There's no summer pairing quite like steak and a grill. Many people find grilling steaks to be stressful, but it doesn't have to be that way. As long as you keep to some simple steps and concepts, grilling a juicy steak is easy. After some study and delicious practice, you'll be dishing out perfect steaks in no time at all.
Popular cuts include strip, rib eye, tenderloin, and the T-Bone. For an innately flavorful steak, look for cuts with greater marbling. Thankfully, the USDA does most of the work with its grading system. Prime cuts are the highest grade, followed by Choice, and then Select. The latter two are the ones most commonly found at supermarkets.
When grilling at home, remember that you're not under the same pressures that chefs are. In a restaurant, steaks are salted immediately before cooking due to time constraints. Thankfully, you'll probably have more time to prepare. Still, keep your seasoning simple. If you're just starting out, keep it simple with just salt or a salt and pepper mix. Salt your steaks before leaving it in the fridge overnight. Allowing the salt to sit on your steak overnight will help tenderize the meat.
You don't have to let the steak rest at room temperature for longer than 20 minutes before cooking it, especially if your seasoned steak has been sitting in the fridge for a day or two. If you've seasoned the steak and let it sit for a while before throwing it on the grill, the exterior of the meat should be much drier, ultimately making for a juicier steak.
The existing seasoning will be more than enough to bring out the internal flavor of the meat, but if you're looking to bring in different flavors, a butter mix may be for you. Butter will also help soften any charred parts of the steak. To make a gourmet herbed butter, mix herbs of choice with minced garlic and butter. Keep your herbed butter in the fridge until you need to use it on a grilled steak. Add the butter once the steak is removed from the grill and plated.
Clean your grill grates with a wire brush to remove excess remnants. You don't want your steaks to taste like chicken. Wipe down your grill grates with vegetable oil before heating it up. While it's best practice to clean the grill grates after cooking, it is acceptable to brush some debris off if you notice anything while pre-heating.
A grill is a versatile tool because you can get two separate temperatures levels on the same surface. The lower temperature side will cook your steak all the way through, and the higher temperature side will give the meat a great sear on the outside. If using coal, place all the coals under one half of the grill to achieve the needed two-tone temperature zone.
A conventional grilling method is to start the steak on the hotter side of the grill before moving it to the cooler side to finish cooking. This is the cooking technique most are familiar with. An alternative method starts with the steak on the cooler side of the grill. Once the inside of the steak cooks to near-completion, move the meat to the hot side of the grill to sear the exterior. Don't wait for it to be fully cooked, as the meat will continue to cook once fully off heat.
Conventional wisdom states that you should only flip the steak once. This misconception, like the one about seasoning, seems to stem from the limitations that chefs face in a professional kitchen. Flip the meat as much as you want it to. It will result in a more even cook. However, note that doing so may reduce the grill mark impressions on the steak.
Experienced grill hands will touch meats to check for doneness, but this is more reliable in a kitchen environment where purchased cuts of meats are of a similar grade and characteristic. For everyone else, use a thermometer. Cook your steaks to an appropriate level of doneness. Steak cooked rare is approximately 120F (49C). A medium-cooked steak is around 140F (60C), and a steak cooked well done is in the neighborhood of 160F (71C).
The conventional method of cooking steak usually includes resting the steak to allow the meat to firm up. Let the steak sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. However, if you cook the steak in the alternative method, you won't need to rest the meat for too long. Let the steak sit for 5 minutes at most.