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7 tips on How to cook a perfect steak

Written by the YesChef staff

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Nancy Silverton
Teaches The Pursuit of Delicious
A perfectly grilled steak has a crispy caramelized crust and a tender yet juicy center. Here are our best tips for grilling steak on the BBQ.
Chef Nancy Silverton
Teaches The Pursuit of Delicious

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All meat should be cooked at room temperature, according to chef Ryan DeNicola, the Executive Chef at Nancy Silverton’s Chi Spacca restaurant. If a steak is too cold, it will cook unevenly and can result in a grey piece of overcooked meat. When following any steak recipe, it’s important to plan ahead and take the meat out of the fridge prior to grilling. Depending on the size and weight, the steak will need at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour to reach room temperature.   If you are grilling a frozen steak, remove it from the freezer the night before, and defrost it in the fridge overnight.

Season ahead of time

The seasoning for grilled steak should be simple. First, coat the steak with a neutral-flavored oil that has a high smoke point, such as grapeseed oil. Then, season the entire surface of the steak with an abundance of salt. Just as chef Edward Lee notes, generously salting the steak is the difference between a restaurant steak and a home-cooked steak.    Not only does salt enhance steak’s meaty flavors, but it tenderizes the meat and helps create a caramelized outer crust. Seasoning steak is best done ahead of time while it’s reaching room temperature. Once seasoned, small beads of moisture will form on the surface of the steak, and the salt will dissolve into the meat. This tenderizes the muscle fibers and the results are spectacular: tasty and tender meat every time.

Direct and indirect heating zones

Whether you use a gas, charcoal, or wood-fired grill, it’s crucial to set it up with direct and indirect heat, aka hot and cold zones. Direct heat means to cook the meat over high heat, whereas indirect heat refers to slowly cooking the meat next to the heat source. Direct high heat is what creates that beautiful crisp, charred exterior, and then indirect heat finishes the interior at a slower speed without burning the outside.    Keep in mind that thinner steaks might only need direct high heat as the grilling steak temperature will increase to the desired doneness much faster than a thicker steak.   We always prefer using fire, which gives the steak added flavor, but if you are cooking steak in a pan, make sure to use a heavy bottom pan, like a cast iron, and preheat it for a few minutes. Once it hits a high temperature, it’s ready to cook the steak. 

Flip, move and turn

Contrary to popular belief, you will actually achieve a more even steak sear if you move it around the grill. If the steak is left to cook on one side for too long, that side can cook too quickly. Steaks should sizzle immediately when they touch the grill and then easily release on their own. If you’re pulling or struggling with the meat, the steak is not ready to move.

 

Another pro tip from chef Nancy Silverton is to use the fire on a grill like the knobs on a stove. Just as you would turn the flame down on the oven, move the steak to a cooler spot on the grill once they develop that sought-after char. Pay attention to how your steak is reacting to the heat and flip, move and turn based on what feels right. 

 

Looking to achieve those fancy quintessential crosshatch grill marks?  After you sear the steak for two minutes, lift and turn the steak 45 degrees. If you don’t have an outdoor grill, but you’re still looking for that grill mark effect, cooking steak in cast iron grill pans also creates that same crispy exterior and tender buttery bite.

Use an instant-read thermometer

A meat thermometer is your best friend when grilling meat. Unless you’re feeling adventurous and want to gauge the doneness of meat by touch, use a meat thermometer for the most accurate results. It’s best to pull the steak off the grill a few degrees before the desired temperature, as the internal temperature will continue to rise while resting.  The grilling steak temperature and cooking time will depend on the type of meat, cut, and size. If you like grilling steak to medium rare for example, check out our cooking steak chart and find out how to execute your preferred doneness temperature.

Rest the meat

This is one of the most important tips of all so do not skip this step! When steak cooks, the muscle fibers tighten. If you cut into those tight muscle fibers as soon as it’s off the heat, all the juices pour out. That’s why resting meat for 5-10 minutes is the secret for preparing a juicy and tender steak. This resting time allows the muscles to relax and release their juices evenly into the meat. To keep the steak warm while resting, loosely cover it with aluminum foil.

Slice against the grain

Once your steak rests, it is ready to be cut and served. The thickness of your pieces depends on personal preference and the type of cuts you select. Steak should always be sliced against the grain, perpendicular, with a sharp chef’s knife. This creates a tender, pleasant chew.

Nancy Silverton

Multiple James Beard Award-winning chef, best-selling cookbook author, and the restaurateur behind Michelin-starred Mozza, a Los Angeles gastronomic institution. One of America’s most influential chefs, Nancy is celebrated for her unwavering pursuit of making the most delicious food possible.

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