How To: Grill the Perfect Steak

CATEGORIES: Grill, How To..., Sara, Steaks

I almost named this post, “How to cook a steak that doesn’t suck.”  Vegetarians beware; this one is not for you (just in case you haven’t noticed yet).  Go browse our dessert section today while the rest of us stay here and look at slabs of beef.  It’s no secret that Kate and I like our meat.  I’ve actually noticed at a lot of the business related events we attend where fancy dinners are involved, the women in attendance almost always order fish, or grilled chicken, or a stinking side salad, and then leave 3/4 of it on their plates when they’re finished.  If there’s a beef filet on the menu, Kate and I both order it about 98 percent of the time.  And you better believe we chow down every last bite too.  I want to show you all that you really can cook an awesome restaurant quality steak at home.  You can also totally ruin a perfectly good restaurant quality steak at home.  So follow our steps to grill a steak that doesn’t suck, okay?

1.  Choose the Right Cut

I’d saythis step is the most pivotal.  There’s only so much you can do for a steak that’s not that great to begin with.  Most (certainly not all) really good steaks are on the expensive side, so let’s just get that out of the way.  You’ll need to be willing to spend a bit more for a premium cut and it will be well worth it when you take that first juicy bite.  There are some cheaper cuts of steak that can be great too, but in general, you won’t have much luck hitting the bargain basement.  Pay attention to thickness as well, for best results buy steaks that are at least one inch thick and preferably more like 1 1/2.

I could write a whole post on different cuts of steak, so just for today we’ll focus on the most traditional backyard bbq steaks.  My personal favorites for grilling are Rib Eye and NY Strip, so I’ll show those in my photos.  If I had to go for just one, I’d pick a rib eye every time.

A quick note on the strip steak- my butcher taught me this.  See the steak in the middle?  How it’s got that line of what appears to be marbling right up the center?  Well it’s not marbling, it’s gristle, and it comes along with the “end cuts” on strip steaks.  So if you’re looking at steaks, avoid those end cuts.  They’re not bad, they’re just not as great as a non-end cut.  Notice both cuts of steak have good marbling.  That fat adds both flavor and juiciness.  Don’t be afraid of the fat!  Here’s a run-down on some popular grilling steaks (According to me.  As opposed to a professional meat person.  But I eat a lot of meat, does that count?)

T-Bone: 2 steaks in one!  You get a strip steak on one side of the bone and a tenderloin on the other.  It’s usually a very thick cut with excellent marbling and flavor.  Generally comes with a price tag.
Porter House:  Same as the t-bone, only the tenderloin is larger.
Rib Eye: You can buy rib eye on or off the bone, I think on the bone is more flavorful.  One of the most flavorful cuts of steak due to the amount of marbling.  You have to cut around quite a bit of fat to get to the meat, but it’s well worth it if you ask me.  Incredibly tender.  I heart rib eyes.
Strip Steak (NY Strip, among other names): Slightly leaner, but still with good marbling.  A little firmer than all of the steaks noted before, and excellent flavor.  Generally more affordable; just don’t over cook.  I probably buy this one the most.
Top Sirloin: Probably the most affordable cut of those mentioned, but not a lot of marbling.  Texture can be quite tough.  I don’t buy top sirloin very often because it’s sort of hit or miss for me.  Mostly miss.
Tri-Tip:  This is my other favorite steak.  It’s kind of hard to find, but we always buy it at Costco.  It’s fantastic on the grill and tastes similar to a Strip steak.  If you see it, give it a shot, we cook this one quite often at my house.

*If you are working with a less-expensive cut of meat, check out this cool method of salting.  Jaden of Steamy Kitchen has a fantastic explanation of how to turn “cheap ‘choice’ steak into Gucci ‘prime’ steak”

We’ll cover Filet Mignon in another post because I think it’s better pan seared.  Other great cuts of steak for the grill are thin cuts like Flank Steak (one of my faves) and Skirt Steak.  These types are best in marinades so we’re not talking about them right now.  But if you’re interested, try our Sweet and Savory Flank Steak, Lime-Chili Rub, or this Chimichurri on steak.

2.  Trim Excess Fat
When it comes to steak, fat is not the enemy.  Good marbling provides excellent flavor and keeps steaks juicy; it’s one of the things you should look for in a steak.  But excess fat around the outside just melts on the grill and can cause flare-ups resulting in burnt steak.  So use a sharp knife and trim around the outside edge.  There’s no need to remove all fat, just keep a thin layer.  Fat is easier to cut when it’s cold, so trim right when you take the meat out of the fridge.  Then let the steaks sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or so.

3.  Season
I grew up dipping all cuts of meat in A1 Sauce.  It was my thing.  I also put A1 on rice, pasta, corn and potatoes.  I told you, it was a thing.  I will never forget the horror my newlywed husband expressed the first time we sat down to a steak dinner and I drown the succulent meat in A1.  He told me it was not only offensive to him, the cook, it was offensive to the cow.  It was he who first taught me that a good piece of meat only needs two things: salt and pepper.  And I’m not talking about those dirty old table salt and ground pepper shakers that have been in your spice cabinet for ten years.  Admit it, you have them.  Use kosher or sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. And be very generous.  The salt and pepper create a crust and you can use more than you think you need.  We’re cooking big hunks of meat; it’s not a time to skimp.  Marinades have their place, a place I love, but save them for cheaper/tougher cuts of meat that really need them (like flank steak).   You can however use spice rubs.  I still wouldn’t recommend anything too strong, but the grill seasoning mixes tend to be pretty good with things like salt, pepper, onion, garlic, etc.

4.  Sear
While you’re working on the steps above, like trimming fat and sprinkling salt, have your grill pre-heating.  If you’re using charcoal you’ll want very hot coals.  Use the 2 second rule to test them; you should be able to hold your hand a few inches over the grill for only about 2 seconds before it’s too hot.  Once they are hot, move them to one side of the grill so you can have both direct and indirect heat.  If you’re using a gas grill, crank that baby to high.   When the grill is preheated (on a gas grill let it heat for at least 10-15 minutes).  Use tongs (I love these extra long ones) to move your meat around, not a big fork.  Puncturing your steak will only let the juices run out and cause them to be dry and tough.  Place the steak on the grill and do not move.  Do not get fidgety and move it all over and flip it 400 times.  You should flip a steak one time only. And while we’re on this topic, another thing you shouldn’t ever do is take a spatula and smash the steak into the grill.  I cannot even tell you the number of times I’ve seen people do that at bbq’s, to both steaks and burgers.  I think there’s something about the sound of the juices sizzling on the flames that make people think they have magical steak cooking powers.  Really they just have magical steak-ruining-powers.

Place the steaks on the hot grill to sear.  Don’t move them for 2-3 minutes.  If you want diagonal hatch marks, you can rotate your steak 45 degrees after a couple of minutes and then finish searing.  Use the tongs again to flip steaks and sear the other side.

5.  Finish Cooking

If you cook the steaks at the super high heat the entire time, the outside will be burnt by the time the center cooks.  So after searing, turn gas down to medium heat, or move steaks to the indirect heat side of your charcoal grill to finish cooking.

I said earlier that picking the right cut of steak is the most important step, but the second most important step is to cook it perfectly.  When it comes to steak, you can’t follow exact times because it will vary with every cut and every grill.  Temperature is the most reliable guide (I’ve outlined temps in the printable version of this post).  I love these mini steak thermometers; they come in a set of 4 and they’re short so they sit perfectly in a steak.  But I’ll be honest, I very rarely use thermometers anymore.  I’ve cooked so many steaks that I can tell how done a steak is by how it feels.  This is one of the first little tricks I ever posted on OBB, and it’s a great one.  Hold your non-dominant hand up with fingers extended and use your other pointer finger to feel the palm where I’ve indicated below.  It should feel nice and soft, quite squishy.  That’s the feeling of a rare piece of meat.  Now put your first two fingers together and feel again; it’s a little firmer, right?  That’s similar to the feeling of a medium rare piece of meat.  Follow the chart below and you’ll get the hang of it.  Go head, do it!  You know you want to.  I’ll wait for you.

Annnnd we’re back.  Cook enough steak and you’ll soon know by a quick touch how done it is.

6.  Rest
Once you take your steaks off the grill, don’t cut into them right away.  Steaks need to rest so the juices can redistribute.  Cover with foil to keep them warm and let them rest for at least 5 minutes.

7.  Embrace your carnivorous side.

Now, we eat.Steaks can be finished off with an extra sprinkling of kosher or sea salt or a pat of herbed butter.

Now you’re all armed the ability to cook a steak-house worthy steak, right at home!  Happy grilling, my friends.  Invite me over, okay?



  1. You don’t know how much I (and hubby) have needed this tutorial. We have ruined enough steaks that I quit buying them and only order them when we’re eating out. Maybe now we can go back to steaks at home! Thank you for the fantastic tutorial!

  2. Wonderful tips. I will have to grill steaks this week. Do you leave the gas grill open or closed once you have turned the heat down. My dh and I have discussions about this regularly. Thanks for all of your great tips and recipes.

    1. I personally put the lid down, so the cooking process is much like finishing the steak off in the oven. You could do it either way, but I feel like there’s a better distribution of heat with the lid closed.

  3. You don’t have to break the bank for a good cut. Flat iron steaks are a great choice, and I’ve never paid more than $7/lb. for one.

    1. I agree! Flat iron is a great cut. However it doesn’t seem to be as readily available (at least where I live, I can hardly ever find it) as some of the more traditional grilling steaks. It’s becoming much more popular though, so hopefully it will be more common at supermarkets.

  4. I never really liked restaurant steak probably because I got spoiled on my dad’s steak. He rubs the meat in olive oil and covers in Season All, then lets it sit for a couple hours. When it’s done, it’s sooo juicy and tastes like it was cooked in butter :-9

  5. Haha! My grandpa taught me that finger trick to tell when a steak is done about 25 years ago! Good to see someone else uses it. It really does work!

  6. Mmmmm…we just had some fabulous T-bones yesterday and now I want more! We love Spade-L steak seasoning on them. We get it at the butcher counter at Smith’s. It’s fabulous and you can still enjoy all the flavors of the meat. Thanks, I’m going to go teach me hubby the “done-ness” trick right now!

  7. That touch doneness chart is so cool! Honestly, my husband is the grill master, but I make the steaks now since he always overcooks them haha. Maybe I should train him using your chart 🙂

  8. Yes, Thank You. Not flipping over and over and over again is very important. You need to leave it alone long enough to let the heat penetrate through to the middle and if you flip it over and over the middle will never cook right. This applies to more things than just steak. My husband’s Aunt made us french toast once and I wathced her flip each slice about ten times. We’ll just say it wasn’t the best french toast I’ve ever eaten.

  9. This is the world’s most timely post, I swear. My in-laws just slaughtered a cow and brought us half. As of yesterday my freezer is stocked with all manner of steaks. Yum!

  10. As a vegetarian, I am very happy too see this tutorial, I only wish you had posted it a little sooner to help with my Father’s Day grilling adventure!

  11. Your timing is perfect! My birthday is this coming Sunday and I have already purchased New York steaks for us to enjoy that day! Thanks so much! 🙂

  12. I am making my husband read this tonight. He always claims to be the “grill master, ” yet his steaks usually turn out burnt on the outside, raw on the inside. Thank you!!!

  13. Thanks for this post. The timing could not be more perfect. Just went shopping with the hubs and of course, he bought a couple of ribeyes. . .neither one of us has ever been able to make a steak as delicious and tender as a steakhouse could…now I’m armed with some steakums know-how!

  14. I cant even tell you how much I appreciate that. Ive got a gas grill still in the box from 2 years ago that I was given, that I havent even set up because I totally suck at grilling. Now Im motivated to unpack that sucker and give it a try!

  15. The only step that I do that is not in this tutorial is to leave the steak to sit for at least an hour after salting. This was part of the Alton Brown tutorial and it has something to do with the salt pulling the moisture out of the steak, but then as it sits longer and the salt dissolves in the steaks moisture, it then starts breaking down the muscle fibers and the moisture goes right back in, taking the salty/peppery goodness with it and tenderizing the steak.

    Ever since I’ve started doing that, I’ve never, ever eaten a bad steak again.

      1. First, Sara, I must say that if you didn’t know the first thing about cooking I’d still read your instructions, because you are such an excellent. Seasoned with just enough witty, amusing humor in all the right spots.

        But you do know the grill, as I followed your instructions precisely and my NY strips, which I just happened to have on hand, were superb. Way too salty, though, but once I scraped all the salt off it was fine. (I took you literally when you said use more than I’d imagine, so I poured it on till you couldn’t see the meat.) Next time I’ll read the links like leaving it out for an hour.

        I will be back many more times for your recipes and your great writing style.

  16. I follow all these steps pretty much! but when I was looking up how to cook a steak awhile ago it said not to add salt until the very end (something about the salt takes out some of the juices). I leave mine out for 45 minutes before cooking it too since it doesn’t reach the ‘danger zone’ until at least an hour. The number one thing I hate about cooking meat is how the outside seems to start burning well before the inside is cooked (especially with chicken breasts which already dry out pretty quickly) I usually end up finishing steaks in the day I’ll get a meat thermometer!

  17. Love this post!! I never knew how to cook a steak before or what to pick out at the supermarket, so this is great. I feel like I am a pro now 🙂

  18. I really needed this. I have never dared cook a steak. My hubby is the grill master at our house. I showed him your hand chart for telling how done the steak was. He thought it was awesome! He is quite the fan of OBB. His favorite is your key lime pie.

  19. Thanks, Sara! I love steak but don’t feel that I cook them that well. But all of your tips were really great, esp the trick with the hand. I love that. And I could drink A1, but that’s just me.

  20. I have always left the grilling to my husband…. even though I consider myself to be a pretty good in the kitchen, I am all over cook and burn on the grill. But now with these tips- I feel a bit more confident to try again. I especially love the thumb to figure trick to test for doneness… you better believe I will be using that one!
    I plan to feature this post and a picture on my Sunday 8/14 Links to Love post over at

  21. I went and bought some NY Strip the same day this tutorial posted (avoiding the end cut, of course)…and my family said it was the best steak they had ever had. Thank you for making me look like a grilling pro!

  22. I love this tutorial. One silly question. What do you press the steak with – your finger? I live in AZ and I can’t get the grill cool enough for med when it is 113 degrees outside. So high it is. I will move to side where I can turn off burners to finish cooking. thanks, kathy

    1. I didn’t see an answer to the question about touching the steaks for doneness…it only makes sense to me you’d have to use a finger but since the steaks should be hot I’m not sure how you test them.

      1. It’s just a general idea to help you visualize. You can just press it with tongs, or whatever you’re using to flip the steaks.

  23. Thanks so much for this post. I just bought steaks and wanted to fire up the grill tonight. I said to myself I have to find that hand trick of telling the doneness of the steak.

  24. I love flank steak and it’s what I prepare the most; I think I like the variety that different marinades can impart to the meat.

    BUT…I recently won some amazing olive oil and I asked Lael Hazan if she would give me a recipe from her hubs…you know to make sure I didn’t mess up a post using their oil.

    It was ribeye, just undercooked on the grill and then sliced and finished in a pan with a mixture of olive oil, garlic and parsley. That created a monster. I so could have finished every bite of two decent size steaks and told my guests the dog got to them they were so good. So…ribeye is my new best friend and your information is invaluable. Overcooking a great piece of meat is a sin1

  25. I discovered that I have been ruining good steaks for about 42 years now! I can’t wait to grill a steak without a big fork flipping that sucker all over the place. And I loved the “tip” about the line of gristle running down the strip steak! All this time I thought I was using the choicest steak and now I know the truth. I hope this truth will set me free from bad steaks for the rest of my grilling career. I just found this sight in “Country Living” and I’ve passed you along to my daughters and daughter-in-law and I know they are going to love this sight as much as I do! Thank you for making cooking fun and educational at the same time.

  26. fascinating. I had heard some of these tips before but not WHY. thanks for filling me in.

    We buy a quarter of a local grass-fed beef, so we get all kinds of steaks. I have a steak marinade that I rely on because grass-fed beef is not as soft (but we think it has way more flavor, and I’m referring to all the beef, not just the steaks in the marinade).

  27. Hubby and I grilled steaks last night for our anniversary dinner using your advice from this post. Thank you! Much better (and much cheaper!) than a restaurant. The steaks were so tender and juicy, and you were right about leaving the steak sauce off the plate.

  28. My husband and I are total carnivores! Thanks for the great helpful hints esp how to pick out the meat. One of my downfalls. This past year I’ve been grilling and I still find myself cutting into the meat to check doneness as we like it medium rare. Will have to do over and stop mangling it but checking my own palm heh.

  29. As someone who only ate chicken and seafood prior to meeting my husband I’ve never been very good at grilling red meat, especially steak. I’m so terrible at it I’ve been banned from the BBQ!! LOL. I can’t wait to try this out and surprise my hubby…

  30. After 16 years of being married to a man who grew up eating steak and potatoes almost every day, I came pretty close to cooking the perfect steak last night. Thank you so much for your fabulous post!! I just had it a little rare than we’d have liked, but it was still sooo good, not the black piece of leather that I often end up with. I thank you, my husband thanks you, and all my kids definitely thank you. 🙂

  31. Thanks for the great tips I plan on using you instructions this weekend. Just a couple of questions. How can you tell the difference between gristle and fat aside from asking the butcher if your are getting the end cut? The salt and pepper is what mainly use but its usually hit or miss can never get it right each time either too much or too little. How long before do you add the salt and pepper? Thanks again for this article. I will post once I try it out this weekend

    1. Charles, that’s a really great question! I *think* that the fat appears to be whiter while the gristle almost has almost transparent look to it- but you’re right- they look very much the same. You might have to ask a butcher that question! With salt and pepper, if you’re worried about the amount, definitely shoot for under seasoning, because you can always add more after it’s on your plate, but there’s not much you can do about an over seasoned steak. I season a few minutes before cook the steaks. You can do it early (some sources say that helps tenderize) or right before.

  32. I bought a ribeye and tried searing it, but wasn’t sure if I should keep the lid closed or open, so I left it open, but my steak didn’t seem to sear too good. It looked a little bloody still, even after 2 and a half minutes on each side. I put the lid down and let it finish, but I overcooked it a teeny bit. Hopefully next time I’ll do much better, but I think I did good for my very first steak on the grill! Thanks for the lesson!

  33. I am a beginner at the grill and I am wondering when you sear the steaks do you sear both sides for around 2 minutes each side or just do this on one side? Also once I am done searing the steak and turn it down to medium heat do I flip the steak or leave it on the side that was searing…I am confused? Seriously I am not very hands on when i comes to grilling ha.

  34. Oh my god, this is the best post I read about how to cook steak….my family absolultely love steak and its a hit and miss thing for me, especially on making it medium well, or well done…every one wants a different kind of doneness in my family, this really helps a lot…and i agree with the rib eye, thats our favorite cut of meat too.

  35. Both fun & fact to read. Looking forward to the weekend!

    (B.t.w., have you ever bought the big Tenderloin at Costco to customize your steaks?)

  36. I read the “How to Cook the Perfect Steak” now how do I cook the perfect Chicken? Ours never seem to turn out great. I throw a lot away after cooking and am forced to mac and cheese….I hate it! It is either spongy, raw or burnt? It doesn’t seem like a hard thing to do, but for us it is! Help!!

  37. Best ideas i’ve ever read on grilling steaks. Thank you, way to much!
    I’m on my way to Sam’s Club to buy some grilling steaks. Ribeye sounds good.

  38. I have mastered the oven steak but am a Novice to grilling it. I literally did every thing wrong haha. From forking it to death to flipping it to much and everything in between. A thermometer shall he by sidekick and i will come back with a vengeance thanks to you.

  39. I agree, a good steak only needs salt and pepper. Marinading or covering in BBQ sauce is just wrong…however when I was in Virginia for 2 years we had Porter House Steaks at a friend home on almost a weekly basis that he marinated the steak in a Worcestershire Sauce marinade and they were seriously some of the best steaks I have had to date. Also I agree on cuts, Rib Eye is probably my favorite since I can never find a true Porter House…but I will have to try it on the bone now. My opinion of Steak Houses is that I can grill my own better, they’re either not cooked enough or cooked too much when they bring it back or they’re though.

  40. Thank you so much for this tutorial! My hubby always does the grilling but he kind of just guessed at what he was doing, (sorry honey). He followed your instructions & the steaks were delish! 🙂

  41. Thank you for this tutorial! I don’t buy steak because I don’t know the correct way to grill them. Well that all changed last night!!! I seasoned two ribeyes a few days ago. Decided to go for it and grill them. While I was letting sit to bring them to room temperature I nervously surfed the Internet looking for easy instructions and I stumbled on this funny tutorial. I read it a couple of times to make sure I did everything right. I have to say the steaks turned out pretty good. My DH and I enjoyed them! So long story short you have helped me with my “steak grilling phobia”!! Lol!

  42. Thank you, Merci, Shukhran, Gracias, Dhanyabad …… if i knew any other ways to say this, I WOULD!!! you are the lifesaver of a steak lover.

  43. this was such a joy to read! Well done (pun intended) 🙂 that hand trick is genius and it works! I tried it for the first time tonight and i was so happy with my steak!! Thanks!

  44. Thanx my rib eye steak came out better than any restaurant. I used grill mates Montreal steak seasoning and rub it on as the grill was preheating. Seared it and grilled. Came out beautiful. ;D

  45. I just grilled my first ever steaks. They turned out great! I’m really glad I came across this article. Thank you!

  46. Im always looking for tips, thanks. You must not be from CA because Tri-Tip is everywhere and very reasonably priced, $4-$6 per pound. I usually cook 3-4 pound roasts. Thanks again for the advice.

  47. I can’t tell you how much your method has improved our grilling! I followed your instructions and the results were FANTASTIC!

    The same method even works on hamburgers/cheeseburgers.

    I just sent a link to this site to my daughter. Last weekend she was at the house and had the first steak where she didn’t want to or need to put A-1 sauce all over.

    Thank you!

  48. You forgot the first step in grilling: crack open a beer. Otherwise a good guide :). I like the finger test. I will try that next time.

  49. I was under the impression that the grill cover should never be closed when grilling a steak. Otherwise, you’d be *baking* and not just grilling. Is this what you’re asserting?

    1. Closing the grill allows heat to circulate. It is in fact similar to baking, which isn’t a bad thing here! You’re still using the direct heat of the hot grill, but allowing it to circulate all around for even cooking.

  50. Cooking rib eyes tonight. It’s been a while (too long) since I’ve done-up some nice expensive meat (and these were pricey!). Thank you for the refresher course (and new tips – never seen the finger trick before!)

  51. I got some great steaks as a gift from a friend who owns cattle. I hadn’t done anything with them for a while because I didn’t know how to grill them and didn’t want to ruin them. I found this tutorial and decided to tackle the job. I’ve used this method twice now. Thanks to you, I have made 5 star steakhouse worthy rib eye and t-bone steaks. They were cooked/seasoned perfectly and tasted amazing. My husband was swooning. Thank you, thank you for this awesome tutorial!!

  52. Every steak I cook some high dollar some a lower quality. I chose very wisely like 30 to 45 mins before I pick steaks out. When I get them home I use “Dales Reduced Sodium” steak marinade, McCormick Steak, plus black pepper. I put the meat on the flames on both sides then slow cook. Please help my steaks look and smell great but it’s tuff lots of $$ for the dog to enjoy….

  53. This is an excellent guide for those looking to grill a pretty decent steak. One suggestion would be to sear the steak to create that great crust, then cook in a high temp oven to finish it off. This is how the pros do it. You could also cook in the oven first, then finish off with a great sear. Both work very well.

  54. Thanks for the grilling tips, they were great! As many sites I have read about grilling steak, I have never seen anything about what to do when you finally get that juicy steak in your plate. Sounds weird right? Well, what I mean is I`ve seen people on the verge of starvation, and they will cut a gigantic piece of steak that barely fits in their mouth! Want to take a beautiful piece of meat and make it seem tough? Then do that. This has caused more than one “discussion” with my wife. I know it sounds kind of condescending telling a grown person how to cut their meat, but here goes: 1/2″x1″ on the bias will make even an inferior piece seem tender. Thats it!

  55. My husband and I have been planning to go on a date and treat ourselves with prime steaks. Although since most of the restaurants are still closed, we’d try our best to make our version. I’m glad you shared this; I’ll make sure to consider the thickness of the cut before buying. I’ll also keep in mind to choose a rib-eye steak with bones because according to you, this is more flavorful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.