The advantage of grilling is that you get great flavor without getting a bunch of smells in your house, or using up any extra cooking dishes. The advantage of living in South Texas is that even when it’s cold, it’s not that cold, which means there is no time of year you can’t cook a perfect steak on your grill.
Everybody has their own methods, but if you don’t feel like you’ve mastered yours, do all of this in order:
Buy Good Meat
This should go without saying, but not all steaks are cut from the same cloth, so to speak. We’re not going to tell you which cuts you should like best, but do pay attention to the quality of the meat. In America, beef quality is classified by the USDA in three categories: USDA Select (bottom shelf), USDA Choice (middle shelf) and USDA Prime (top shelf). Whatever you go with, look for lots of marbling. Most importantly, however, make sure to buy a steak that is at least an inch thick. If it’s any thinner than that, you’ll have a hard time achieving the exterior crust you want without overcooking it.
Let the Meat Warm
You want your steaks to be at room temperature when you put them on the grill. This is so they will cook predictably, every time. It really, really helps you get the crusty crust and the pink center that everyone likes. Keep in mind, this is going to take a long time. Twenty minutes will not do it. Pull the steaks out of the fridge an hour before you plan to cook them.
Start the Grill
This applies mainly to those using charcoal grills, because it takes a while for charcoal to heat up. Use natural wood charcoal if you can, because it burns hotter than briquettes, and you want this grill to be hotter than the surface of the sun. Put a whole bunch of it down. Like, more than you think you need, and when it’s good and orange with white ash all over it, spread it out on your grill so there are no cold spots.
After you light the charcoal, and while it is heating up (a process that should take 20 minutes or so), liberally salt your steak with freshly ground sea salt or kosher salt, and some fresh ground black pepper. If you’ve got some secret family blend of herbs and spices you insist you rub on there, go ahead, but know that you don’t need to do that. Salt and pepper and maybe a little cayenne pepper is all you need. But it is important that you salt the steaks at least 20 minutes before you put them on, and maybe more like 45. This is because the salt needs time to do magical salt things, Specifically, it will begin removing moisture from the surface of the steak, which will render that crusty crust we keep talking about. After 10-15 minutes, you’ll be able to see the difference. The surface will start to get glossy.
Plop Down the Steak
Over the hottest part of the grill, plop down the steaks and don’t. touch. them. Do not press them down. Do not poke them. Do not adjust their positioning. Listen: The time they need to sit there depends on their internal temperature, their thickness, and the heat of your fire, so there’s no way to tell you exactly how long to cook them, but a good place to start would be to cook the steaks five minutes on one side, four on the other. Could be six and four, could be five and three. It’ll take some practice with your own equipment and tastes, but generally you want to cook it longer on the first side than the second.
In the summer, you can leave the lid to the grill off, but given that it’s cold outside, it’s not a bad idea to close that lid.
Let it Rest
When you pull meat off a hot grill, the juices inside are literally boiling. This means if you cut into that meat right away, those juices will go spilling all over the cutting board, and not into your mouth where they belong. If you let it rest for five minutes, those juices will cool down enough to mix back inwith the muscle fibers, and not leave you with a plate full of blood.
Slice off a chunk of butter and put it on top of the steaks while they rest.
And that’s it. You’ve just grilled a perfect steak, and your guests are most impressed. Do you have any tips of your own? Let us know in the comments.