What's your technique for grilling steak?
February 16, 2005 12:27 PM   Subscribe

steak grilling: what's your technique? [mi]
posted by beaverd to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: The recent thread about ordering steaks made me want to cook a couple up this week. I enjoy a good steak now and then and am interested to see how people cook them; hopefully we can compare notes, etc.

I don't have a grill, so I prefer to use a cast iron skillet. I keep mine well-seasoned, wiping it with a thin coat of oil after every use and frying bacon in it from time to time (not a big bacon fan, but the hog fat makes for tasty cookin'). While it's warming up to 500+F, I season my steaks. I like to use paprika, sea salt, fine and rough ground pepper, and finely ground rosemary. I massage the seasoning into the steak and once the skillet is ready, drop it in.

The cooking time is more art than science, I usually do 2-3 minutes per side depending on the steak. I put a lid on the skillet after the first minute or so, that seems to help reflect the heat and cook the middle of the steak more evenly. If I don't do that, I end up with well cooked sides and a rare middle. I have a meat thermometer for checking the temperature, but I've had enough practice that I can press the steak with my thumb and gauge how done it is. I take it off the skillet, let it sit for a few minutes, and then serve. This gives me a good steak most of the time, unless I screwed up the temperature on the skillet.

I don't have a bbq grill, just a range and oven, although I've been considering purchasing a nice grill. The Big Green Egg grills look good, a friend of mine has one and swears by it. Incidentally, those grills get super hot (~800F) and he doesn't season the steaks at all, he just throws them on, flips them once, and takes them off the grill. I have to say, cooking without salt/pepper/etc quickly shows you the quality and flavor of the meat you're grilling. I was wary at first but the steaks were really good, even without seasoning.

I'm interested to hear other people's grilling techniques, it doesn't matter what device you use (skillet, broiler, outdoor grill, etc). I would especially like to hear from broilers, since I've tried broiling several times and had poor results (over or under cooked food, and a smoke-filled kitchen one time). And does anyone sear with the skillet and then throw the skillet in the oven? I hear that's a good method too, but would love pointers. How do you avoid burning the steak? Thanks!
posted by beaverd at 12:32 PM on February 16, 2005

What to add; Teriyaki steaks, I soak mine 3 hours in the fridge before cooking.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:45 PM on February 16, 2005

I soak mine 3 hours teriyaki sauce in the fridge before cooking.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:49 PM on February 16, 2005

My husband is a fan of butter on steaks. Personally I like a seasoning I can find locally that's made for venison.
Also, seconding the cast iron. Nothing better!
posted by Kellydamnit at 12:51 PM on February 16, 2005

Sounds like you have a handle on it, beaverd. A couple of things I would suggest:
*Make sure your meat is at room temperature.
*Try searing it on one side for 2 min and then after flipping the steak put the cast iron skillet right in a hot oven to finish--this gives you dry heat surrounding it as opposed to some steaming that could occur if you put a lid on your skillet (have your oven fan on!).
*Try a dry rub. (I don't have my fave recipe handy but email me if you'd like it)
*Remember that meat continues to cook so particularly if you use the oven finish you want to take it out the moment it's almost done and let it rest.

Re: oven finishing. This is a great technique that I also use with poultry and fish. It allows you to control the cooking really well.

Re: Broiling. I've done this with success. It helps to have a cast iron broiling rack that is preheated.
posted by donovan at 12:52 PM on February 16, 2005

Your method is pretty close to mine. I use a cast iron skillet as well and get it as hot as it can get in the oven. Pull the skillet out of the oven and put your steak in to sear. Where we depart is that I turn the oven down to 350 when I remove my skillet. Flip your steak when its browned enough for you on side one and put it in the oven uncovered. There should be enough residual heat in the cast iron skillet to brown off the second side and then its a matter of bringing the core up to temperature. I use a cooking thermometer. Remember that a big hunk of meat continues to cook. Pull your steak out of the oven 4-5 degrees early, remove it from the pan and place it on a cutting board. Put a tent of aluminum foil over it while it rests. Don't close the steak in, or your crust will turn soft.
posted by jhritz at 12:53 PM on February 16, 2005 [2 favorites]

Start with the best steaks you can afford. Organic free range vegan hippie cows from your local Whole Foods. 1-inch thick NY strips are good. Porterhouse are nice but the tenderloin on one side and the strip on the other side are two different cuts that sometimes don't cook evenly.

Use charcoal if you have it. I use a Weber kettle grill and love it. Most gas grills don't get hot enough. Use real hardwood charcoal. I don't mean those briquettes made out of sawdust but the real stuff that looks like the aftermath of an orphanage fire.

Fill the grill with coals. More than you think you need. Light the grill with a chimney starter. Don't use lighter fluid. leave the cover off while the grill is heating up. At some point it should be a raging fire. Fire is good.

After about 20 minutes or so the fire will have died down and some of the coals will be glowing red. Unlike the sawdust bricks, real charcoal doesn't need to be 100% gray. Try to put your hand about an inch above the coals. If it's too hot to leave it there for more than a nanosecond then the coals are ready.

Meanwhile, you should have removed the steaks from the fridge at least 30 minutes before you plan to cook them. Take about a teaspoon of canola oil and rub it all over the steak, filling in all the little gaps in the grain. This will help with the browning and with forming a nice crust on the outside. Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. DO NOT PUT ANYTHING ELSE ON THEM. Steak should be steak flavored. Anyone who says otherwise should be grilled themselves. Let sit on the counter for 30 minutes. They'll cook better if they warm up to closer to room temperture and the short time they'll be out of the fridge won't harm them.

Slap those babies on the hottest part of the grill. Don't crowd the grill. Put the most attractive side down first so that side will be up when you plate them. Leave the cover off the grill.

As soon as you put them on the grill walk away and into the kitchen. Open the fridge. Take out a bottle of good beer and open it. Take a sip. Walk back out to the grill with the beer in hand. Walk slowly but not too slowly. Do not get distracted. Do not forget there is fire and meat waiting for you outside. Upon returning to the gril, place the beer on the nearest flat surface.

You will see flames and hear sizzling from the steak. Good. The side facing the coals should be good and brown and the meat should be ready to turn. Turn the meat over, and enjoy your beer for about two minutes.

Depending on the thickness of the steaks they might be done or they might need a couple of minutes.

Knowing when they're done is an art. If the steak is only 1/2 inch thick then they shoudl be done when they're brown on each side. Thicker steaks are harder to judge. Alton Brown might tell you to use a meat thermometer. Other people press down with their thumb and a certain "feel" tells them. Personally, I use my instincts and it's always worked for me. There is no way to give an exact time until doneness. When they're done, they're done.

If they're not done yet, put the cover on the grill, open the vents halfway and cook for another minute or two.
If anyone tells you they like thier steak well done you shoud kick them off your property.

After taking them off the grill let them sit on the plate for five minutes before serving.

Serve with corn on the cob, salad, and either Lemonade, good beer, red wine, a dry martini or a gin and tonic.
posted by bondcliff at 12:57 PM on February 16, 2005 [7 favorites]

I would add the salt after they are finished cooking not before. It can draw moisture out of the meat.
posted by caddis at 1:08 PM on February 16, 2005

I use a broiler, either electric or gas, and heat it to searing before I put the steak on. I put aluminum foil down for ease of cleaning.

Depending on how well marbled the steak is, I will put a little butter on it, or not. I use salt and pepper before broiling as well - it does 'draw the moisture' out of the surface meat, creating a thin, slighty salty crust. "Sealing in juices" is a myth, scientifically, but this is all about flavor.

I like to use an inch thick steak, as close to the heat as possible, and give it 4-5 minutes a side. When I flip it I put salt and pepper onto the other side.

It's hard to screw up a decent piece of meat, which is one reason I like to do this. Bondcliff's suggestions are perhaps a trifle dogmatic but they reflect the precision of a true enthusiast. I have found that a baked potato or a nice piece of fresh bread are good for soaking up juices, and some mushrooms slow-braised in sherry, butter and black pepper make a lovely accompaniment. If I'm feeling frisky I'll even slice an onion into rings and toss 'em onto the broiler next to the steak.

FYI, steak houses use a grill that gets to be up to 1500-1600 degrees. Apparently this can't be done in most homes.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:18 PM on February 16, 2005 [1 favorite]

I use one of these bad boys and it always does them up a treat.

I usually put my steaks in a big sealable freezer bag with some olive oil and fresh chopped rosemary (if I can get it, dried otherwise), some kosher salt and some pepper, rub that around then let it sit for a bit while the meat comes up to room temperature.
posted by Capn at 1:22 PM on February 16, 2005

I just want to add that in my opinion, the best accompaniment to a good stack is a stack of french fries (or pommes frites, if you prefer) cut skinny and fresh out of the fryer. And a little butter, maybe flavored with garlic.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:32 PM on February 16, 2005

(that first stack should be a steak)
posted by mr_roboto at 1:32 PM on February 16, 2005

one of my favorite ways is to cook them slow on my el cheapo outdoor gas grill on the second rack, with aluminum foil on the rack underneath them.

Before putting them on a grill i rub them with lemon pepper seasoning and good coarse salt, and i drop some lemon juice and some peices of garlic on them when i flip them.

I've got a friend that grills a mean steak in his toaster oven.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 1:41 PM on February 16, 2005

A few notes:

Never use olive oil (Sorry Capn). If you can, use refined avocado oil. It has a very high smoke point (about 500 F). If you can't find it, try refined peanut oil or refined sunflower oil. But you really don't need oil for a good steak.

Never use a meat thermometer. You don't want to pierce a steak until after it has been cooked and had time to rest. Instead, learn to gauge doneness by pushing down on the steak with a finger or the bottom of a fork. To learn how it feels, hold out one of your hands. Spread your first finger and thumb as far apart as they will go. Squeeze the skin between those fingers with the thumb and first finger of your other hand. This is what a well done steak feels like. Relax your hand and feel the same area with the other hand. This is a rare steak. In between these two is a medium steak.

Two minutes on each side in a cast iron skillet + finishing in the oven makes for a very good steak. Alton Brown has some good techniques for this.

Personally, I get the grill as hot as I can, season with salt, pepper, and garlic, throw on the steaks, flip after about 4 minutes (my grill isn't as hot as I would like), wait about 6 more minutes, then plate the steaks and let them rest. This is for 1 inch New York strips. They end up being just warm enough in the middle to make them no longer taste raw.
posted by bh at 1:45 PM on February 16, 2005

I'm old school... I take a few ribeye's (they're more expensive, but you must use them!) and toss them on a charcoal grill for ~10 minutes on each side on my tiny Weber grill and sprinkle them liberally with McCormick's Montreal Sterak Seasoning.

Twenty minutes later you have a few tasty, tender, somewhere between medium-rare and medium steaks that taste awesome!
posted by crankydoodle at 2:04 PM on February 16, 2005

Steak should be steak flavored. Anyone who says otherwise should be grilled themselves.

You're missing out on a lot, dude. ;)
posted by madman at 3:26 PM on February 16, 2005

Make sure your meat is at room temperature.

One of the best suggestions I saw from above. No use in trying to cook the steak evenly if you already have a temp gradient.

Here is my simple grilling method (although I haven't had a steak in four years, but yum they taste good):

**Stab the steak a few times on each side with a fork. Put it on a medium high grill. Wait until the blood starts to rise up the fork holes. Flip the steak. Wait until the blood starts rising on that side. Take off the grill, eat.**

Personally, I like to add pepper while/before grilling and salt while eating. Also, keep in mind that a broiler is basically an upside down BBQ, so you can get similar (but not same) results.
posted by jonah at 3:30 PM on February 16, 2005


"Twenty minutes" - never, you will turn your steak to shoe leather. High heat for short periods beats low heat for long periods with steak. (This assumes you like your steak rare or medium/rare. Anything more just turns it to shoe leather so why bother with fancy cuts of meat? If you like your steak well done, get the cheapest piece of meat you can find and cook it to death, or just eat your shoes, its easier and the same.)

"Stab the steak with a fork" - Ouch, that just lets the juices out. Do not do that.

If you like a good steak, just do what beaverd does, he/she really seems to do steak well.
posted by caddis at 5:32 PM on February 16, 2005

1 tbsp dijon
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- mix together in a ziploc bag with steak and let sit in fridge for at least a half hour, grill 4 mins on one side and 6 mins on the other on high.
There was also a good recipe on the Surreal Gourmet that was pretty much just water and cayenne pepper for a gaucho-style steak.
posted by phirleh at 5:51 PM on February 16, 2005

caddis: "...you will turn your steak to shoe leather."

I've *never* had a steak fall into the "leather" category doing this. It's always tender and juicy. Come on over and we'll cook some up! :)
posted by crankydoodle at 6:46 PM on February 16, 2005

Jeez, bondcliff, when's dinner? I gotta say beavard, this is pretty close to right on. The key is searing the outside of that baby on a flame to hold in the juices and a couple os minutes each side to where it's slightly charred but medium rare in the middle. For the non-purist, try Dales seasoning as a marinade. Good God......
posted by Pressed Rat at 6:54 PM on February 16, 2005

I cook a lot of venison and elk which don't have any fat marbling, so overcooking (or just cooking) turns them into an old boot. I've had problems with them sticking to really hot pans (which is what you need), so I hit them with a little spray oil (one that is just oil, not like Pam, which has lots of other stuff in it). I marinade with soy sauce and a tiny bit of corn starch, it tenderizes and prevents the meat from drying out if you go a bit too long. Just did a section of venison loin (prime rib without the bone) yesterday. It was only about the size of a beef tender loin, so I just slowly rolled it on a very hot cast iron pan to brown all sides, then popped it in the oven for a bit. My visitors from back east couldn't get enough.
Its important to have a heavy enough and large enough pan so that the pan temperature doesn't drop too much and so the meat isn't crowded. You don't want to see juice boiling around the steak, you can't brown while there is liquid present. I have a large collection (50-100) of antique cast iron pans that I pick up at yard sales and estate auctions. I love Griswold pans, but some of the off brands can be thicker. My favorite has dimples on the outside, but no brand name.
posted by 445supermag at 9:01 PM on February 16, 2005

I use the Big Green Egg (BGE) and love it, because you can go 'slow and low' for smoking or 'super blast furnace' for grilling. For grilled beef steaks, I have my butcher slice me some thick 1.25 inch steaks. Get a nice hot, 7-8 hundred degree fire going from natural lump charcoal. Meanwhile let the meat come to room temperature. Sear each side over the super hot fire 2-2.5 minutes per side. Then shut all vents and do each side again for about 3 minutes each. This is the BGE equivalent of a hot cast iron stovetop sear followed by dry-heat cooking in the oven.
posted by seajay at 9:48 PM on February 16, 2005

Never use olive oil (Sorry Capn).
Ah, but note that I am using a grill pan, not a frying pan, and very little olive oil. It is there for flavouring, and helping the fresh chopped rosemary oils get all over the surface of the steak, not for heat-transference, and I'm not afraid of a little smoke.
posted by Capn at 9:20 AM on February 17, 2005

One tip from me. I often cook my steaks in a big cast iron skillet. When I do that, I ONLY use kosher salt and freshly cracked black peppercorns. Lots and lots of pepper corns, you want them to fall off the steak and into the pan. After the steaks are done, pour a layer of vermouth into the pan and bring it to a boil. While it boils, scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat and add some whole milk. Drizzle that onto your steak. I believe it's called au poivre sauce, and it's mighty fine.
posted by vito90 at 10:55 AM on February 18, 2005

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