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A grilled t-bone steak sitting on a white platter on top of green grass, with a collage of an orange and yellow starburst poking out from beneath the steak. Photo illustrations by Brittany Falussy

How to Nail Grilled Steak Every Time

From choosing the right cut to getting the perfect sear, here’s how to take the guesswork out of grilling

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A grilled steak is one of those foods that can eclipse perfection when done correctly, but I’ve never perfected it (even though I always have an emergency steak in the freezer for days when only red meat will do). Growing up, my father or brother would always take up the actual act of grilling, and I was left with the job that was harder to mess up: salting the meat beforehand.

We’ve all learned some grilling basics from our family or friends over the years, but there are some rules that only the pros know that really take a steak to the next level. I’ve teamed up with Weber Grills (which has launched their new Smart Gas Grills that offer step-by-step grilling assistance), and consulted an expert to help me. Thanks to them, I can now teach my family — and you — a thing or two about grilling a great steak, just in time for those summer barbecues.

A collage of a raw steak sitting on top of white salt with a pale blue background and an orange starburst poking out from behind the steak. Brittany Falussy

Step 1: Let Your Butcher Be Your Guide

At a butcher, you’ll find cuts from local, grass-fed cows that make less of an environmental impact and taste better than anything you could find at the grocery store. At The Meat Hook in Williamsburg, New York, all of their beef is grass-fed and sourced from farms in upstate New York and Pennsylvania. “What that means for us,” Greg Bardwell, the head butcher at The Meat Hook says, “the meat is going to have an intense grass flavor and it’s going to have a lot more minerality. It’s going to be, I hate to say the word, but beefier.”

Be prepared for a price difference: If the farm practices regenerative farming (a kind of farming that’s actually good for the planet), or they only have a certain amount of herd in their pasture so they’re not overcrowding, Bardwell says, “the meat is going to have a little bit of a cost to it.”

As for what cut you should ask for, that’s all about what you like and what your skill level is. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a top-of-the-line grill to work with, Bardwell usually recommends for his customers to pick up some kalbi or Korean short ribs, thinly sliced beef that will cook quickly — which leaves less room for you to mess up. But if you’re no longer a novice, or you have a grill that will do some of the heavy lifting for you — like the new Weber Genesis Smart Gas Grill, which will monitor the steak and give you an alert once it’s cooked just right a thick ribeye is best if you want to splurge. “Bone-in absolutely will add a lot of flavor,” he adds. “The thicker it is, the more opportunity you have for it to get a nice color without cooking through. You’ll be able to get that crust on the exterior with the interior being really nice and rare.” And if you’re on a budget, a flank steak or top sirloin will also do just fine.

Genesis EX-335 Smart Gas Grill

Whether it’s perfecting a grilling staple or trying a new recipe you’ve just discovered, Weber’s Genesis EX-335 Smart Gas Grill can help you confidently accomplish any grilling feat (without needing to closely watch the flames) with features like:

- Digital, real-time food temperatures and readiness countdowns on your phone and grill

- Step-by-step grilling assistance

- Alerts when your food reaches its desired doneness

- Create an intense, high heat on the cooking grate to quickly add sear marks with the Sear Zone

Find out more about the Weber Genesis EX-335 Smart Gas Grill and discover an endless world of grilling possibilities.

Step 2: Give Your Beef a Little Love

I was taught the old adage that all an excellent steak needs is some salt and pepper. There are, of course, more creative and flavorful ways to spice up your steak, but if you want to go the simple route, you need to do it right. To get the salt to permeate the meat and season all the way through, Bardwell recommends pulling the steak out of the fridge an hour ahead of time — something I’m guilty of forgetting to do.

“If you salt the steak just before grilling, all the salt will go to the grill,” he says. “So you need to salt it way, way ahead of time. Your steak will look like it’s sweating, but once you hit that on the grill, it will help with the crust.” And don’t put salt and pepper on at the same time — a common mistake. “Pepper bitters when it burns,” Bardwell adds. So salt your beef first, then add freshly cracked pepper once it’s cooked through and resting off to the side.

If you do want to add some serious flavor and tenderize a more affordable cut before it hits the grill, it’s time for a marinade. A great one is balanced with acid (Bardwell uses vinegar, pineapple or citrus), oil, salt and sugar. But the most important thing you should know about marinating is that you can overdo it, and once the meat crosses that threshold, there’s no going back. Even 20 minutes of marinating for a cut that’s less than an inch thick will impart a ton of flavor and tenderness, and you only need to marinate for a few hours for the toughest and thickest cuts. Any more than that and you could seriously mess with the texture of your steak.

A large black grill with metal counter space on both sides sits in a collage on top of a background of a pale blue sky with clouds. Two yellow starbursts are poking out of the collage, and there is an orange border.
The Weber Smart Gas Grill
Weber Grills / Brittany Falussy

Step 3: Get the Perfect Sear

If you’re a little wary of cooking a thick steak, you can always start out with a thin, quick-cooking cut and gain more confidence as the summer goes on. But thankfully, it’s 2021, which means there is technology out there to help you improve. You don’t have to be a grilling master to achieve the perfect sear. Weber’s new Smart Gas Grills will help you take the guesswork out of grilling, with real-time food temp and readiness countdowns, and even a high-heat Sear Zone to get those coveted grilling marks. You can put your thick ribeye on the grill, let the grill know you want it cooked to medium rare, and walk away — you’ll get an alert on your phone when it’s time to flip and once the steak is done. The accurate fuel levels, food and grill temperature, and the food readiness countdown will give you the peace of mind that everything’s under control, so you don’t have to stress about overcooking the star of the show.

Step 4: Rest, Eat, Repeat

We’ve all heard it before — you need to let the steak rest. And every time, we get inpatient and cut into it too early, leaving those flavorful juices wasted on the wood block. “You want to rest the entire cooking time,” Bardwell says. “So if you cook the steak for 15 minutes, you’re gonna want it to rest for 15 minutes.” This lets the juices redistribute and settle into the steak, helping it to hold onto all the flavor you’re looking for.

While it’s resting, you can make a sauce or finish up some sides. We all know the bright and herbaceous chimichurri, but even those steak sauces sitting in your fridge can be gussied up with some mushrooms or balsamic. And once it’s ready to cut, find the grain, or the lines that go up or down the steak, and cut against them. Meat is muscle after all, and cutting the fibers a little shorter will make it a bit easier to eat. Try a piece that’s on the grain versus against the grain to see what we mean.

We meat-eaters can all agree that sometimes, there’s nothing better than a perfectly cooked steak. So the next time you’re planning a dinner where steak is the star, remember to have patience and don’t skimp on the little things — they’re what will turn a good steak into a great one.

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