Pick USDA Choice or Prime beef. These top 2 grades will have enough marbling (thin streaks of fat in the muscle) to give you a tender, juicy, flavorful steak.
Know your cuts and what you like. Filet mignon will be oh-so-tender, but not necessarily very flavorful. Rib-eyes have excellent flavor, but can be very rich. Strip steaks have good flavor, but are tougher. Sirloin is tasty, but lean and can get dry. T-bones and porterhouses offer a compromise by combining the strip and the filet.
Once you pick a cut, get a nice one. Go to a butcher and have them cut your steaks right off the primal. Get them at least an inch and a half thick. Look them over. You want a nice, red, compact steak with a minimum of excess fat.
Even good meat can use a little enhancement. Give the steaks a light coating of olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, and a dusting of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Stash these in the fridge for at least 3 hours, overnight is best.
Take the steaks out at least an hour before you start grilling. The cook is going to happen very fast, and you want them very close to room temp so you’re not fighting a cold center.
Grilling is nothing but inverted broiling, so you want your grill HOT. We’re talking a minimum of 600°F, but the hotter the better. A loaded kettle grill can reach 700°. Some of the infrared burners on the gassers go to 1200°. The Big Green Egg will hit 1500° with all the vents open. Once it’s hot, get the grate clean. You want nice sear marks, not a lot of sticking.
Do a final prep before putting the steaks on. Dust them again with a little more kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Shape them with your hand so that they are as tight, high, and compact as possible. You don’t want any loose bits to burn off.
Put the steaks on the grill using tongs or a spatula (no forks allowed). Put the steaks over the hottest part of the grill and close the lid. Give them 60 seconds of undisturbed searing. After a minute, flip them over. If they won’t come away from the grill easily. give them another 30 seconds. Once flipped, close the lid and give them another 60 seconds of undisturbed searing.
Now open the lip and leave it open for the rest of the cook. Flip them again – yes this violates most “perfect steak” rules. But flipping the steaks often minimizes flareup and maximizes the amount of steak that’s done the way you like it. Keep flipping the steaks once a minute until they are done.
When is it done? Press on the center of the steak or use an instant-read thermometer to determine doneness:
- Rare is 125°F, warm bright red center, feels soft like a sponge
- Medium-rare is 135°F, mostly pink with a hint of red center, yields easily to a little pressure
- Medium is 145°F, has a large pink center, yields only slightly
- Medium-well is 155°F internal, has a hint of pink, and feels firm
- Well is anything over 160°F, the meat is solid brown with no give
Most steaks are at their best at medium-rare, but will be tasty anywhere from rare to medium. Leaner steaks will start to suffer at medium-well. When in doubt, err on the side of under cooked. You can always put a steak back on the grill if it’s too rare but, you can’t uncook a well-done steak.
When they are done to your liking, put the steaks on a warm plate and cover them gently with another one, and let them rest. Meat is muscle and muscles contract when cooked. If you want tender steaks you need to allow time for the muscle to relax and the juices to redistribute. Let them sit for about 10 minutes before serving.