Grilling steak doesn’t have to be intimidating. My tips on how to grill steak will help you cook a perfect cut, every single time, and without much fuss. Get ready to enjoy a tasty steak dinner without the stress!
Nothing says backyard party, family celebration, or a romantic kid-free night like a perfectly grilled steak.
But actually getting that perfectly grilled steak? Kind of intimidating!
If you’ve struggled with how to grill steaks over the years, let me assure you: I hear you, and I’m here to help.
Whether you’re a classic salt and pepper steak lover, an herbed garlic butter kinda steak eater, or love a great steak marinade with your cut, this article will help you grill a gorgeous steak every time. No freezer salisbury steaks here, my friends.
Once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize what I eventually learned the hard way, after many overcooked and burned attempts cuts of perfectly beautiful steak.
Grilling the perfect steak doesn’t have to be intimidating!
My Journey to Grilling the Perfect Steak
It seems strange I’m writing a post on how to grill a steak. For a long time, I was the worst at it!!
Seriously, we’ve had some rubbery, overcooked steaks come out of this house in years past.
I just couldn’t seem to get the hang of it, and I was tired of wasting money on good cuts of meat that never turned out.
Thankfully, I am stubborn, and don’t like to fail. Over the years, I’ve been practicing and reading and practicing some more.
And it’s safe to say I have it nailed!
These days, I make a mean medium rare grilled steak that’s juicy and cooked perfectly. And I can do it over and over again. Even better?
Whenever I grill a steak these days, we enjoy it the next day, thinly sliced on steak salad.
That’s how good it is!
The Best Cuts for Grilling
Great grilling doesn’t start with finding the best recipes for steak.
Great grilling starts with a great cut of meat, some preparation, and the right blend of high heat and indirect heat for cooking.
If you find it hard to choose the best cut of meat at your butcher or in the store, you might want to check out some of the online mail order steak and direct from the farm companies, like Snake River Farms. They choose the best cuts for you, taking the guesswork out of this important first step.
With that said, here are some of the most popular and best cuts of steak for grilling.
My Recommended Cut of Steak for Grilling: Ribeye Steak
If you’re still working to master grilling your steak, I recommend starting with a Ribeye.
Rib-Eye and Rib Steak are actually the same cut of meat, and both are great for grilling.
The difference? The Rib-Eye is the boneless version, whereas the Rib Steak still has the bone in. Due to the bone, a Rib Steak will take a bit longer to cook than a Rib-Eye, and it’s a bit more difficult to cook evenly.
Ribeye cuts have plenty of marbling, which is great news for the final product, as it will stay tender and juicy after grilling.
The marbling also means this cut of steak is one of the most forgiving to novice grilling. In other words? It’s harder to screw up than some of the other cuts!
Other Cuts of Steak You Might Consider
- T-bones and Porterhouses: Both T-Bone and Porterhouse cuts come from behind the ribs. Both are bone-in cuts, and yeah – the bone is T-shaped. Porterhouses tend to be larger, with more tenderloin, and are thicker, than T-Bones. Generally, both of these cuts have less marbling than a Rib Eye, and can be a bit more difficult to cook evenly, as the meat near the bone and away from the bone will cook at slightly different rates.
- Strip Steak / Striploin / New York Strip: This is another popular choice for grilling. Less fat marbling than a ribeye, and a bit chewier due to a tighter texture. Has a long strip of fat along the edge.
- Tenderloin: Super tender, but not much marbling makes this cut a bit less forgiving to the grilling novice.
- Flank Steak, Skirt Steak and Hanger Steak: I love flank steak, but it’s a thin cut and will cook much faster. When grilling thin cuts like this, grill them quickly on high heat. This article really isn’t tailored towards flank steak recipes or grilling steak that is thin cut like these ones are.
Tips for Choosing A Good Cut
- When shopping, look for good marbling in your cut of meat – good marbling will mean super juicy and tender, and is more forgiving for grilling novices. That’s why I really recommend mastering your steaks recipe with a ribeye before moving onto other cuts!
- When it comes to grilling, you want a cut that’s around 1.5″ to 2″ thick – that will let you grill it to perfection, with a nicely charred exterior and perfectly cooked interior. You should be able to get a steak of this thickness to the perfect level of doneness, whether you’re a medium rare or a well kinda griller!
- Thick steak is more forgiving when you’re practicing and still figuring out how to grill the perfect steak. Select something that’s at least 1.25″ thick, but 1.5″ or 2″ thick will be more forgiving than a 1″ steak.
Prep the Meat
Deal with the Fat
If your meat has a line of fat along the outside edge, you’ll want to deal with that. If you leave it on for grilling, it will drip and cause the grill to flare, which adds a burnt flavor to the final product.
First, trim off any excess fat. Use a chefs knife and just trim away until the fat is around 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick, without cutting into the meat.
Then, you want to cut into the remaining fat. The problem with the outside strip of fat on a steak is the fat shrinks while cooking, at a much faster rate than the meat.
What does this mean in practical terms? The fat will shrink and put pressure on the meat, compressing it and – gasp – squeezing the juices out of the meat. If you love a juicy steak, this is the exact opposite of what you want to happen.
To combat this problem, you want to make a cut into the fat strip, about ever inch or so. Cutting from the outside edge straight towards the meat, just make little slices every inch or so, without actually cutting into the meat.
Marinading vs Seasoning vs Salt and Pepper
You can either season your steak or marinade it and let it sit, or simply go for salt and pepper right before cooking. If you’re grilling a ribeye, you don’t need to do much other than some salt and pepper – the flavor of the beef is great on it’s own. However, you can marinade or season it if you prefer.
If you season it, leave it overnight, uncovered to chill in the fridge. This has the double benefit of letting any excess moisture in the steak dry up, and a dryer steak is much better for grilling.
If you’re going to marinade, also leave it overnight. I actually slice a lite, cross-hatch pattern in mine on both sides so the marinade can absorb even more. However, this isn’t necessary and lots of purists would probably poo poo me a bit for this.
If you’re planning on using salt and pepper, you can leave this until just before grilling, and do it while your grill is preheating.
Bring the Steaks to Room Temperature
Between 20 minutes to 1 hour before grilling, pull your steak out of the fridge and let them sit at room temperature. If marinading, leave it in the marinade for now.
Bringing your steaks to room temperature before grilling will allow them to get more even cooking when it comes time to grill steak.
Remove Excess Moisture
Too much moisture is a bad thing when it comes to grilling steak – if it’s too moist, you’ll get flareups and smoke when grilling. The steak also won’t sear as well, which means less juice sealed in.
Proper prep can prevent this, and it’s a super simple trick: just dry them off a bit with paper towel. Seriously – just pop the steaks on a paper towel lined plate or pan and pat them to dry. If you marinated them, drain away the excess marinate first, then pat to dry.
Make Sure the Grill is Clean
This means getting rid of any old food residue, cleaning your grill with a grill brush.
I strongly advise using a grill brush without metal bristles. This is from personal experience, after someone I know ended up in the ER with a bowel problem due to ingesting a single rogue metal bristle from a grill.
Check out the Kona Stainless Steel Grill Brush for a safer option.
Lightly Oil It
Use a bit of olive oil on paper towel, and rub the towel and olive oil over the grill grates. You don’t need too much – just a bit goes a long way here!
You can also put olive oil on the steaks if you prefer – super lightly brush them with a silicone basting brush.
Preheat Your Grill: High Heat for Direct Heat, Low Heat for Finishing
In an ideal world, you want to create two separate cooking zones on the same grill.
One side should be super hot direct heat – you’ll use this for charring or searing to seal in the juices. The other side should be lower heat – once you’ve seared and charred, this is where you’re going to do your longer, gentler cooking to get it to the right level of doneness.
On a gas grill, this is fairly simple. Crank up the heat to high on one side of the grill. This is your direct heat and is where you’ll do your charring and searing. Turn the other side to medium.
Some people prefer to crank both sides up to high (450 to 500 F) and then reduce the lower-heat side. This is going to depend a bit on your grill.
On a charcoal grill, it takes a bit more work. What you want to do is pile the hot coals over to the “hot side” of the grill for direct heat. Leave the other side empty. Don’t worry, it will still get hot from the indirect heat of your charring zone. If you’re using charcoal, also make sure you leave the lid vents open!
Before letting your precious steaks hit the grill, make sure you’ve preheated for at least 15 minutes. You want that sucker to get hot – like 450 F to 500 F hot!
If you haven’t seasoned or marinated the meat yet, now’s the time. A simple salt and pepper seasoning will do in lieu of other steaks recipes. Just some kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides.
How to Grill Steak
Pop the steaks on the hot side of your grill and leave the lid open while grilling.
Should You Flip Steak When Grilling?
Purists advise you don’t flip your steaks too much, and that’s the classic way to do a steak. However, in my own experience I’ve found flipping frequently results in a more evenly cooked steak, so I’m a flipper.
Here are your two options:
The Low Flip Method: Put the steaks on the hot side of the grill for about 3 minutes. At that point, they should have a sear mark. Rotate 90 degrees / a quarter turn to create grill marks and leave them another 3 minutes. Then repeat on the other side, flipping the steaks.
The Frequent Flip Method: Flip the steaks every minute or so. This means you won’t get awesome grill marks, but in my experience the meat tastes better and is more tender and evenly cooked. It’s a price I’m willing to pay. I used to let it cook on each side for 3-5 minutes, only flipping once. Now I flip every minute for 6 to 9 minutes, until I have a nice sear. Making this change to flipping every minute has made a huge difference to my final product.
If you’re cooking your steaks for longer than it takes to sear them, move them off the high heat to your low heat zone to finish off.
How to Tell When Steak is Done
Steak doneness or rareness is best measured by taking the internal temperature of the meat, using an instant read thermometer. As when measuring all meat, you need to stick the meat thermometer into the thickest part near the center, without hitting bone.
Below I’ve shared internal temperature guidelines, along with estimated cook time for each level of doneness. Bone in steaks and thicker steak will take longer than thinner, deboned cuts.
- Rare Steak: 120 F (6 to 8 minutes)
- Medium Rare: 130 F (7 to 10 minutes)
- Medium: 140 F (10 to 12 minutes)
- Medium Well: 145 F to 150 F (12 to 13 minutes)
- Well: 160 F (12 to 15 minutes)
How to Avoid Overcooking Steak
The trick to not overcooking is to harness the power of indirect heat, pausing the cooking process before they are fully “done.”
Ensure you take them off the heat a bit before they reach the desired “doneness” as measured by internal temperature.
Then let the grilled meat rest for around 10 minutes – the indirect heat trapped in the meat will continue to cook the steak gently as is rests. This time will also let the juices flow throughout the steak so it’s super juicy.
Once you remove your steak from the grill, let it sit on a plate or cutting board for 10 minutes to continue cooking and so you don’t lose any of the juices.
Perfectly Marinaded Steak Recipe
- 2-3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 tbsp. ketchup
- 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. rosemary
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 2-3 lb. ribeye steak
- Mix all marinade ingredients in a pan that meat will fit in. (I use an 8×8 glass dish with lid).
- Using a sharp knife, score both sides of the meat in a cross-hatch pattern about 1/4″ deep.
- Place meat in marinade and flip a few times to cover completely.
- Place covered dish in fridge overnight. Be sure to flip a few times to ensure that both sides are getting marinated equally.
- Remove from fridge and let set at room temperature about an hour before you’re ready to cook it.
- Preheat grill to high heat. Place meat on grill and flip every minute until it reaches desired doneness.
- Let your meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing and enjoy!
Save any extra meat for a steak salad the next day!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1901Total Fat: 133gSaturated Fat: 58gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 72gCholesterol: 531mgSodium: 1715mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 0gSugar: 3gProtein: 170g
Nutritional information was calculated using a third-party service, and I can't be sure of its accuracy.
Final Thoughts on Grilling Better Steak
I hope you enjoyed my tried and true tips for a perfect grill steak, and my favorite steak marinade! I really hope they work just as well for you as they did for me!