Back to Basics: Grilling Steak

A little background. When I began What’s 4 Dinner Solutions, it was a subscription menu service.  Because of the experiences of the people around me, I targeted it to families and specifically those who were intimidated by cooking. I wanted them to have easy, fool-proof recipes that kept them away from fast foods. It grew and grew and then as my life went in another direction, it kind of morphed into this blog.

I want to explore some cooking basics, just because I think everyone can use a refresher now and then. And also, while I was watching a cooking show the other night I realized I could use to improve some of my basic skills, too. I’ve gotten a little sloppy over the years.

Since it’s Memorial Day Weekend, I thought grilling would be a great place to start.

Photo by JeffreyW

It’s a pretty basic skill. There are some tips to grill the perfect steak every time. Cut isn’t as important as cooking technique. My favorites are sirloin, t-bone, rib eye, occasionally I’ll do a NY strip steak. JeffreyW has had some luck with flat iron steaks. I haven’t played with that one enough to have a good feel for it. Pick your favorite and let’s start grilling:

Step 1 – Always have meat at room temperature before grilling. This means taking it out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before grilling. Season it, cover it and set it on the counter.

Step 2– Seasoning. Start with the basics while you perfect your technique.  You’ll want to salt it, lightly if it’s a thinner steak, a little heavier for a thick steak.  Use pepper and garlic liberally, With these you are creating a crust that will grill up nicely on your steak. Later on you can move to coffee rubs or seasoned rubs.

Step 3 – Grilling. You’ll want a very hot flame to sear both sides of the steak. Here’s the trick, put the steak on and do not turn it until you can easily move it when you give it a push with a  utensil (usually about a minute or 2). Flip it and repeat. Then move it to a medium flame (or away from direct flame on a charcoal grill) and let grill. For rare your total grilling time is about 5 minutes a side, including searing. Use a meat thermometer until you get a feel for it. NEVER cut into it to test it, see step 4. Rare to medium-rare is going to give you the best grilling experience.

Step 4 – Rest.  Steak (and roasts, too) need to rest for 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute. This keeps your steak from losing all its juice when you cut into it.  If you cut into before that, you’ll be chewing a completely dried out piece of meat, no matter how rare.

That’s it. That is a perfect steak. I’ve heard some people put a pat of butter on it as it rests, I’ve never tried it, but watch enough cooking shows and you’ll see someone do it. Some people use steak sauce…I have no idea why. A good baked potato and salad are all I need with my steak.

Have a good holiday. And remember to thank a vet somewhere along the next three days.

3 thoughts on “Back to Basics: Grilling Steak

  1. While a meat thermometer is nominally best, I’ve come to rely on the finger test. While you can google and find it, I’ll share the calibration.

    Hold your hand out, palm up. See that big bulge of muscle at the base of the thumb? You’re going to press it with the forefinger of your other hand.

    Raw should feel about the same as when you press with the hand relaxed.
    Rare is lightly touching thumb to forefinger (the OK sign).
    Medium rare is middle finger to thumb.
    Medium is ring finger to thumb.
    Well done is thumb to pinkie.

    Notice that there is no direct comparison for medium well. You’re going to have to guesstimate if that’s your aim.

    For what it’s worth I actually prefer the finger test because the meat thermometer is another hole for juices to escape. That’s the reason for the word nominally in the opening sentence.


    • I think since I like it rare (and by rare, I mean RARE) I’ve always just eyeballed it. I’ve gotten good at timing it for everyone’s preference. I’ve never tried the finger test, but I’d give it a shot. I rarely use a meat thermometer on the grill…but for novices it might be essential for building confidence.


      • The other issue for novices is they’re afraid of burning themselves when they touch the hot meat.

        I got used to the finger test when i started using grills at different places. Not a problem if everyone’s using their own, but it is useful when you find yourself cooking at a picnic area or renting a trailer grill or, well, you get the idea.


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