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Video: How to Grill Great Steaks

Sarah Breckenridge; Video by Bruce Becker and Dariusz Kanarek; Editing by Cari Delahanty. Shot on location at the Dana Holcombe House, Newtown, CT.
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This video is a preview of the Fine Cooking Culinary School grilling series.

A steak is one of the simplest things to grill, and it’s a good way to learn how to use your grill’s heat. In this episode, you’ll learn how to choose the best steaks for grilling, how to give them a good initial sear, and how to tell when they’re done perfectly. To practice all these points, we’ll make a grilled New York Strip Steak with Blue Cheese Butter.

Step One: Prep Your Steaks and Grill
Take your steaks from the fridge about 30 to 40 minutes before cooking and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Starting with room-temperature steaks gives you better control over their doneness. For tender steaks like rib-eye and strip steak, you want to choose steaks about 1-1/2 inches thick. When you’re ready to cook, make sure the steak is completely dry, then brush it with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat your grill with all burners set on high and the lid closed for 10 to 12 minutes.

Step Two: Cook the Steaks
Place the steaks on the grill, at a 45-degree angle to the grill grates. Close the lid.

After about 1-1/2 minutes, the steaks should release easily from the grates. Pick up each steak and rotate it 90 degrees, so the grill grates now run at 45 degrees in the opposite direction. This is how you create those neat, restaurant-style crosshatch grill marks on your steak.

After the steaks have cooked about 4 to 5 minutes on the first side, they’re ready to turn. There’s no need to do crosshatch marks on the second side, because it will face down on the plate. Close the lid and continue to cook to your preferred doneness.

Step Three: How to Judge Doneness
There are two ways to judge doneness-one is with an instant-read thermometer, inserted into the center of the steak (see chart for temperatures).

But touch is the method most chefs use to determine doneness, at least for steaks. To start learning what each stage feels like, your face is a handy guide:

  • Touch your cheek with your mouth slightly open-that’s what rare feels like.
  • Touch the tip of your nose-that’s medium
  • Touch your forehead-that’s what well-done feels like.

After you pull the steaks off the grill, they should rest for 5 minutes before serving, to let the juices redistribute, producing a steak that’s equally juicy all the way through.

Steak Doneness Temperature Guidelines
Doneness Level USDA Recommendations Fred’s Thoughts
Rare none given 125° F
Medium-Rare 145° F 135° F
Medium-Rare 160° F 145° F
Well-Done 170° F 160° F and above

More flavored butters for topping your steaks:

              
Garlic Rosemary Butter      Basil Butter                Chipotle-Cilantro Butter

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  • Barry_CB_Martin | 08/12/2009

    I guess I'm kinda surprised that you'd brush on olive oil prior to seasoning the meat. In my experience that means the oil kinda seals up the meat and the salt doesn't have a chance to do it's work - drawing natural sugars and proteins to the surface where they will brown.

    And I'm also surprised you are using olive oil - not clarifying which version. I've found that for many folks when you say 'olive oil' they don't differentiate between the various levels and reach for the cold-pressed Extra Virgin stuff. This results in burnt oil at the high temperatures needed for searing steaks, and the flavors are not as good.

    I'd recommend you season the steaks about 25 minutes prior to cooking (some say go as long as over night) with a good salt with larger crystals and then spritz the steak with a high-temp cooking oil like canola, safflower, cotten seed, peanut or, if you must use olive oil make it a pomace version.

    And you should flip the steaks before cross hatching - to ensure even cooking. It depends upon the thickness of the steaks, but the searing adds flavor (Mallaird effect) and it evening cooks. If the steaks are under an inch, you really don't have time to cross-hatch if you want the steak under medium.

    The other step I'd recommend is to remove the steaks after searing at temps in the 500F degree range and hold the steaks off of direct heat to finish. This is what professional kitchens do to ensure the steaks have sear marks for flavor and eye appeal and the meat is cooked to the appropriate level of done.

    Oh - one more thing. The method of checking according to firmness is kinda misleading. The tenderness of different cuts, thicknesses and, most importantly, grades (select, choice, prime) will have a big impact on the tenderness. So it works - but only if you grill the same cut, same thickness and same grade enough times to really get to know it.

    A good instant read thermometer inserted 'from the side' to the center is a much better and more accurate method.

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