Grilling pro Elizabeth Karmel shares her secrets for grilling juicy, flavorful steak. She also dishes on seasonings and testing for doneness.
In May, thousands of grilling enthusiasts gathered in Chicago's Lincoln Park for two days of grilling demonstrations, tastings, and more at the first-ever Better Homes and Gardens and Weber Chill and Grill Festival.
Grilling pro Elizabeth Karmel taught festival goers how to grill the perfect steak. Click to the following slides to learn her fail-proof method. "Once you taste this and see how easy it is, you'll never order steak in a restaurant again," Elizabeth says. "I never do!"
"Buy the best meat you can afford," Karmel says, "and leave the bone in for more flavor." Karmel likes to grill a 12-ounce to 16-ounce cowboy steak or bone-in ribeye. "Make sure it's at least an inch thick. A big steak like this is enough for at least two people to share."
Before grilling, wrap the steak in paper towels using a technique Elizabeth calls "the mummy wrap." "This removes the surface moisture so you get a great sear on the surface," she says.
Elizabeth seasons steak with olive oil, salt, and pepper. "That's all you need," she says. "Place the steaks in a large bag and drizzle the oil over top. Sprinkle it with some salt and pepper, then seal the bag and massage it to coat the entire surface." Elizabeth cautions grillers to only oil the food, not the grates -- otherwise you could create a fire hazard and make the grates sticky.
While the steak sits and the grill preheats to 575-600 degrees F, whip up a flavorful topping, such as a compound butter (softened butter with herbs and spices), chimichurri sauce, or fresh salsa. A compound butter adds that unexpected burst of restaurant-quality flavor. "The butter will help you get a blackened, salty, buttery crust on the outside of the meat," Elizabeth says.
When the grill is preheated to between 575 and 600 degrees F, reduce the heat on one side of the grill to medium-low. This creates two zones: direct heat and indirect heat. "Use the combo method: Sear over direct; finish over indirect," Elizabeth says.
Once the grill is hot, sear the steak over high heat for 1 minute on each side, making a quarter turn halfway through to achieve those beautiful grill marks.
After searing the steak over high heat, move them to the lower-heat side of the grill to finish cooking. Indirect heat rotates around the food, creating a great crust. "Once it's there (over indirect heat), don't touch or turn the steak," Elizabeth says.
Elizabeth uses the hand method to check steak for doneness. "Shake out your hands, then touch your thumb to your index finger like you're holding a butterfly," she says. With your other hand, feel the soft part of your hand just under the thumb -- that's what a rare steak feels like. Now move your middle finger to touch your thumb and feel the same part of your hand -- that's medium-rare. The ring finger-thumb combination represents medium doneness, and the pinky finger-thumb represents well done. Use this method to remove the steak from the grill when it matches the feel of your desired doneness.
As much as you want to dig right in, let the steak rest for at least 5 minutes after you remove it from the grill. This allows all the flavorful juices to redistribute through the meat, Elizabeth says. While you wait, cut your compound butter into coins. Slather a butter coin over each steak, letting it melt into the grilled meat.