My husband often jokes about how he wouldn't have married me if he knew before proposing that I liked to cook. This probably sounds weird, but when we started dating, I hadn't started cooking school yet, and we ended up getting engaged rather quickly (ahem.). So in his mind, it would have given him an "ulterior motive" to marry me... it was for the same reason that he wouldn't date girls who owned houses. He just didn't want to be swayed by something other than love (cue choir of angels). Silly boy.
Imagine his excitement when he realized that I would likely be feeding him well his whole life! Needless to say, he's still excited, and incredibly, he still looks just like he did on our wedding day. Curse you, Men, and your fast metabolism!
I've made it a tradition that on his holidays (birthday, Father's Day, Graduation day- one day, etc.) he get's to create an ultimate meal plan and I'll cook it for him. Last Father's Day he shared a "Shellfish Tower" with his dad and this year he and his dad have requested big T-bone steaks, baked potatoes, green beans, and creme brulee'. A little bit easier than last year's concoction, don't ya think?
This post will be a bit of a dozy, but if you want to be able to grill a perfect steak for your Dad this weekend stick with me - you won't be disappointed. Especially when you get told that the steak you made was the best they've ever had!
How to Pick Out A Steak
The first and maybe hardest part of this whole process is choosing what kind of steak to prepare. There are so many different choices at the store, but here are my favorites for grilling:
Top Loin (also called strip steak, new york steak): This is what I used in these pictures and is my favorite choice for grilling based on flavor, tenderness, and price.
T-Bone: the bone separates a portion of top loin and a small portion of tenderloin.
Porterhouse: This is basically a really big T-bone steak with a larger portion of tenderloin
Top Sirloin: Not to be confused with top loin, it's a bit less expensive and not quite as tender, but still a good grilling choice
Rib-Eye: These are super flavorful but have large pockets of fat, so if that's not your thing, don't do it.
We really only have steaks once, maybe twice a year here, so when we do, I feel like it's worth the extra money to do it right. But, regardless of what kind of steak you end up using here are a few things to look for when buying:
Marbling: See those thin veins of fat running through the steak? That's called marbling, and the more a steak has, the better! These lines of fat add tons of flavor and keep your meat tender. The marbling is also how meat is graded on quality -Prime (most marbling), Choice, and Select.
Color: Pick a steak that is a light cherry color, not dark red or gray (ew.)
Firmness: Pick a steak that is firm to the touch
Surprisingly, you need very little to make a steak taste good. Good old fashioned salt and pepper do the trick just smashingly. You'll notice that I use kosher salt in all my recipes. My reasoning behind this is for another post, but I recommend you get yourself a box and start using it, stat! I'll explain later :).
You've got a big piece of meat to season, so don't be stingy with the salt. Seasoning these steaks took me almost a whole teaspoon each! (note that kosher salt has a bigger grain than regular salt so you won't need quite as much if you use regular) You don't have to be quite as generous with the pepper, but still, give it a good amount.
After seasoning, you'll want to give your steaks a little drizzle of olive oil. Is it just me or is the olive oil bottle totally photobombing the steak?
Mmm... all ready to go!
When you're ready to get grilling, you want to turn your grill on and let it heat for at least 15 minutes. The grill needs to be screaming hot and clean! If the grates are still a bit dirty, scrub them with your grill brush. Pour some oil into a small bowl dip a folded paper towel into the oil, and cover the grill grates well with oil.
Why yes, I am using salad tongs to grill with. I'm tricky like that. Or poor, and don't have grilling tongs that aren't 7 feet long. We got a grilling utensil set last year, and the tongs are ginormous.
Cooking the Steaks
Once your grill is hot, clean, and oiled you're ready to get cooking. The key to cooking a steak that isn't totally incinerated on the outside and raw in the middle is to start cooking it really hot to get that caramelization that we like, and then finish it low.
In order to do this on the grill you'll have to turn one part of your grill to Hot, and the other to medium.
How to Find Your Grill Temp For Steak
To get a good sear on your steak, 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature you want to shoot for on the hot side of your grill and around 350 for your medium side. If you don't have a grill thermometer, here's a good way to approximate the temp.
After initially heating up the grill, hold your hand 5 inches above the grates and count how long you can comfortably keep it there. This works for both gas and charcoal grills.
Hot: 2 seconds
Medium-hot: 3-4 seconds
Medium: 5-6 seconds
Medium Low: 7 seconds
Once you've got your zones ready to go, place your steaks over the hotter part of the grill and cook, with the grill covered, until browned on both sides, turning the steak half-way through- about 6 minutes total.
It should look like this...
Now you're going to slide the steak to the cooler side of the grill and continue to cook it, covered until it reaches your desired level of doneness, about 5-12 minutes.
How Do I Know When My Steak Is Done?
One word -Thermometer.
There are tricks out there that tell you that your steak is medium when it's the same squishiness as the fleshy part above your thumb when you make a fist, but I've found that I get the most consistent results when I use my tried and true thermometer. They are only a couple of dollars and are well worth having in the kitchen.
When you think your steak might be done, insert the thermometer into the side so that it has more surface area to read from, and see where you're at. Keep in mind that the more holes you poke in your steak, the more moisture you'll lose, but 1 or 2 holes won't make much of a difference. Sometimes I even use the same hole.
Here is a chart that lists the temperature your steak should be upon serving for each level of doneness.
Medium Well: 150°
Keep Reading! Remember that these temperatures are what the meat should be at when serving. Since the temperature of the steak will rise as it rests off the grill, you'll want to pull the steak off the grill 5-10 degrees before it's where you want it. This is called carryover cooking. The amount of carryover will vary from steak to steak based on the thickness of the meat- a thicker steak will have more carryover than a thinner cut.
I like my steak between medium and medium well, so I pulled it off at 140°. Here is my steak just after getting off the grill. Forget that the sun decided to glare through the window the very moment that I took the picture.
Once you remove your steak from the grill, cover it with foil and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting- this will give it time to let the juices redistribute.
Want to make your steak REALLY rock? Make a compound butter to melt over the top of it after it comes off the grill. This is what fancy steakhouses do, so you should do it too! 🙂
A compound butter is basically just flavored butter. You can put anything from garlic, to sundried tomatoes, to chives, or fresh basil in it, but this time I made a simple garlic butter.
½ C softened butter+ ½ tsp garlic powder+ 1 tsp dried parsley
For fun, you can spread it out on a piece of plastic wrap...
Roll it up into a log and pop it into the fridge until it's firm. Once it's firm, you can unwrap it and cut off little discs of flavored butter to top your steaks with. You'll do this just right after removing from the grill, before covering with foil and letting them rest.
If this doesn't look good, I don't know what does!
So there you have it! A grilled, perfectly seasoned and cooked steak. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!
Happy Father's Day!
Cooking School: How to Grill the Perfect Steak
- 4 beef steaks 1-1 ½ in thick
- Kosher salt
- Olive oil
- Turn all you burners to high on the grill, and close the lid. Heat grill for at least 15 minutes.
- Clean and oil the grill grates
- Turn one section of your grill to medium heat, and leave the other on high.
- Season each steak generously with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
- Grill the steaks over the hottest part of the grill, covered, until browned on both sides. You'll turn them halfway through for about 6 minutes total.
- Slide the steaks to the cooler part of the grill and continue to cook for 5-12 minutes until it reaches your desired temperature for doneness flipping the steaks over halfway through. (See chart above for temperatures)
- Transfer the steaks to a plate, top with compound butter if desired, and tent with foil for 5 minutes before serving.