The title of ‘Grill Master’ is one for which people water at the mouth. A sense of almost-ancient wisdom and competence surrounds one equipped with tongs and grill. Grill Masters know how to paint with seasonings and sculpt with meat. The patio or deck is their studio, and barbeque is their art. Yet, every artist must always produce that one masterpiece that defines them and for the Grill Master, that masterwork is steak. Cooking the perfect steak is the trademark skill for those with tongs and tenderloins. While it may take 10,000 hours to master such a skill, here are some tips and suggestions for preparing the canvas of your masterpiece.
Breaking the Ice (Prepare Your Steak)
We’re going to assume that you’ve bought your prime piece of premiere beef and brought it home already. The first thing we’re going to do is get your steak to room temperature. The steak needs to be at room temperature all the way through before you grill it. If the steak at its center is still a cold slab of unhappy meat then you’ll be forced to overcook it to reach its icy center.
‘Tis the Season to Season Your Steak (Season Your Steak)
The second step to preparing your steak is seasoning. Now we’re not usually a detractor of marinating, secret marinade recipes carry their own mystique, but really the meat should speak for itself. Marinades adeptly mask the shortcomings of lesser quality meat. Yet you don’t paint masterpieces with crayons on scratch paper and we want to cook the perfect steak. If your meat is high quality then let the steak be its own canvas. Skip the marinade. When it comes to seasonings, we’re practitioners of the school of minimalism: kosher salt and black pepper. Use large and coarse grains for both and rub and press them into your steaks just before you put them on the grill.
Fire Up the Grill
The secret to grilling the perfect steak lies in the art of searing. We want to cook the meat as fast as possible without burning it. This means we have to make the grill hot, hot, hot! Whether you use charcoal or gas, be sure to get your grill cranked up as hot as you can functionally cook it to get the best sear. Be careful not to overuse lighter fluid or have the gas too high as we don’t want to soak our steak in petroleum products and adversely affect the taste.
The Art of Searing
The method behind the magic of searing is to trap all of the steak’s juices inside of the meat as it cooks. When the proteins in the meat become hot they will contract and the juice will be wrung out of them like a wet sponge. We want to keep all that delicious juice inside of the steak so that, later, we can savor it. As mentioned before, you want to cook the outside of the meat as fast as you can, without burning it, so you can trap the juices within. This process is pivotal so that you don’t wind up eating humble pie instead of juicy steak for dinner. One useful tip is to use the steak’s own fat to help accelerate the searing process, use the fat and help spread it over your steak. This will help you reduce charring and sear your steak perfectly.
Steak Zen (Cook Even and Consistent)
Part of your 10,000 hours of grilling mastery will inevitably be spent experimenting on grills. Each grill is unique and has its own fingerprint of hot spots and quirks for you to discover. For a perfect steak, you have to it cooked evenly and consistently; find that Zen-like balance of quickly searing it while still finishing the entire steak. Steaks should be rotated, flipped, and cooked completely at a balanced, regular pace. Know how hot your grill cooks and move your steak in the patterned movement to make sure all parts of your steak finish at the same time.
Seasoning: the Sequel (Add More Seasonings)
For a true master, adding seasonings during the brief window of opportunity while the steak cooks can separate a good steak from a master steak. Everyone may have their secret ingredients, but some recommended choices are garlic and thyme. Rubbing your cooking steak with some crushed garlic or garnishing it with thyme can really unlock and complement the beef’s own flavors. Finally, adding butter to your steak can help to bake it on the inside quicker, improving taste and the sear.
Checking Your Finish
The simplest and most accurate way to check if your steak is done is by using a meat thermometer. The range of temperatures can be anywhere from 125°F-145°F, the ideal temperature can cause fierce debate so we leave it to your own judgment as to how rare you like your steak. However, if you prefer a more hands-on approach to check if your steak is done you can use your finger or a spatula to press down on the steak and determine how tough it is. The tougher the steak, the more well-done it is.
The last step is to let your steak rest. When you’ve determined your steak is to your liking in terms of finish, you remove it from the flame and let it rest on a plate that will gather the juices sieved out of the meat. The juices released are due to the proteins being wrung out as mentioned above, so let them pool around your steak. As the steak cooks, it will re-absorb most of those juices with the promise of an amazing juicy and tender meal. You only need to let the steak rest five to ten minutes covered before it’s ready to be devoured. Mastering any skill requires practice honed with knowledge. Cooking the perfect steak is no different.