Here in the test kitchen, we’ve grilled tens of thousands of steaks over the years and learned a lot in the process. We’ve distilled our experience into these eight tips to help you make the perfect grilled steaks each and every time.
1. Salt in Advance
We recommend salting steaks 1 to 24 hours before cooking. With time, the salt will pull juices out of the meat and dissolve in them, and then the salted juices will be reabsorbed, seasoning the interior and helping the steak remain juicy. We employ this technique in our recipe for Grilled Flank Steak with Soy Dressing.
2. Grill Your Steaks Right from the Fridge
In most instances, there is no need to let your steaks come to room temperature before grilling. The theory makes sense (the closer a steak is to its target temperature before cooking, the more even the cooking will be), but we’ve tested it repeatedly and found that any differences are minimal. For most of our recipes, you can cook the steaks right from the refrigerator.
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3. Thick Steaks Need a Hotter Zone and a Cooler Zone
Whether you're cooking with charcoal or gas, set up your grill with hotter and cooler zones. We like to grill thick steaks (and other larger cuts) slowly to doneness with indirect, low heat, and then move them to the hot side to create a flavorful sear at the end of cooking. We use this technique in our recipe for Grilled Thick-Cut Porterhouse Steaks.
4. Pat Steaks Dry Before Grilling
For the most efficient cooking and browning, use paper towels (or a clean dish towel) to pat steaks dry before they hit the grill. If you skip this step, it takes heat energy to evaporate the moisture on the meat’s surface, and until that moisture is gone, flavorful browning cannot occur.
5. Flip Frequently
Flipping steaks frequently on the grill (as often as every 2 minutes) promotes even cooking and minimizes the overcooked “gray band” near the surfaces of the steak. Don’t worry, you’ll still get a good, flavorful sear.
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6. Use an Instant-Read Thermometer
Take the guesswork out of cooking beautiful steaks perfectly. There’s no shame in using a little technology to make sure dinner turns out just the way you want it.
7. Plan for Carryover Cooking
Our recipes call for removing steaks from the grill when they are 5 to 10 degrees below the desired final temperature; the internal temp of the meat will continue to rise as the meat rests.
8. Let the Cooked Steaks Rest
Always, always let cooked steaks rest before slicing (or serving) so that they retain their moisture when you do cut in. We like to let steaks rest for about 10 minutes, tented with foil to retain heat. Our Grilled Boneless Short Ribs with Argentine-Style Pepper Sauce are juicy, in part, because we let them rest properly.