How to Grill Steak

Learn the simple tricks to grilling a perfect steak every time, including a guide to steak cuts and a failproof way to tell when your steak is cooked just right.


Steak Cuts Sampler

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A great steak starts with good-quality meat. Buy the best meat you can afford from a vendor you trust.

  • Chuck: Most cuts in this section are considered a bit too tough for grilling. One exception is the flat iron steak.
  • Rib: This section offers tender, full-flavor cuts, such as ribeye and prime rib steaks.
  • Short loin: Some of the most tender steaks for grilling come from this section, including the porterhouse, T-bone, filet mignon, and top loin (strip) steaks.
  • Flank: This is the belly area, which produces flank, skirt, and hanger steaks. These should be tenderized before grilling.

Step 1: Readying your steak

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  • Use a paper towel to dry off each steak. The towel soaks up the surface moisture so the meat can get a nice sear or browning on the surface.
  • Trim excess fat that could cause flare-ups while cooking.
  • If you like, to boost the steak's flavor before cooking, marinate for 4 to 24 hours in desired marinade, season with a spice or herb rub, or simply cover with olive oil, salt, and ground black pepper.

Step 2: Grilling to perfection

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  • Steak doneness is a personal preference. When grilling for a group, stagger when you put the steaks on the grill, starting with steaks to be served well-done and ending with steaks to be served rare.
  • Failproof doneness test: Shake out your hands, then touch your thumb to your index finger. 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.
  • You can also use an instant-read thermometer to test doneness. Cook medium-rare steaks to 145 degrees F and medium steaks to 160 degrees F.
  • When cooking steaks over hot coals, turn them only once and avoid unnecessary poking and prodding, which can cause the juices to drain out.

Direct Grilling: For a charcoal grill, place steak on the grill rack directly over medium coals. Grill, uncovered, to desired doneness, turning once halfway through grilling. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place steak on the grill rack over heat. Cover the grill.)

Indirect Grilling: For a charcoal grill, arrange medium-hot coals around a drip pan. Test for medium heat above drip pan. Place steak on the grill rack over the drip pan. Cover and grill to desired doneness. (For gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Turn off burners directly below steak.)

Step 3: Serving the steak

  • Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes after grilling and before cutting. This helps keep the juices from escaping the meat as soon as it is cut.
  • A perfectly grilled steak needs no embellishment, but you can dress it up if you want with a bit of herb-flavored butter, purchased steak sauce, or homemade sauce.
  • Serve steaks with steak knives or other knives that are sharp enough to easily cut through the meat without tearing it.

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