How to Grill Steak to Perfection

Step 8: Let the steak rest
Grilling pro Elizabeth Karmel shares her secrets for grilling juicy, flavorful steak. She also dishes on seasonings and testing for doneness. Try our grilled steak recipes once you've mastered the art of how to grill steak for your most delicious summer cookouts yet.

The Steak

Grilling pro Elizabeth Karmel teaches 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!"

Step 1: Start with high-quality beef

"Buy the best meat you can afford," Karmel says, "and leave the bone in for more flavor." Always buy meat from a vendor you trust. 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."

Other steak cuts we like to grill:

  • Rib: This section offers tender, full-flavor cuts such as rib eye 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.

The most tender and flavorful steaks are ones with the most marbling -- which is the tiny white flecks and veins of fat within the meat. You'll most likely find either select- or choice-grade meat at your store; select-grade has less fat, choice more. Some specialty butchers and supermarkets also offer prime beef, which has even more marbling.

Step 2: Wrap the steak

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.

Get your steak ready to hit the grill by trimming excess fat that could cause flare-ups while grilling.

Step 3: Season the steak

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.

If you like, to boost the steak's flavor even more before cooking, marinate 4 to 24 hours in desired marinade, season with a spice or herb rub, or simply cover with olive oil, salt, and pepper like Elizabeth prefers. 

Step 4: Make a flavorful topping

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.

Step 5: Sear the steak

When the grill is preheated to between 575°F and 600°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.

Step 6: Finish over indirect heat

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.

Step 7: Check for doneness

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.

You can also use a instant-read thermometer to test doneness. Cook medium-rare steaks to 145°F and medium steaks to 160°F.

Step 8: Let the steak rest

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.

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