Seven Tips For The Amateur Steak BBQer

For any barbecue beginner, one of the greatest tests is grilling the perfect steak. Anyone who is serious about grilling should take the time to master this combination of culinary art and science. Here are seven tips to help you in your quest for the perfect steak.

Select High Quality Meat
Before you even get near a grill, you should already be thinking about the end result. No matter what cut of meat you have decided on, it will generally come in three different grades. These grades, from lowest quality to highest, are choice, select and prime. Someone who is incredibly skilled could grill a great tasting choice steak, but when you are first starting out, you should definitely go with a better grade of meat. A better grade will generally have better fat marbling which will add a lot of flavor to your finished steak.

Let Your Steak Reach Room Temperature
For better cooking, don’t ever put cold meat on the grill. You want to let your steak reach room temperature. This will help it get a proper sear and cook evenly. For best results, drizzle your steak in olive oil, add spices and then let it sit on the counter for an hour. At the very minimum, make sure you take your steak out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before grilling. Larger steaks need more time to reach room temperature.

Sear The Steak With High Heat
A good sear on a steak will lock in all the juices and flavor. To get a good sear, you need to preheat your grill to high heat. It doesn’t matter if you are cooking with a charcoal or gas grill, the surface where the steak touches the grill needs to be very hot. This initial sear will get that restaurant-quality crust on the outside of your steak. That hardened crust adds amazing texture. It also is what keep the inside juicy and delicious.

Do Not Keep Turning The Steak
You do not need to turn the steak more than once or twice. An experienced grill master only needs to turn a steak once. By only turning once, you will get a more evenly cooked steak. When you keep turning, you will not get that important sear, and your steak may lose its juiciness. Practice your timing so that you don’t need to keep flipping your steak.

Finish Thicker Steaks On Low Heat
If you are grilling an extremely thick steak, do not cook it on high heat the entire time. You will not have an evenly cooked steak. After getting a good sear on both sides, move it to low heat. This way you will cook the inside to your desired temperature without burning the outside.

Learn To Check Steak By Feel
Do not ever cut into a steak to see if it is done. If you want to know if it’s done, gently press on the middle of it with your finger. When it is rare, it will feel the same as the area of your palm directly under your thumb. If you want a medium-rare steak, touch your thumb and index finger together. That same part of your palm will now feel like a medium-rare steak. Touching your thumb and middle finger will now make it feel like a medium steak. The ring finger gets you a medium-well steak. Your little finger will get you a well done.

Let Your Steak Rest
After you take your steak off the grill, it is still not finished. You must let it rest for at least five minutes. If you cut into it right away, all the juices will just leak out. This will leave you with a dry and flavorless steak. Let the steak rest so that it will keep your meat juicy. It can be tempting to cut into your steak right away, but that last five minutes is crucial to the perfect steak.


  1. irubu says

    Great advice Jason. I worked in a restaurant in a previous life and one of the tricks of the trade was to be able to check the steak by feel. The finger thumb method was exactly how we did it. About the only thing I would add to your tips would be to season with salt prior to grilling. This draws water soluble proteins to the surface of the steak allowing them to recombine with sugars present during a process called the Maillard reaction.

  2. psmith140 says

    I found this really useful. I always keep turning my steak and I think this is why it is always over done! I never realised also that you could touch it to feel how medium/rare it is. I have been cutting it all along. I suppose that sort of invalidates the last point about letting it rest! Thanks for the advice.

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