There are really only two factors in cooking a piece of meat: the meat and the fire. But this equation is deceptively simple. If one of those things is off, even a little bit, you’re calling for takeout. No amount of marinade will save a bad piece of meat, and even the best beef tastes bad burned. Here are seven steps to make sure you start grilling season off right.
Step 1: Purchase the Cut
Ribeye, porterhouse, T-bone—there are plenty of great choices. The important thing is that you buy a quality piece of beef. This is one area where you get what you pay for. If you have questions, ask the butcher. If there is no butcher, go to a place that has a butcher.
Step 2: Prepare the Meat
As we said, no amount of marinade will save a bad piece of meat, but a good piece of meat doesn’t need marinade at all. You want to taste the beef, so sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper onto both sides, and step away.
Step 3: Prepare the Fire
You want a hot fire. Doesn’t matter if you’re using charcoal or gas; just hold your hand a few inches above the grill to gauge the temperature. You should be able to hold it for about two seconds without wanting to yell. Scoot the coals over to one side of the grill or leave just one side of your burner row on so you can grill with both direct and indirect heat. If you keep the steak in the flames the whole time, you risk charring.
Step 4: Sear Over Direct Heat
Place your steak lovingly over the coals and DON'T TOUCH for two to three minutes. Smashing the thing with a spatula releases flavor. Turn the steak over (with anything that doesn’t puncture the meat), and sear for another two to three minutes.
Step 5: Cook Over Indirect Heat
Now, slide the steak over to the area of the grill that doesn’t have flames, and let it finish cooking. The time can vary depending on the thickness of the cut, which means you’ll want to…
Step 6: Test
The easiest way to test is to use a meat thermometer, though this does break our rule of not piercing the outer skin of the steak. If you’re comfortable with rule breaking, however, the Food Network Kitchen says
: Rare: 125 degrees + three-minute rest Medium Rare: 130–135 degrees Medium: 135–140 degrees Medium Well: 140–150 degrees Well Done: 155+ degrees The pros simply press the meat with your index finger and feel the firmness.
Step 7: Rest Remove the steak from the grill, sprinkle a little more salt and pepper, maybe a pat of butter, and let it rest for five minutes or so. This locks the juices in, lets them percolate through the whole cut and keeps you from sticking a burning hot piece of meat in your mouth. Happy grilling!