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:

Rib-Eye Steak

As its name implies, this flavorful cut comes from the rib section of the cow. It features lots of fat content and marbling as well as a smooth, fine texture. Have frozen rib-eye steaks at home? Cook’s Illustrated senior editor Andrea Geary found a foolproof method for grilling steaks from the freezer without thawing them first.

Strip Steak

This moderately tender cut comes from the short loin. It has big, beefy flavor, with good marbling and a fat cap on one end. Since strip steaks produce fewer flare-ups than fattier cuts like rib-eye, they were our top choice for our Ultimate Charcoal-Grilled Steaks recipe.


Cut from the short loin, T-bone steaks contain a T-shaped bone with meat on both sides. They are strip and tenderloin in one, and have fatty flavor and texture (in a good way). Need a recipe for T-bone steaks? Try our Grilled Tuscan Steak with Garlic Essence.


Commonly referred to as the “King of T-Bones,” porterhouse steak also contains strip and tenderloin, but the tenderloin is larger in this rich cut. Learn how to achieve grilled T-bone perfection every time in this test kitchen video.

Filet Mignon

This fancy steakhouse favorite has tender, lean meat and mild flavor thanks to its lower fat content—although some people find it to be too mild. We like to enhance the flavor of grilled filet with just a little bit of olive oil and lemon or a compound butter like our Roasted Red Pepper and Smoked Paprika Butter.

Quick Tip: A Matter of Twine

If you’ve splurged on filet mignon, “the king of steaks,” you'll want to do it justice. For an elegant presentation and even cooking, we like to use kitchen twine, especially with filets that have been oddly or unevenly cut. Tie a 12-inch piece of twine around each steak, taking care to snip off the excess twine at the knot so it won’t catch fire on the grill. Then gently roll or pat the tied filet until it’s more uniform in appearance and thickness.

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.

How to Cut Sirloin Steak Tips

1. Slicing with the grain, cut the steak into 2 or 3 even pieces.

2. Hold the knife at a 45-degree angle to the meat and cut against the grain, making ½-inch-thick slices.

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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