With spring in full swing and summer just around the corner, it’s time to plan that cookout, get outside—and get to grilling! While many foods can ignite your tastebuds after simmering over fiery flames, few can hold a candle to a classic juicy grilled steak.
But for an apprehensive home cook or novice chef, the prospect of cooking steak on the grill may not only be confusing but also a little intimidating.
So, how do you grill steak perfectly—and get it right every time? To help us answer this question, we turned to two culinary experts with years of experience handling steaks of all varieties.
Chef Michael Senich, executive chef and VP of culinary development at LongHorn Steakhouse, has 30+ years of experience as a pro-chef.
Max Tucci is a culinary expert and author of the bestselling cookbook The Delmonico Way: Sublime Entertaining & Legendary Recipes From the Restaurant that Made New York! grew up in kitchens.
He is also the grandson of culinary legend Oscar Tucci, the owner and operator of iconic restaurant Delmonico’s for the better part of the 20th century.
(There’s even a cut of steak—the Delmonico steak—which is named after this fine-dining institution!) Read on to find out the absolute best way to grill a steak that’s on par with the work of expert grill masters—and for more cooking tips to help you make the most of any leftover steak you may have after hosting your epic BBQ, be sure to check out The Absolute Best Ways To Reheat Steak So It Doesn’t Dry Out.
The best steps for grill prep
“Start with a clean hot grill, plenty of seasoning on the steaks, and a little patience. Some people get too anxious or nervous when grilling,” says Chef Senich. Another critical prep step is to ensure you’re working with a quality cut of steak.
“The quality of the meat you choose is crucial to achieving a perfect grilled steak,” says Tucci. “Look for well-marbled cuts with a good fat content, such as bone-in ribeye or sirloin.”
Additionally, Tucci advises that you “make sure the steak is at room temperature before grilling.” “Don’t be afraid of adding plenty of seasoning to the steak,” notes Chef Senich. “Quite a bit will fall off and stick to the grill during the cooking process.”
When cooking your steak, you will want to be sure your grill is set to high heat. “Preheat your grill to high heat before placing your steak on the grates,” says Tucci. “This will help create a nice sear on the outside of the steak while still keeping it juicy and tender on the inside.”
Tucci also has a tip to help you know when your grill is hot enough for you to start busting out your cuts of beef.
“To test if the grill is hot enough, hold your hand about 5 inches above the grates and count to two,” he says. “If you have to pull your hand away, the grill is hot enough.” Though an effective practice, do proceed with caution to avoid getting burned.
Using a charcoal grill vs. propane
When you’re aiming to grill an absolutely perfect steak, which grill will yield the best results—a charcoal or propane grill? “Both propane and charcoal grills can be used to grill a delicious and perfectly cooked steak,” says Tucci, adding that the decision on the type of grill to use as a home cook really comes down to personal preference—a sentiment that Chef Senich shares.
“I have both at my home and use them very differently,” says Chef Senich. “If I’m in need of a quick grilled meal, I use the propane grill as it heats up fast and is easy to shut down when finished.
If I’m entertaining and the grilling is part of the show, I fire up the charcoal grill.” “If your grilling is about convenience, precision, and even cooking, a propane grill may be the way to go,” explains Tucci. “If you prefer smoky flavor, high heat, and a pronounced char, I recommend a charcoal grill. (For me, it’s the better choice).” Tucci notes that there are a few key differences between propane and charcoal grills, particularly in terms of how they may affect the outcome of your steak.
What’s the best temperature to grill steaks?
When it comes to the best temperature for grilling steak, Chef Senich claims that “550–650°F in the hot zone is ideal. You will achieve a great sear and beautiful grill marks,” he elaborates.
According to Tucci, there are a few key tenants of temperature control to follow while grilling a steak, based on insight gleaned from his father, restauranteur Mario Tucci, and a Delmonico’s grill master.
How to grill steak to the perfect temperature.
Whether you like your steak cooked rare, medium-rare, medium, or well-done, knowing the proper grilling technique will get you the perfect results every time. For a rare steak (120–130°F): “Preheat the grill to high heat,” says Tucci.
“Season the steak with salt and pepper, and brush it with oil to prevent sticking. Place the steak on the grill and sear it for 2–3 minutes per side, flipping it only once to develop a crust.
Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the steak.” For medium-rare (130–135°F): “Follow the same steps as for rare steak, but continue cooking the steak for an additional 1–2 minutes per side,” says Tucci.
“Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the steak.” For medium (135–145°F): “Season and sear the steak as for rare and medium-rare, but continue cooking the steak for an additional 2–3 minutes per side,” explains Tucci. “Use a meat thermometer…”.