Grilling the Perfect Steak

“How to cook the perfect steak!” Many recipes, books, manuals and online articles have been written on this topic   Still, I come across tough, over-cooked, leather-like pieces of meat, even in so-called Steak houses.
What are the secrets then? Well, I can put your mind at ease..It is not that difficult, if you follow a few of my easy steps….

Choose a good quality meat to begin with.

When you plan to grill some beef, the best choices are the most tender portions, such as porterhouse steaks and rib-eyes, as well as the t-bone and the rump steaks. The meat cut from the tenderloin, such as fillet , is the most tender, but it comes with a loaded price tag.

It is best if you buy your meat a few days before you plan to use it. Storing it in your fridge for a couple of days helps to age it and make it even more tender after its cooked.
The debate over grass-fed against grain-fed will be with us for many more years to come. Try both and see what works for you.

The perfect steak MUST have a layer of  fat. Fat is flavor and if the meat has some marbeling as well, it is even better. The fat melts into the meat while grilling, leaving you with super moist pieces of meat. If you are trying to cut down on fat, cut the fat off after grilling, if you have the will-power to do that!.
Your meat must NEVER be frozen, so before you buy, look for a bright red color and no bloody water in the punnet.
Ask your butcher to cut your meat so that it has an even thickness. This will ensure that the meat cooks evenly.

Method of cooking

You have basically 3 options here.
1.Grilling on the open fire – using charcoal or hard wood
2.Using a gas grill
3.Using your griddle pan on the stove.

I think each method has its place, depending where you are and how many steaks you have to cook. There is something to be said for grilling on an open fire. The smokiness it imparts to the meat, is very hard to beat. It is however a little more complicated to control the heat. It is best to start off with a very high heat to seal the meat and give it a good color. When you turn the meat, move it to a lower heat to cook it to your liking. So if the weather plays along and you have the space, light the fires and start grilling.

Using a gas grill on the other hand is ideal for grilling indoors or if you have to cook steaks for a crowd.Make sure your grill is clean. Last week’s chicken on your steak is not appetizing at all. In fact my children will call it “gross!”.Pre-heat the grill as hot as you can get it. This is important when using gas grills, as they don’t get as hot as a charcoal fire.Lightly oil the grill bars and start grilling.

For a quick weekday treat, nothing works as well as a griddle pan on your gas stove. I can have it sizzling hot in a couple of minutes and my griddle pan can easily handle 4-6 steaks at a time.

These times are only a guide is based on a steak that is about 2.5cm or 1″ thick. Thicker steaks will need a longer cooking time, and  thinner steaks less.
Rare: 1-2 minutes each side – rest for 6-8 minutes
Medium rare: 2-2.5 minutes each side – rest for 5 minutes
Medium: 3 minutes each side – rest for 4 minutes
Well done: 4.5 minutes each side – rest for 1 minute

To season or not?

 I think there are definitely two schools about this issue. My father in law swears by marinading their steaks ( I sometimes do too) and my Dad says, season afterwards. If your steak is prime quality, my advise is to stick to the rule “Less is more”. A simple seasoning of salt and pepper and you will have a winner. If however your meat is from an older animal and it is slightly tougher, by all means use this marinading  technique. Seasoning is a personal matter and you have to experiment with flavors you like. I have developed a dry rub recipe that is a huge favorite with my husband and the children.  Lately I have developed a taste for dry coriander and  a light sprinkling of ground dry coriander with the salt and pepper- it’s too delicious!! 

Do not touch that steak!

One of the most fatal mistakes when grilling steaks is to start fiddling with the meat  to see if it is done. Leave it alone. Know how thick your steak is and use the above cooking guide to see how long it takes to cook. Turn it once and then another quick turn on each side towards the end. If the steak is still stuck to the grill, it is telling you “I am not ready to be turned over!” Many good steaks are ruined at this crutial point. Be careful!

 If you follow these basic steps, you are on your way to becoming a pro at grilling the perfect steak. Experiment with different types of wood, rubs, marinades and even sauces if you like. Find your own personal taste and build on it. Happy grilling!

For some other delicious grilling recipes:

Pork Tenderloin with Coriander

Lamb riblets with Moroccan Spices

Grilled Organic Lamb Chops

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