Smoky, tender, and juicy—steak is one of our favorite things to cook on the grill. While every recipe has its own specific instructions—Ultimate Charcoal-Grilled Steaks, Grilled Frozen Steaks, and Argentine Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce are great places to start—there are a few easy ways to up your steak game next time you're grilling.
1. Buy the Best Steaks for Grilling
Starting with a thick steak is key for grilling, but which cuts are best? The many options at the supermarket or butcher can overwhelm you if you don’t know what to look for. Here are some of our favorite cuts for making really good grilled steak:
2. Choose the Most Tender Steak Tips
After testing more than 50 pounds of steak tips, we decided that the only ones worth grilling were made from flap meat, sometimes labeled as sirloin tips. Of the three most common cuts (cubes, strips, and steaks), we suggest selecting whole steaks. Since cubes and strips are often cut from nearby muscles in the hip and butt, they tend to be less tender and not as tasty.
3. Grill Steak to the Right Temperature
When it’s time to see if your steak is done, put down the knife and pull out your handy instant-read thermometer instead. (In the test kitchen, we usually like our steaks medium, cooked to 130 to 135 degrees.) To ensure you get an accurate reading, it’s important to know where the sensor is on your thermometer. To find out, bring a pot of water to a boil and slowly lower the thermometer into it until it registers 212 degrees (adjusting for high altitudes), at which point you’ve found the sensor. Then, when you check the temperature of your steak, insert the thermometer so the sensor is right in the middle and not in contact with the bone (we recommend inserting the thermometer through the side of the meat). Don’t forget to check each individual steak, as some may cook more quickly depending on thickness and location on the grill.
Cooking temperatures for steak:
|Cook Steak To||Serve Steak At|
|Rare||115-120 degrees||125 degrees|
|Medium-Rare||120-125 degrees||130 degrees|
|Medium||130-135 degrees||140 degrees|
|Medium-Well||140-145 degrees||150 degrees|
|Well||150-155 degrees||160 degrees|
4. Cowboy Cut: Embrace Double-Thick Rib-Eye Steaks
These double-thick, bone-in rib-eye steaks have a few advantages when it comes to grilling. First, bone-in steaks tend to be more flavorful than boneless and the bone also protects against overcooking. Plus, the extra thickness means cowboy steaks can stay on the grill longer than smaller steaks, allowing them to soak up more smoky flavor.
5. Season Cooked Steak with Finishing Salt
The crunchy texture of finishing salt is just as important as the seasoning it provides, but the flakes dissolve almost instantly in steak’s juices (the same happens with fish fillets and chicken breasts). In the test kitchen, we found a simple way to keep the crunch: Spray a small amount of vegetable oil into a bowl (using an oil mister, say “one” and you’re done), add 1½ teaspoons of flaky sea salt, and stir. The oil-coated flakes will stay intact on the steak, giving you flavor and crunch at the same time.
Do you have a question about grilling steak? Is there a tip you think should be on this list? Share your ideas with us on Twitter @testkitchen using #Cookslllustrated.
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