Folks – this here is what it’s all about. You wanna learn how to grill so you can make the finest, juiciest steaks anyone you know has ever tasted! We’re talkin 30 bucks at the steakhouse good too. Yes, it is an artform. And YES….you can do this. And, like anything worth knowing, it’ll take you some practice. But never fear, cause you can still learn how to grill steak (on a charcoal grill) that tastes just fine to you & your guests the first time out. Just follow these steps.
Right off the bat, let me say that grilling your own steakhouse quality steaks is a lot easier than you think. After writing those words, I’m sure to be excommunicated from the Land of Barbecue. But the truth is, it is pretty simple (ok, not easy) once you know what’s involved. Frankly, my belief is that it all comes down to meat selection: get a quality cut of meat and the rest of the process falls into place.
Get a Quality Cut of Steak
This is key. Hell, it’s the whole ballgame! Get yourself a quality cut of steak so that you can enjoy the fruits of your efforts. Now be prepared to spend some money to acquire your meat. Nothing crazy, but this is a case of ‘you get what you pay for.’
So here’s what you’re gonna do: go to the butcher of your local supermarket and have him cut as many steaks as you plan to grill specifically for you (In fact, you can go straight to a dedicated butcher’s shop if you please – oftentimes, that guy’s meat will cost a bit more, but you’ll make that call for yourself). Tell him that you want a 1&1/2 inch cut. That will be plenty thick and grill just fine. Sometimes I get a 2 inch cut (for them special occasions). Bear in mind that when you have experienced grilling a few steaks, then you can get away with buying the meats they lay out in the asle, cause you’ll know what to look for. This first time though, we wanna be assured that you’re dealing with quality beef.
So now you know the thickness. But what kinda steak should you get? The answer is it depends on what you like. Here’s a breakdown:
Filet Mignon. This is known as the most tender cut of beef there
is. When properly prepared, some say it is so tender that you
can cut it with a fork. It is generally accepted that this is the best cut of beef from the cow. Therefore, it is always the most expensive cut in the store and the restaurant.
Porterhouse (or T Bone). Oftentimes, these terms are used interchangeably to denote the two cuts of beef separated by the
‘T bone’. Thus, this is the cut of meat that includes the tenderloin and strip porions of beef. An extremely high quality steak. Expect to pay top dollar for this cut.
New York Strip. Another juicy cut from the loin portion of the beef, this steak is also famous for being fabulously lean and tender.
Served either bone in or boneless. Unimpeachable in quality, fine strip steaks are themselves very pricey.
Ribeye. The finest quality meat located in the center, or rib portion of the cow, this is yet another top quality cut. Many consider this cut
to be even leaner than the NY Strip. A very tasty piece of beef that is typically enjoyed with the bone or ‘ribeye’ in. Expect to pay a premium for this cut as well.
Feel free to choose from any of these cuts for your cookout, because these four are generally considered the best cuts of beef for steak. That means we’re going to leave the Sirloin and Flank Steaks out of the mix for now. We can always deal with those later.
Personally, my favorite is NY Strip. I love how lean it is and it’s flavor is just perfect. Filet Mignons are delicious, but too small. Porterhouse is good, but big – and if you’re cooking for the family, that cost can bite you (I eat those when I’m home alone). My ole lady prefers Ribeyes, so I grill my fair share of those, and I enjoy them too. But choose whatever you want out of any of these and you’ll be fine.
Prepare Your Steak
Ok, so now you’ve got your meat. Let’s get it prepped.
The first thing you’ll want to do when you get home is wash and store your steak. When it comes to washing it, get a clean plate (also make sure your kitchen sink is clean) and rinse your entire steak off under lukewarm water. This will turn it a pinkish color afterwards, cause you’ve washed a lot of the blood off the meat.
Next, go ahead and sit your meat on the plate and season it. Keep in mind that we are going to keep this simple. We are only going to use two seasonings: salt and pepper. First, get your pepper and sprinkle it over the entire portion of the beef. Do the pepper first, because if you sprinkle too much or too little, you can easily tell. Next, sprinkle the salt. This way, you can adjust your sprinkle accordingly. However, it is best to go lighter on the salt. You don’t want to make your high quality beef too salty.
Now, if you have it, go ahead and add Montreal Steak seasoning to your beef. Don’t stress out if you don’t have it in your cabinet. This first time, all that’s important is learning how to grill your steak on a charcoal grill. Your meal will be plenty tasty, and you can adjust it from there as you see fit (I regularly marinade mine, but that’s a personal choice). You will get yours going in the way that suits you best. Stick to the basics for now.
Now that you have finished the prep, throw them babies in the fridge while you go fire up the grill.
Grilling Your Steak
This is the fun part! Since you started the grill after prepping the steak, it’s time to slap em on that grill. For starters, make sure to get your grill good and hot. The optimal temperature is around 350 degrees. All that means is that you want your grill to be filled on the bottom rack with charcoal. This ensures that your meat will cook nice and evenly.
Okay, it’s time. Slap that magnificent beef on the grill! And here’s the key: the time you cook your steak varies. It’s a lot like eggs – there is no one size fits all formula, because it depends on how you like your steak. BUT, for the sake of clarity, check out the table below:
There’s the science. And even better than that, I’m going to teach you the art. The bottom line is, cooking a good steak on the grill is a skill that you develop to the point that it becomes an instinct.
That is what we shall learn.
So, once your meat is on the grill, give it a good five minutes. Go clean up the mess you made in the kitchen. Smoke a cigarette. Do anything, but don’t fool with that meat for five minutes. After 5mins, open the lid and turn your steak. Now, give it about 3 minutes and turn again. If you like your steaks rare, then take it off and dig in! If not, then turn it again on it’s original side. Here’s the trick; press down firmly onto the meat with your spatula or thongs to inspect it’s doneness. This is how you tell when it is done to your liking;
Rare. It is soft and spongey, just like a sponge
Medium Rare. The meat is still soft, but firmer than before
Medium. When pressed, there is a slight softness. Overall, the meat has developed a bit of firmness
Medium Well. The meat has become noticably firm when pressed.
That’s it. No thermometers, no fuss. Many times in life, the most effective solutions are those that are simple. This tactic is a prime example of precisely that. NOTE: After the initial eight minutes of grilling, close the lid and only check it every few minutes or so. Bear in mind that each time you open your grill, it slows down the cooking process. It is a skill that you will learn in time, so give it time to master.
If you have followed these steps, then I am certain that you and your family (or guests) have enjoyed one helluva good steak. Congratulations! You have now graduated into the way of the grill. And you’ll know you did a good job when your folks start dropping hints on enjoying another steak night.
Again, what we’ve talked about in this post is simply getting you through the process of how to grill a steak on a charcoal grill. Obviously, there are some issues that we did not touch upon, like grilling a London Broil or Sirloin, whether to use a rub or a marinade, whether to allow your meat to brown before grilling, and a host of other stuff. As you can tell by now, I can talk steak all day. But that’s enough for this time. As always, Happy Grilling!