The Secrets to Great Grilled Steak
Are you one of the millions who would love to be able to turn out consistently great steak, but fall short each time you fire up the grill? Well, you can relax, because Fluffy Chix Cook has a few golden rules for making a truly great (and easy) grilled steak. After all, steak is spectacularly low carb and keto super-food—in honor of all the fathers out there. Happy Father’s Day to you all! And apologies in advance, this is a long one!
These rules were passed down from our dad—a remarkable hunter, cook and fantastic pit boss (barbecue cook for all you non-Texans). The rules can even be applied to non-steakular meat such as pork, lamb, chicken, game of all kinds, even burgers and sausage. The technique remains the same, but cooking times differ between the types of meat.
Rule #1 Crap In = Crap Out or CI=CO. Buy the best looking meat you can afford. (Meat + Gristle = Gruesomely Gross)
Although prime grades, and any grade of rib eye steaks are among the most tender, rich and flavorful cuts of steak, great grilled steak does not mean you must option the farm to buy a good piece of meat. Economical alternatives exist! Look for beef back ribs. These are actually the ribs that hold the rib eye to the carcass! Beef back ribs taste like a piece of rib eye with even greater flavor, because you taste the meat closest to the bone. Bones add flavor! They cost less—sometimes as much as 75-100% less than a rib eye steak. And anyone who’s ever eaten a pork spare rib knows, ribs are fun to eat! And easy to cook.
Alternatively, cheaper cuts of beef include: chuck steak, club steak, hanger steak, flat iron steak, t-bone steak, flank steak, skirt steak, eye-of-round steak, beef back ribs, and beef cross cut ribs. The premium cuts of steak include tenderloin, porterhouse and the mighty rib eye.
Buy what you can afford, but remember the rules:
Look for marbling, choose cuts with the least or no gristle, and limit the fat on the outside to 1/4 inch. Why pay for extra fat, and if you have well-marbled (we’ll get to marbling next) meat, you’ve got the important fat already inside the muscle?
Look for thin white streaks of fat that run through the bright red meat. It’s called marbling and marbling tenderizes the steak by breaking-up and interrupting long, chewy, muscle fibers. Oddly enough, fat from marbling is composed of more monounsaturated fatty acids than the white band of harder fat that often wraps around the outside of the steak. The outside fat usually contains more saturated fat. Both types of fat add delicious flavor, but marbling adds tenderness.
Look for thicker cuts, because you can brown the meat on the outside easier and control the level of internal doneness. Also, avoid steaks with big streaks of gristle. Gristle is thin or large bands of chewy rubber bands. They look blue-ish or white-blue.
Crap In = Crap Out or CI=CO
That’s true of many things, right? It basically means, if you don’t have a good piece of meat in the first place—even cheap cuts—no amount of seasoning or cooking would transform it into a great meal. Gristle is gristle. It ruins the eating experience. Avoid it like the plague. Remember Meat + Gristle = Gross.
Rule #2 Season That Steak (Steak + Spices = Sensational)
We’re not telling you to get out the marinade kit or brine! This next recipe, if you will—it’s not really a recipe since there are no measurements, only suggestions of amounts—is quick and painless. It’s super easy and is our go-to “house seasoning.” House seasoning is just a generous coating of spices—that’s it. Nothing more. This was our Dad’s favorite, his Basic Steak Seasoning, and to this day our guests rave about the steaks.
- Steak (allow 6-8oz. raw, trimmed meat per person, minimum)
- Granulated Garlic Powder—or Fresh Garlic Cloves (peeled and pressed, or chopped finely)
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper (coarse grind)
- Kosher Salt Worcestershire Sauce
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Per Ounce: 66 Calories; 4g Fat (50.0% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 0.25g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 23mg Cholesterol; 0.25g Effective Carbs
- Per 4 Ounce Serving: 263 Calories; 14g Fat (50.0% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 0.75g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 91mg Cholesterol; 0.75g Effective Carbs
- Per 6 Ounce Serving: 395 Calories; 21g Fat (50.0% calories from fat); 46g Protein; 1.5g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 136mg Cholesterol; 1.5g Effective Carbs
That’s it. That’s the magic elixir. The prince of dry rubs—well, semi-dry rubs, since there’s a splash or two of Worcestershire and a drizzle of olive oil per piece of meat. The only thing to be slightly, and the emphasis is on slightly, cautious of, is the quantities of salt and Worcestershire. The garlic powder and coarse black pepper should be added liberally. We do mean liberally—you can’t over-spice with the garlic and coarse black pepper! You can absolutely over-salt the steak. Use one to two pinches of kosher salt per side of steak. Use much less if using iodized table salt or fine grain salt of any kind.
If you want to get really tricky and gourmet, you can substitute real live cloves of garlic for the granulated garlic powder. The rule is one large (very large) or 2 small cloves garlic for every rib eye-sized steak or beef rib (about 1 pound of meat). Press the garlic, or chop it finely. Thoroughly rub the garlic into the meat, then add fresh, coarsely ground black pepper and kosher or coarse grain sea salt. Splash on a couple of shakes of Worcestershire per side and drizzle with only enough olive oil to lubricate the meat on both sides. The oil keeps the meat from sticking on the grill, about ½ to 1 tablespoon per steak or rib.
Rule #3 – Chill The Meat (Meat + Chilling = Very Cold Center = Better Browning + Rare to Medium Rare Centers and charred or caramelized exteriors.
Yep, after seasoning the meat, chill it down. Cover it so it won’t dry out or smell up the ice box and chill at least 30 minutes, although it tastes more flavorful if you allow at least 2 hours or longer, if you can. We’ve seasoned as far ahead as 24 hours and the meat tasted divine. We even added the salt and let it sit with little adverse effect. The meat still retained moisture and tasted juicy and succulent! Letting the steak rest in the fridge allows seasonings to penetrate and flavor the meat. It also allows the internal temperature to chillax!
Don’t take it out of the fridge until your fire is blisteringly hot. It’s much easier to control the internal temperature of the meat when you have a cold center. (I’m sorry Alton, but I suggest a fight to the death on this point. You are just plain wrong, when you advise letting the internal temp approach room temperature. Inconceivable!)
We like rare to medium rare centers and charred exteriors; and having well-chilled, seasoned meat means we get the best of both worlds—a charred exterior with pronounced grill marks and a center done to our specifications. Score!
Rule #4 Use a Blisteringly Hot Fire (Meat + Hot Fire = Good)
That’s right! Blisteringly hot. If using propane or gas, cook on IGNITE. If using charcoal, prepare a high, hot fire. If charcoal grilling, prepare the fire on one side of the grill only, leaving the other side empty. If you have thick steaks over 1-1/2” thick, leave the second side empty for indirect cooking after the initial grilling. You will do most of your cooking over direct heat.
RULE #5 Cook by the timer—not instinct. And if you have an instant read thermometer at the end of cooking, good.
(Knowing Your Grill Temp + Egg Timer=Perfectly Grilled Steak)
It’s a simple formula (and this all depends on the unique temperature of your grill)
Steaks less than 3/4-inch thick will be a quick 4-5 minute grill—tops!
Steaks 3/4 to 1 ½-inches thick will most likely take between 6-7 minutes
Steaks 1 ½ to 2-inches thick will most likely take between 8-10 minutes and may require some indirect heat cooking
Steaks beyond 2-inches will use the rule of about 6 minutes per inch of thickness and will require indirect heat cooking
- Place steaks on pre-heated super-hot grill, over direct heat.
- Cook 2 minutes per side, alternating lid up and lid closed at 1 minute intervals. Flip steaks. Continue cooking over direct heat for 2 more minutes. (4 minutes)
- Check doneness based on meat thickness. If cooking further, flip meat back to side 1. Cook 1-2 minutes per side, alternating lid up and lid closed at 1 minute intervals. For cross-hatches rotate meat 45° when flipping back to side 1, cook 1-2 minutes, then flip back to side 2.
A Word About FlareUps
Cooking on a blazingly hot fire means flare-ups will happen—and charring will happen also. When flare-ups occur, move the meat to a part of the grill where there is no flare-up. It should still be over direct heat. Short periods of flare are fine. Long periods give an off flavor. Never spritz with water to kill a flare. Move the meat.
For any steak 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick steak should still be rare at 4-5 minutes—usually 5-6 minutes on our grill. Rare steak has a cold red center and areas of medium to med-rare on the margins or outside edges. This is our favorite temperature and the temperature where the meat will be the most tender.
Medium rare steaks have a warm, red center. Medium rare is only 1 minute to 1-1/2 minutes away at the 4-5 minute point for steaks 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick. Be careful and watch closely! Move steaks to an area of the direct fire absent of flare-ups. There will have been flare-ups while cooking. That’s ok! You are now at 6-8 minutes. Most 1 to 1-1/2” steaks will be medium rare at 6-8 minutes.
We’re sorry, but we cannot give you the instructions for medium or well-done meat. In Texas that’s a hangin’ offense. It’s as bad as writing a chili recipe that includes beans. In polite company, one simply does NOT tell another how to murderize steaks on a grill or pit. Sorry. Not gonna.
About Indirect Heat
If you have steak thicker than 1-1/2”…LUCKY YOU! If this applies to you, read on lucky friend! If you have steaks thicker than 1-1/2”, remove steaks to indirect heat. Close lid (fire still on ignite) and cook for 1 minute to 2 minutes longer. We recommend checking the temperature with an instant read thermometer if you aren’t versed in telling doneness by feeling the spring-back of the meat when pressing it with your finger. From this point forward, you will use the indirect heat method to finish the meat to your particular doneness.
If your steaks are thicker than 1-1/2 inches and are closer to 2 – 3 inches. You = SUPER LUCKY. Congrats. You have a REAL MANLY steak there, buddy! It will be beautiful ly charred with well-defined grill patterns on the outside, but the inside will still be bloody—that’s referred to as a “blue center!” Although, we love blue centers, most others will be grossed out! Cook on my friend!
If you continue to cook over direct heat, you will ruin the meat—steak will become grey in color and texture becomes mealy and cottony. At 6-10 minutes, you have great color, now it’s time to use your grill as an oven. And if you don’t have a large enough grill for that or are cooking on a small hibachi or little Weber or something, just bring the steak inside. Finish cooking the steak in a 350° oven. A 2-3 inch steak will take between 4-10 minutes on indirect to reach rare to medium rare. We insert a thermometer and cook to temperature at that point because it can be difficult to judge doneness with thicker cuts.
We recommend using an instant read thermometer for thicker steaks. You can find cheap ones at Tuesday Morning or Big Lots or Dollar Stores. Rare to medium rare is done at 125°-130°F. There’s a little bit of carry over cooking that happens once it’s removed from the fire.)
If using gas or propane, turn the heat off on one side of the grill. Place steaks on the side without the fire and close lid. Cook 1-3 minutes with the lid down, by the timer. Raise lid and check for doneness. Look for 125°-130° for rare to medium rare. See timing notes above for steaks 2-3-inches or more.
Rule #6 Rest Your Meat! (Grilled Meat + Resting = Moist Even Juicy Texture)
We know you’re gonna be tempted. Who doesn’t like blisteringly hot, charred meat, cut fresh off the fire? But don’t do it! Cutting before resting will result in all the glorious meat’s liquid gold running all over the platter or cutting board. Give it a rest.
Ten minutes. Just ten little minutes will give the steak time to redistribute all the juices to the very center of the meat, although 15 minutes is even better. Juice will still run, but there will be less moisture loss and the steak will have a beautiful even red tint throughout the entire cut.
Trust us on this part. Cover the meat lightly with a piece of aluminum foil and just walk away. Walk away. Alton and I agree. Ten minutes—15 max.
The last bit of advice…while the meat is resting, plonk some butter on top. Go fancy with a special grill butter, go bare bones and use grass fed unsalted butter. Doesn’t matter, they’re both terrific. Delish!!! We use 1-2 tablespoons of butter per rib eye-sized steak. The butter melts as the meat rests and creates its own gravy.
Rule #7 Slice Your Meat! (Grilled Meat + Slicing Thinly Across Grain = Tender, Juicy, Feeds More People)
Well who doesn’t prefer getting a huge hunk o’ grilled steak on a plate? We know we do! But look, steak is ‘spensive Lucy! And you can maximize the number of servings you get out of a steak by slicing it thinly across the grain. And if you’re using a cheap cut, it will actually yield steak that’s easier on your jaw and teeth! You won’t have to chew so hard!
Most women will be satisfied with 3-4 ounces of sliced, cooked meat, when served with sides like salad and low carb veggies (I’m not talking stuffed or replete, I mean approaching full). Most men will be satisfied with 4-6 ounces of sliced meat. (You think we don’t, but we hear you coughing “bullshi*” under your breath over there.) If you serve the steak in “hunks”, you will usually need to figure almost twice those quantities. You will need to visually satisfy your guest as well as fill their tummy! Uncut steak takes up less plate real estate, so your eyes will tell you that you need to get a bigger piece on your plate! And in a low carb lifestyle, fat is king, not protein.
Congratulations! If you’ve followed Dad’s Golden Rules to Great Grilled Steak, you are now a Steak Man or Steak Babe!
Wooot! Pat yourself on the back and go serve yourself some of that Loaded Broccoli we fixed on Fluffy Chix Cook’s Recipe Archives. Whoooo boy does Loaded Broccoli go well with grilled steak!
Now look, you can deviate from the Basic recipe. Sure you can! Sometimes we add herbs to Dad’s Basic Steak ingredients. Fresh ginger and fresh rosemary taste great together. Yum! Combining fresh rosemary and sage work well together, too. Fresh thyme, oregano and grated lemon zest, along with a few drops of fresh squeezed lemon juice, is tasty too. But we always come back to Dad’s Basic. Half the time we don’t even try to deviate off the granulated garlic to use fresh garlic. He mainly had granulated garlic. Dad was a simple man.
If you feel like gilding the lily, you can add a sauce such as the Chimichurri Sauce or Horseradish Sauce or the prince of all sauces, Bernaise. But it won’t need it. It’s Great Grilled Steak! Dad always said, “If you need a sauce, then I haven’t given you Great Steak and you should seek food elsewhere!”
Go try it. It’s so easy. Make great grilled steak. Buy a great piece of meat (of any grade). Season. Lid down. Lid up. Lid down. Lid up. Timer. Rest. Slice. It’s easy. BTW, you alternate lid up and lid down to control the heat level.
Go. Shoo now. Go grill. Master your grill!
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