5 Simple Steps to a Perfect Steak
Getting a picture-perfect, buttery-tender steak is easy if you follow a few simple rules.
It’s a warm Summer afternoon, the sun is getting lower in the sky, you have a frosty cold beer in hand and there’s a steak sizzling on the grill...
You pull the steak off the grill, sit down to enjoy, but the steak is disappointing. When you cut into it, juices run all over the plate but the steak itself isn’t very juicy and seems almost tough, and it doesn’t seem to be cooked as evenly as you thought it would be...
It’s easy to assume that grilling a steak is as simple as buying a quality cut of beef, firing up the grill, pulling the steak out of the frig, throwing it on the grill, flip it a few times, and in the time it takes to quaff that frosty-cold beer, it’s dinnertime! Right?
Wrong. Just about everything one could do wrong, is described in the short sentence above.
Let’s start with buying an expensive steak. A more expensive cut guarantees only that you’ll be more disappointed and frustrated that you spent more money than you wanted. The answer is simple: Do what the pros do, and it’s just 5 simple rules...
The steak we’re using to demonstrate our process is the humble Top Sirloin, (which was also on sale at Scotts Valley Market for $7.99 a pound when this was posted – July 3-9).
Top Sirloin is considered to be at the low end of the ‘prime steaks’, compared to New York Strip, Ribeye, Porterhouse or Filet Mignon, but if you follow a few simple steps, you can get a surprisingly tender, even buttery, tasty steak!
It’s All in the Preparation!
Like many things in life, watching the execution or performance of a task — a piece of music, a speech, a presentation, a putt... Professionals always make it look so easy. Of course, we realize they also do the same thing every day so they ought to be good at it, but there’s actually more to it. Preparation. Preparation is everything!
Grilling a perfect steak begins with proper preparation and step #1 begins with buying top-quality beef. Most grocery stores offer USDA Choice Beef, which is what we chose. The added benefit of buying from a butcher, such as the Meat Department at Scotts Valley Market, is:
The butcher can help you personally and can make suggestions, as well as trim a cut to your liking.
The cuts are laid out in the chilled meat case in the open air, which makes the cuts slightly drier, which is vastly preferable to a soggy steak wrapped in plastic.
Step #1: Get your steak dry, dry dry!!! A soggy steak thrown on the grill will not sear, it will steam! Use plenty of paper towels! If storing the steak in the frig, you will likely need to dry it again when ready to grill, (better if you follow Step #2 below!)
Step #2: Season well with Salt & Pepper, and at least 45 minutes, to as long as overnight before grilling. DO NOT wrap the steak if storing in the refrigerator. Ideally, place the steak on a wire rack, open and uncovered. Here’s the scoop on salt: Seasoning the steak well before grilling will draw moisture out of the surface of the meat and form a concentrated brine that will add amazing depth of flavor and also break down proteins to tenderize the steak.
Step #3: Bring the steaks to room temperature! Going back to preparation, it involves doing everything that works in your favor: A soggy steak works against the heat of the grill so get that steak dry! Second, a cold steak also works against the heat of the grill. Pull your steaks out of the refrigerator at least an hour before grilling.
Step #4: Get your grill on! If using charcoal, (we recommend 100% real Mesquite), create a pile of hot coals on one side of the grill. If using gas, get at least two burners on high and leave the other side of the grill off. Place the steaks on the indirect heat side of the grill first. Yes, we know this sounds counterintuitive, but this technique works! Leave your steaks for a good five minutes, then turn over for another five minutes. You can either use an instant-read thermometer, or if you’re a grillmaster, you can tell by the way the steak ‘feels’ in terms of firmness. When the steaks are about 3/4ths of the way cooked through (115-120º with the thermometer), move the steaks to the hot side of the grill to sear. This should only take 1-3 minutes per side.
Step #5: When the steaks are done, pull ’em off the grill and leave ’em alone!
After pulling the steaks off the grill, let them rest for 10 minutes. Intense heat from the grill causes the muscle fibers of the steak to pull tightly together and if you cut into the steak right after grilling, the meat will seem tough and even dry and the juices will run all over the plate.
Once the steaks have rested, the protein fibers in the steak will relax and the juices in the steak will settle and redistribute into small pockets in the meat. When the knife slices through, the steak is perfectly juicy and the texture and tenderness will be perfect.
So here we have our humble Top Sirloin steak, after drying, seasoning, temperature adjusting, grilling, then searing and finally, resting, and then?
Then, we slice into it: The result? A tasty and tender, almost buttery steak that’s perfectly seasoned with the perfect chew and texture!
There you have it! You can grill like the pros when you know a few tips and tricks and how to prepare properly. Bon appetit!