During my time as a cook I spent a lot of time behind the grill cooking steaks and chicken breasts by the dozens. Cooking hundreds of steaks per week has trained me to know exactly how to cook the perfect steak no matter the thickness, temperature or cut to any temperature (As steak done-ness is often referred to). This guide is going to tell you how to master the grill and impress your guests! This guide will teach you how to grill any steak, any thickness to any temperature.
Don’t even bother with those complicated graphs and charts that plot the thickness relative to the heat time you by the minute. Not only are they focusing on the wrong measurements, but they set you up to believe that cooking anything, not just a steak, can be broken down into such simple reductions. The fact of the matter the time it takes to grill the perfect steak depends entirely on your ability to gauge the signs the steak gives to you as it cooks. Instead of having a rigid methodology towards steak cooking, you have to be dynamic and understand the different phases that beef goes through as it cooks.
How long to cook a steak depends on three major factors: Time, Sight, Touch. A steak’s temperature cannot be determined without utilizing all three factors together to paint the proper picture.
The Hot Spot
First things first. Know your hot spot and know it well. You want to cook steaks at the highest temperature you can get on the grill and that is knowing where the hottest spot on the grill lies. Every grill has one, and you can easily identify it by the discoloration it has over other spots on the grill, as the area is whiter than the rest. Knowing how long to grill a steak rests on these basics foundations. Conversely, know your “cool” side, where you have no fear of burning if left alone. If you’ve got a serious hot spot/cold spot formed, check out this site for the top reviewed grills.
Grill temperatures vary from grill to grill and that affects the time it takes to cook a steak. If you’ve mastered your own grill because you set it at a certain temperature and put it on a certain spot and leave it for a certain time, your method will fall to pieces the minute you attempt to cook a steak on a different grill. Don’t be rigid! In order to perfectly time it takes to grill a steak, you start with the Time factor. Because time is a constant, it is best used in conjunction with the other 2 factors
It’s a pretty simple concept. The longer an item sits over (or under, if broiling) a heat source, the more the item will be cooked. Know this and you’re half way there.
No Two Steaks Are Alike
Throw the thicker steak on first and give it a head start. Doesn’t matter how long, maybe a minute or two. The thicker the steak the longer it will take to cook.
Fun Fact: Professional cooks avoid utilizing the oven for very thick (Baseball cut steak) steaks because they tend to forget them! Thus, instead of using an oven, thicker steaks are cooked on the cooler side of the grill.
When you first slap the steak onto the grill you can tell just by looking at the sides how far the steak has cooked and the depth the cooking has reached. Just as the walls of the steak begin to go from red to brown/cooked, you want to turn the steak 45 degrees in order to gain the proper grill marks. This turn gets the same time.
You always turn the steak on the same side before you flip it over.
Once the steak has flipped over, you can tell by the escape of the blood through the top of the steak. Small drops indicate a steak that is medium rare. Do not keep turning the steak. A steak should be turned four times and that’s it. Any more and you lose your grill marks and you lose your orientation on which side is more cooked. Do not listen to those websites that tell you otherwise – they are not real cooks!
A steak with pools of blood forming on the top is a steak that is medium
The touch can be deceiving at first, due to the fact that the protein fibers within the steak tighten up when it is first put to flame. This means that the steak feels tight for the first quarter of cooking. Remember to always defer to the two other factors when determining how long to cook the steak.
It is very important to account for the resting period of a steak as it will continue to cook a bit after it is removed from the grill. This is called Carry-Over Cooking.
Using tongs, squeeze the steak on the sides. You will notice that a rare steak is soft and squishy and does not bounce back. A medium rare steak is one that has just a little resistance when squeezed and goes back slowly to original position.
A Medium steak is firm and when squeezed goes right back to original position quickly.
A Medium Well steak is firm and tough to squeeze.
And a well done steak is, well, we don’t care because that’s no way to eat a steak!
Resting Your Steak
It is very important to account for the resting period of a steak as it will continue to cook a bit after it is removed from the grill. This is called carry-over cooking. The amount of juices that leak onto the plate is also a good indicator of the temperature of a steak. A steak swimming in a lot of red juices tends to be rare-medium rare while a steak with little clear/brown liquid tends to be on the more medium side.
Resting your steak, however, is a vital step in the process. Always allow the steak to rest for a good five minutes before serving. This allows the proteins to relax, making a more tender steak and also helps greatly with proper plate presentation.
Combining the Three Factors
These three factors might not seem like a silver bullet for determining how long to cook a steak, because there is an element of finesse. Experience plays a factor for sure in knowing what signs to look for, approximate time frame for a steak, and the familiarity of what the steak feels like as it goes through all its phases. Becoming a master is not a secret fix that a simple google fix can uncover. Grilling is a skill that is developed over time. The difference that the Culinary Cook teaches is not to waste your time on erroneous methods such as timing minutes or measuring inches.
Think about it. If you’ve had the steak on for a good 8-10 minutes, the steak feels firm and there isn’t much moisture coming off it anymore, what temperature do you think the steak is at? Yes! Medium well to well done!
What about if you just threw it on 3 minutes ago but it still feels tight and there hasn’t been any liquid seeping through the top? Probably a blue rare steak!
What about a nice squishy steak with a fair amount of juice coming from each squeeze after about 5 minutes or so? Definitely a medium rare!
Learn how to do things right from the get go and you avoid wasting your time with easy solutions that just end up wasting your time.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed my content as much as I enjoyed making it.