. The chuck includes a lot of connective tissue that melts down while fixing and adds flavor and texture to ground beef, but it also contains some great meat like the flat iron and Denver meat. The short loin is where we get our T-bones, porterhouses, strips, or New York strips. The round produces sirloins, eye rounds, and bottom rounds. Avoid cheaper cuts of beef such as round roast or rump roast that tend to be tougher when seared.

Preheat the grill

Set your gas or charcoal up for direct searing over high heat. Suppose using charcoal one, set it up for one-zone preparing with all the coals on one side and no coals on the other side. This will both sear the meat and prepare it quickly so that it doesn't become tough from overcooking. If using a charcoal one, let the coals burn until they are covered with gray ash.

It takes time to get hot enough to sear a meat well. Make sure you heat it for at least 15 minutes before preparing. You'll know the sear is ready when you can hold your hand about an inch above the grates for just 1 to 2 seconds before pulling it away due to the heat.

Buy meat about 1 inch thick for grilling

Thinner cuts will burn easily, and thicker cuts will be difficult preparing properly. The best advice is to have meat that are at least 1 inch thick, ideally 1 ¼ inch or more. These cuts will have enough fat to keep them moist and tender during searing. The thicker the meat, the better it will hold up on the sear without drying out or overcooking.

When it comes to thickness, bigger is better. A thick meat may seem intimidating, but they're easier preparing because they give you more leeway in terms of timing — less chance of overcooking or drying out the meat. Thin ones are trickier because there's a smaller window of time between rare and well done, and it's easier for them to dry out before they reach the right temperature. But when buying them, don't just look at thickness alone: Make sure you're getting a real steak!

Cook it hot and fast

The best way for preparing a 1-inch-thick steak is over very high heat. Grill both sides of the meat quickly over this high heat, then finish preparing by moving it away from direct contact with flame or coals and letting it cook through indirectly. This method produces a great-looking medium-rare meat with a nicely browned crust. Less thick ones should be prepared over direct heat only — no need to move them off to indirect heat once they're seared.

Use your finger to check if it is ready

To check if your meat is ready, press your finger against it or cut into its center to see how done it is. A perfect meat should be dark red with clear juices on top. Medium-rare meat will feel soft but springy (like pushing on your cheek), while medium ones will feel firm like your chin when you push into them.

Season before grilling

This is one of the most important tips. Don’t just salt the top of your meat before throwing it on the grill — salt both sides and let it sit out for at least an hour before preparing. This will give the salt time to work its way into the meat, seasoning it more deeply than just adding salt right before preparing would do. For tougher cuts of meat like skirt or flap meat, marinate the steak in olive oil, soy sauce, and garlic for at least 30 minutes before preparing.

Coat each side of the meat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper (or other desired spices). I like to use about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper for each side of the meat and would advice everyone else to try them out. You can also use garlic powder, paprika, lemon pepper, or a combination of these spices. However, too much spice will mask the flavor of the meat.

Let it rest before eating it

Once you remove your meat from the grill, tent them with aluminum foil and let them rest for 10 minutes so that their juices redistribute throughout their interior and prevent the meat from drying. During this time, their temperature will rise another 5 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare and about 10 degrees Fahrenheit for medium doneness. Also, this will allow the juices to redistribute themselves throughout the meat, making it juicier when you bite into it (and less likely to leak out onto your plate).

Learning preparing the perfect meat is akin to learning how to drive a car. It takes practice, and good habits are hard to break. But as with any set of skills, once learned, they can be counted on every single time.

I hope that my diagnosis and advice of the fundamentals of a good steak will pay off for you in your next searing session. It’s thrilling to throw the meat on the grill, knowing that you have a tasty meal just minutes away. It’s also nerve-racking—it’s not difficult if you know how to sear the perfect meat, but it is difficult if you don’t. If you know what you’re looking for and follow a few simple methods, you’ll be sure to eat something worthwhile.

Ultimately, you should use things that go well with a nice meat piece and will naturally enhance its flavor. However, once you’ve got the fundamentals down pat, feel free to experiment with your creative touches. I hope these tips help you make everyone happy at the dinner table next time you fire up your sear!

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