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How to Grill the Perfect Steak

If you are aspiring to be a top-notch grill master, learning how to grill the perfect steak is a great place to start. The following post is loaded with educational information that will teach you how to work with your grill to achieve that perfectly golden-brown, juicy, tender steak that you’ve been dreaming of.

It is my goal to help you come to the realization that grilling isn’t as hard as you thought it was. Just follow a few basic steps and you’ll be wondering why you ever spent $30 on steak at a restaurant when you could just as easily have made it at home for a fraction of the price. Happy grilling everyone!

What Cut of Steak Is Best For Grilling?

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the best grilling steaks. If you don’t have a personal favorite yet, perhaps this list will help you choose.

  • Filet Mignon – This 2-3″ thick medallion-shaped cut is considered the king of all steaks by many. It is lean, tender, and has a wonderfully mild flavor. The only downside is that it’s very pricy but gosh it sure is worth it.
  • Ribeye – Ribey is chock-full of marbling (intramuscular fat) that melts into the meat as it cooks, giving it a beautiful richness. Bone in ribeye especially will wow you with flavor. Note that the fat content of this cut gives it a bad wrap in more health-conscious communities.
  • Tomahawk Steak – This cut is basically a ribeye but with a ton of extra bone extending out of the meat. It’s a little clumsier to maneuver but its intense, glorious flavor makes it well worth it. 
  • Skirt Steak and Flank Steak. These similar cuts might have more chewy, connective tissue than others but they take on marinades beautifully. When grilled hot and fast, they can be extremely juicy and flavorful.
  • New York Strip – Another well-marbled steak, this cut is full of flavor but it is slightly leaner than a ribeye or Tomahawk, making it a “healthier” choice. Some people don’t love the tough, chewy strip of fat that runs down it side of this cut.
  • T-Bone – Filet mignon AND a New York strip steak come together in this delicious cut. You get the lean, mild, tender qualities of the filet mignon next to the big flavor of the New York steak. One downside is that you are essentially grilling 2 different cuts of meat at once. This makes it easy to cook one side perfectly and to overdo or underdo the other.
  • Top Sirloin –  Top sirloin is a relatively affordable, naturally lean cut. It has a nice flavor and holds on well to seasonings and marinades. It is more muscular than other cuts and thus takes longer to cook. People often complain that it is easy to overcook because of this.

What Grade is Best For Grilling?

In the world of steak, the word “grade” refers to the quality of the cut based on how tender and juicy it is. There are three main grades; Select, Choice, and Prime. Let’s talk about each and decide which is best for grilling.

  • Select refers to cuts that are “basic level”. You can often find these in the sale section. They tend to be leaner and have very little marbling and, thus, less flavor. I recommend against grilling a Select cut. They do better with more forgiving, low-and-slow cooking methods that help break down the lean meat.
  • Choice beef is considered high quality. It has more marbling and more flavor than Select cuts but less than Prime. It is relatively affordable when compared to Prime so it’s a great choice for those on a budget and/or newer to grilling and looking to experiment.
  • Prime is the best of the best. It has the most marbling and the most flavor when compared to other grades and is perfect for grilling. All you need is a bit of simple seasoning and some solid grilling techniques and the steak will do the rest.

Grilling is all about the meat. You might use a simple marinade and/or some seasoning but the whole point of grilling is to let the flavor of the meat shine. For this reason, I highly suggest using a Prime cut for the best results possible.

How to Choose Steak at the Store

So now that you know a little bit about grades of meat and the various cuts, let’s talk about how to choose the perfect steak for grilling. Once you have decided what cut of meat you are looking for, pay attention to 3 things; grade, freshness, and marbling. Let’s talk about each.

  • Grade. I highly suggest spending the extra few bucks and going with a Prime cut. If you are newer to grilling or feeling a little tight on money, Choice will do just fine.
  • Freshness. Look at the dates on the packages and find the one that has been packaged most recently. Better yet, go to the butcher and ask them for their recommendations on what’s freshest.
  • Marbling. You want the perfect amount. Just enough to lend flavor but not so much that the cut is more fat than meat. Take a look at the section above titled “What Cut of Steak Is Best For Grilling? ” to understand a bit more about how much marbling to look for by cut.
a sheet pan with five filets, garlic, and thyme

How to Grill the Best Steak

I think it’s about time to dive into how to actually grill a steak, don’t you? Here is a general overview that can be applied to any of the cuts mentioned in the section titled “What Cut of Steak Is Best For Grilling?”. For more detailed recipes, refer to one (or several) of the carefully selected recipes listed below.

  • Pat the steak dry with a paper towel. Removing excess moisture from the meat will help the steak sear properly instead of steaming.
  • Season and rest the steak. Liberally season the steak with salt before allowing it to sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before grilling. This will draw excess moisture out of the steak ensuring a tender piece of steak.
  • Clean the grill. Be sure that your grate is clean and properly oiled. This will ensure that your steak doesn’t stick to the grate and that no residual flavors from your previous grilling session carry over into the meat.
  • Heat the grill to medium-high heat (350-400°F). Some will tell you to grill at a higher temperature but I find 350-400°F to be the sweet spot.
  • Grill. Lightly brush both sides of the steak with an oil that has a high smoke point (I like avocado oil) and place it on the grate. Close the grill and cook to the desired doneness, flipping halfway through the cook time. See the section below titled “Steak Grilling Times” to find out how long to cook your steak.
  • Rest. Remove the steak from the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes. See my notes below on “Do You Need To Let Steak Rest Before Eating It?” to find out why this is so important.
  • Add butter. Top the steak with a scoop of butter. I like using composite butter to add more flavor. See the section below titled “Why Do Chefs Top Grilled Steak With Butter?” for more information.
  • Serve. Serve the steak whole or sliced. If you choose to slice it, cut it against the natural grain of the meat. This will yield a more tender bite.
ribeye steak being grilled and held by tongs

How Hot Should a Grill Be Before You Start Grilling?

The grill should be heated to high (approximately 400°F-450°F). Attempting to grill your steak at a lower temperature will not allow it to sear properly. You will lose a lot of color and flavor and will likely end up with a tough steak. So get that grill nice and hot. Not too hot though. Grilling at too high a temperature will cause the meat to cook too quickly on the outside without giving the center a chance to cook. This can result in a burned-on-the-outside, raw-on-th-inside steak.

Steak Grilling Times

So how long should you grill your steak? Well, it depends on what level of doneness you are looking for. “Doneness” refers to the internal temperature of the steak which you can easily measure by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the cut.

From rare to medium to well done and everything in between, everyone seems to have their preference. Learning how to cook a steak to a specific level of doneness is an important piece of the grilling puzzle. Reference this guide to understand how long to grill your steak to get it to the desired level of doneness.

  • Rare (internal temperature of 120° F). Cook the steak for 3-4 minutes on either side. *
  • Medium-rare (130° F). Cook the steak for 4-5 minutes on either side.
  • Medium (140° F). Cook the steak for 5-6 minutes on either side.
  • Well done (150° F +). Cook the steak for 6-8 minutes on either side.

* Note that these cook times are based on a 8-10 ounce, ~1 1/2″ thick steak. Cook times will vary depending on the size and thickness of the steak you are grilling. Bring out that meat thermometer to double-check the internal temperature.

Grilled steak on a cutting board on top of a marble kitchen countertop

Why Do Chefs Top Grilled Steak With Butter?

Many chefs will top a grilled steak with ½ -1 tablespoon of butter. The butter melts into the steak and adds moisture and flavor to the meat. I love using a savory composite butter, such as the one in my Epic Pan Seared Ribeye with Herb Butter recipe, to finish my steaks. Composite butter is just butter mixed with other ingredients (sometimes sweet, sometimes savory) to add flavor.

Do You Need To Let Steak Rest Before Eating It?

Yes! It is absolutely necessary. Searing steak on a hot grill causes all of the juices to rush to the center of the meat. Resting a freshly grilled steak for 5 minutes or so allows the juices to redistribute to the rest of the meat. This makes the steak juicier and more flavorful throughout.

a cooked filet mignon with green sauce on a cutting board

What to Serve with Grilled Steak

Sure steak is incredible on its own, but you’re probably going to want to serve it with a delicious sauce and/or a side dish or two. Here are some ideas for you.

8 Grilled Steak Recipes

Now that you’re full of knowledge on how to grill steak, it’s time to put your newly found skills to the test. Here are a few of my absolute favorite recipes featuring perfectly grilled steak. I can’t wait for you to try them.

grilled fajita steak salad with chimichurri dressing in a bowl

Grilled Steak Fajita Salad with Chimichurri Dressing

Apply these grilling tips to a juicy piece of flank or skirt steak. Slice it up and toss it together with veggies, avocado, and a flavor-packed chimichurri dressing for the perfect Steak Fajita Salad.

overhead photo of Easy Grilled Steak Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

Easy Grilled Steak Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

It only takes 30 minutes to toss together this easy Grilled Steak Gyros recipe. Perfectly seasoned, incredibly juicy grilled New York strip steak is sliced and wrapped up in pita bread with creamy tzatziki and fresh veggies.

Asian Grilled Flank Steak that is melt in your mouth delicious! This Flank Steak is marinaded with a swoon worthy Asian sauce and then grilled to sear in all the flavors for the ultimate dinner done in minutes! | joyfulhealthyeats.com #glutenfree

Asian Grilled Flank Steak

Marinate tender flank steak in a mouthwateringly flavorful Asian sauce and throw it on the grill to make this Asian Grilled Flank Steak. It’s the ultimate, quick, and easy dinner recipe.

Close up of a Juicy Grilled Flank Steak topped with a fresh Avocado Chimichurri on a black plate

Grilled Flank Steak with Avocado Chimichurri

Simply seasoned, grilled-to-perfection flank steak is served with a bright, flavor-packed sauce. Whip up this out-of-this-world Grilled Flank Steak with Avocado Chimichurri in just 20 minutes.

Grilled Fajita Skirt Steak #Steak #MexicanFood #cincodemayo #fajitas #marinade #paleo #glutenfree

Grilled Fajita Skirt Steak

Use your newly found grilling knowledge to make this Grilled Fajita Skirt Steak. Juicy skirt steak is marinated in a sauce featuring garlic, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and red bell pepper and grilled to perfection.

Close-up of street tacos with toppings.

Steak Street Tacos

Steak street tacos for taco Tuesday? Yes please! Turn up the grill and toss a tender piece of fillet mignon on the grate. Chop it up and wrap it in a warm tortilla with cilantro, onion, sweet mango, and avocado. Yummy!

Two Tuscan Grilled Steaks Garnished with a Sprig of Rosemary

Tuscan Grilled Ribeye {Our Family Steak-Off Challenge}

Italy has figured grilling out. I cannot wait for you to try this Tuscan Grilled Ribeye. Perfectly marbled ribeye is simply seasoned with freshly chopped rosemary, garlic, and balsamic vinegar. It’s grilled to tender, melt-in-you-mouth deliciousness.

the best marinated grilled flank steak on a cutting board with chimichurri sauce

The Best Marinated Grilled Flank Steak Recipe

Now that you know everything you need to know about grilling steak, this Marinated Grilled Flank Steak will be a piece of cake. Flank steak is marinaded in a zesty, Mexican-themed sauce and tossed on a flaming hot grill. The result is a tender, incredibly flavorful piece of meat that will have you coming back for seconds.

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