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How to Grill the Perfect Steak

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We grill steaks all the time on this site. Partly because it is quick and easy and partly because we love steak! Not sure which is more. We have a ton of steak recipes, but I thought I would step back and discuss the basics of grilling the perfect steak.

First, find a great steak. I found this one at a local meat market near my house called Mateker’s. I’ve grilled a lot of grocery store meat in my day, but it just doesn’t compare to what you can find at your local butcher. The knowledge the meat cutters have is far superior to what you will find at your grocer. I am a big believer in getting to know your local butcher and he or she will steer you in the right direction every time. Get it? Steer? I crack myself up!

I started with this well marbled rib eye steak. I could’ve had the guys at Mateker’s cut me a thicker one, but I feel that most people grill steaks a little over an inch thick and thought I would cater to that crowd. Here is the well marbled beauty that will be my dinner on a plate on the counter coming up to room temperature:

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Perfect Steak Ingredients:

Steak
Coarse salt
Black pepper
White pepper

No amounts here. This is totally personal preference. Why both black and white pepper? Both hit different points on the tongue and thus the white pepper adds a little depth to the flavor profile. The white pepper is completely optional.

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All I do is hit each side with a pretty liberal coating of coarse salt plus the pepper which is totally to my taste. You may want to add garlic, or red pepper, or a rub, all of which I have done. But here is what this beauty looked like with a little seasoning:

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And a close up of the marbling with the seasoning over the top:

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Leave the steak on the counter to come up to room temperature and let the seasoning work into the meat while you stoke up the grill. Time to play with fire! The goal here is two zone grilling with uber hot coals on one side and no heat on the other.

I used my Looftlighter to spark up the Rockwood lump charcoal that I’ve been using lately:

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By the way, Rockwood Charcoal is made right here in Missouri from nothing but local hardwoods. Outstanding stuff.

In three minutes I had a pretty nice little fire. I closed the lid on my Char-Griller Akorn, opened the bottom vent all the way and the top about half. In about 30 minutes, I had a nice internal temperature of about 600 degrees:

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Not all grills get this hot and thus will take a little longer to get a proper sear. This is a feel and practice thing that we can’t quite teach from a website.

If you only own a gas grill, you can absolutely grill the perfect steak, just make sure that you can do two zone (or indirect) grilling so turn on one burner and leave the other(s) off. Also make sure that the grill can get uber hot. If not the steak will overcook before it gets properly seared. If your grill isn’t getting as hot as it used to, it’s usually a quick fix. Don’t trash the grill and buy a new one. Get the parts you need from GrillPartsSearch.com.

I took an internal temperature reading and found that my steak was not quite room temp at only 60 degrees, but I was hungry!

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So onto the hot side of the grill, the top side of the steak going down because the bottom side, which is on the plate, is loaded with juice and will have to steam off before I get good grill marks. The juice will now be on top and will evaporate while the other side sears:

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After only three minutes, rotate to get those cross hatch grill marks:

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After another two minutes, flip over the soon to be perfect steak and admire those wonderful cross hatch grill marks:

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Here’s a tip: With steaks this thick, if you go for cross hatch grill marks on both sides and want a nice rare to medium rare, you are going to be disappointed. Putting cross hatch grill marks on both sides is going to make those wonderfully caramelized proteins but take the steak straight to medium. Instead, go for a single hatch on one side and as you can see from the instant read thermometer the steak is close to perfection for my taste at 128 degrees:

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I flipped the steak, got the single hatch grill marks and plated it. If you would like it a little more done, then by all means move it to the side of the grill with no heat and close the lid. After about 4 minutes it will move from one degree of doneness to another. So from rare to medium rare. After 8 minutes from rare to medium, etc.

Here’s another tip: This might be the most important tip of the whole process. People talk about “Searing in the juices,” or, “Sealing in the juices,” when cooking steak. That’s a myth. Searing does not keep the juices inside the meat, resting does. Put that steak on the plate and don’t touch it for 2-3 minutes. That’s perfect for a blogger like myself to take a couple shots of it with a great bottle of wine (thanks Dad for the Mettle Zin from Lodi. It was delicious and paired well with the steak):

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Why let it rest? The juices inside the steak are in an excited state from the heat. They are moving a million miles an hour. Slice into it right away and they will run out all over the plate. Allow the steak to rest and those juices will calm down and redistribute throughout the meat and ensure that each bite is juicy and delicious.

And here is a close up of the single hatch grill marks:

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Now inside to slice and serve:

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Oh my! That’s just my speed! And a close up:

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How does that look? Wanna see the first bite? I want to see it again. Of course I got to eat it after I took this picture:

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To sum up. Take the steak out of the fridge, season, and let it come to room temperature (or close to it). Fire up the grill for two zone grilling with a raging hot fire on one side and no heat on the other. Sear the steak over the hot coals, rotating after 3-4 minutes before flipping over to get the cross hatch grill marks. If the steak is more than an inch thick, repeat otherwise only sear once on the other side without rotating. If the desired internal temp is more than rare to medium rare, go for the cross hatch on both sides. If you want it more than medium, move to the side with no heat, close the lid and bake until the desired doneness. Most important, let the steak rest when removed from the grill to ensure it is juicy.

If you have any questions about how to grill the perfect steak, feel free to leave them below or shoot me an email.

How to Grill the Perfect Steak
A step by step, picture by picture, tutorial on how to grill the perfect steak.
Author:
Cuisine: Steak
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 1
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • Steak
  • Coarse salt
  • Black pepper
  • White pepper
Instructions
  1. Remove the steak from the fridge and season with salt, black and white pepper and leave on the counter to come to room temperature
  2. Prepare the grill for two zone/indirect grilling with coals or burners hot on one side and no heat on the other
  3. The hot side needs to be at least 600 degrees
  4. Place the steak on the hot side, top side down
  5. Allow to sear for three minutes and then rotate 45 degrees to get cross hatch grill marks
  6. After another three minutes, flip and allow to sear for three minutes
  7. For thinner steaks only do a single hatch, for thicker rotate 45 degrees and sear for another three minutes
  8. The steak is now rare, place on the side with no heat and close the lid for 6-8 minutes to take it to medium rare and another 6-8 for medium
  9. Remove from the grill and allow to rest for 3-4 minutes
  10. Serve

 

  1. Nice looking ribeye, great marbling, and you cooked it up superbly.

  2. Since you reference your Thermapen thermometer, what is a good “budget” thermometer you can recommend? I am way too much of a cooking novice to spend $96 on a Thermapen, right now anyway.

    • Aaron,

      I love the Thermapen and it is worth every nickel. If you follow them closely, they have some nice sales throughout the year. Other than that, I also keep a cheapo that I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond in reserve for when I lost my thermapen for a couple weeks (slipped out of my pocket at my in laws). Cost me something like $12. Couldn’t tell you the brand though. No idea…

      …….Scott

  3. Why do you mention having the grill setup for two-zone grilling, when your recipe seems to only require one hot zone? I could see searing and then moving to the cooler side, but your recipe seems to finish the steak while cross-hatching.

    Just curious, because intend to need two zones, one hotter than the other for cooking steaks and fish at the same time. Need to please the whole family!!!

    • Blair,

      I like my steaks rare, and that steak was not very thick, so it was done to my liking after just searing. If you want to cook it longer, then slide it over to the side with no heat…

      …….Scott

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