Though it might seem like nothing more than a distant fantasy, grilling season is right around the corner. Burgers and dogs are great for Memorial Day, but you can—and should—fire up the grill for so much more.
Dads, grads and just about everyone in between love steak, and we wanted to learn all that goes into grilling a perfect one. For that, we turned to grilling authority Scott Campbell, Executive Chef of NYC “steakeasy” Butcher & Banker. He offers a dozen different cuts on his menu and definitely knows more than a thing or two about the art of grilling meat, so follow his tips below and make this the season you become the grill master you’ve always wanted to be.
Choosing Your Steak
“The fat content of a steak is always going to be one of the most important characteristics. In a great piece of meat, the fat will be marbled throughout so it gives you an even distribution of fat content. You want your marbling to almost look like a spider web. The fat helps impart flavor to the steak and generally makes it more tender.
At the very least, you want your meat to be USDA Choice, but USDA Prime is the best option for dry-cooking like grilling. It’s held to a higher standard and it has the best fat content with marbling throughout. Look for that on the packaging or ask your local butcher. An easy way to test the quality is by pushing it with your finger. It should be soft and bounce back. You don’t want it to be firm, because then it means it’s too fibrous.
While most meats in stores will have a sell-by date, these can be misleading. Fresh meat has a bright red color. If it is a dull red or turning purple, it has been oxidized and is no longer fresh.”
Prepping Your Steak
“Make sure you thoroughly clean your grill from past uses. Clean it with a wire brush and then wipe it down. You want to make sure all of the carbon is off the grill so your meat doesn’t burn. Also, put a little olive oil on the grill before you put the steak on so it doesn’t stick.
When using a good cut of meat, all you need is olive oil, salt and pepper for seasoning. Make sure you season it right before it goes on the grill. If you add salt too early, the salt will start drawing out some of the steak’s moisture which will make it less tender.
For cheaper cuts of meat, you can marinate the steak for 2-8 hours and wipe off the marinade before placing it on the grill. It only takes about two hours for the steak to soak up the flavor. Leaving a steak to marinate overnight is not recommended as you’re breaking down the enzymes in the meat too much and you end up over-tenderizing it. Yes, too tender is a thing.”
Grilling Your Steak
“To get a good char on a medium or medium rare steak, I would recommend heating one half of the grill to high heat, and the other half of the grill to medium heat. Start by placing the meat on the hot side for about 2 minutes (or until it starts to char), and then move it over to the medium side for about 4 minutes. Flip your steak and repeat that on the other side. We’ve all had that situation where the outside is burnt and the inside is cold—this helps to avoid that by both cooking the inside of the steak and searing the outside.
Using a thermometer is probably the best bet. You want it between 135 and 140 degrees. It can be hard to tell the doneness unless you’ve been cooking steak for years so I always recommend using a thermometer. You also want to try and put the thermometer in only once, as close to the end—or what you think is the end—as possible, because you want to minimize the amount of juice leaving the steak.
After being removed from the grill, a steak should rest for about 8-10 minutes. Place the steak on a perforated pan while it rests so the drippings don’t pool up under the steak. The pool of juice can change the texture of the meat.”