Summer is the quintessential season for grilling steak. In these warmer months, steak aficionados across the globe unite in their quest to achieve the perfect grilled steak at home as they research not only how to grill steak, but also how long to grill steak, the best way to prepare it, and even how to season grilled steak. While there is no shortage of different opinions about how to grill the perfect steak, there are just as many – or perhaps more – ways to ruin a great steak, so we’ve put together this go-to guide to help you avoid the most common grilling mistakes.
Major Grill Mistake #1: You started grilling steak the wrong way.
It should come as no surprise that a false start can lead to a major fail when it comes to grilling steak. There are many ways to make this mistake, so we’ve put together a breakdown of the most common false starts you might make as you get started grilling your steak, and how to avoid them.
1. You used a grill with dirty grates.
This may seem like no big deal, but a grill with dirty grates will cause your steak to stick and cause you much difficulty when it is time to turn your steak. The best way to avoid this is to scrape your grate clean after every use, and to do a deeper clean at least once a year.
2. You used lighter fluid, or Match-Light coals, to start your charcoal grill.
Lighter fluid or Match-Light coals may seem like the easy start for any charcoal grill, but what you reap in time you will pay for in quality and length of flame. Using one of these quick starts to a flaming grill will create a fast, hot fire, but it will also cause your flame to burn out very quickly. Rather than resort to either of these options, use a chimney starter. Once the coals are well lit, simply use the chimney to pour and spread the coals into the grill.
3. You spread the coals too early.
They say patience is a virtue, and we have to agree when it comes to grilling steak. It may be tempting to distribute the lit coals when they appear red hot, but coals should never be spread until they are covered with gray ash. If you spread the coals too early, the flame will go out and you’ll be back at square one.
4. You failed to preheat the grill.
You may be thinking, “I need to get these steaks on the grill right now!” We hear you. But when you think about how long to grill steak, be sure to remember that you need to allow time to preheat the grill. Once your fire is lit, you should allow between five and ten minutes for the grill to pre-heat. The grill grates will need that long to reach the temperature required for a perfect steak, and if you throw your steaks on the grill too early, you’ll find yourself in a struggle to pry your grilled steak from the grates.
Major Grill Mistake #2: You failed to prepare.
There’s an old adage that applies to this grilling steak mistake…when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
1. You didn’t prepare for food safety.
Before you begin grilling steak, make sure to consider food safety and have appropriate equipment, grilling tools, sanitizer, adequate work surfaces and plates to keep different meats and foods separated as necessary. Hand-washing and soapy water are also requirements to ensure you don’t fall victim to this dangerous grilling mistake.
2. You didn’t let your steaks come to room temperature before searing.
Always allow your steaks to come to room temperature before placing them on the grill. If you place your steaks on the grill immediately after pulling them from the refrigerator, you will run the risk of developing a char on the outside of the steak while simultaneously ensuring your steak will remain a little rarer than desired. Instead, set your thawed steaks on the counter approximately 30 minutes before you put the steaks on the grill.
3. You didn’t use proper seasoning or marinade.
We’re all about that steak, too, but one of the easiest ways to ruin a good steak is to either over or under season it. Think about your whole meal, and choose an appropriate seasoning or marinade that will be complimentary. A great grilled steak is perfect grilled, with just the right amount of seasoning or marinade that will enhance the natural flavor of the beef to shine.
4. You didn’t make sure your charcoal grill had both direct and indirect heat zones.
In the heat of the moment, it can be tempting to toss your thick, juicy ribeye directly over the best-looking flame and go for the gold. Don’t do it! While there is a time and place for everything, remember that heat zones are the grill master’s best friend. Consider what you plan to grill and set up your grill heat zones accordingly.
5. You forgot to account for shrinkage.
As a rule of thumb, most beef, poultry and fish will shrink approximately 25% when cooked. Make sure to account for this when planning your meal so you can be sure to purchase and prepare plenty of meat for your guests.
Major Grill Mistake #3: You used your grill improperly.
There are many ways to make this mistake, but your go-to grill experts are here to deliver the cure!
1. You used the wrong amount of heat.
If you followed our previous advice, you should have divided your grilling surface into heat zones. The next step is to determine which heat zone is best for the item you are grilling and make sure you have a general idea of how long you need to cook it. Check out our handy grilling guide for the lowdown.
2. You failed to use vents properly.
While both charcoal and gas grills have vents, only charcoal vents are typically adjustable. To use your vents, you must first determine whether you need a hotter, faster fire, or a lower, slower flame. A more open vent will achieve the hotter, faster fire, while a more closed vent will produce the lower heat flame that will last longer.
3. You opened the lid too often.
You’ve heard the saying, “A watched pot never boils.” The same is true when it comes to grilling steak. Each time the grill lid is opened, heat will escape, which equates to longer grilling time. While it can be difficult to know exactly how long to grill steak, avoid making this common grilling mistake by using a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of your steak and keeping that lid closed unless absolutely necessary.
4. You grilled too many different things at once.
We’ve all been there. Every person wants something a little different, and while the adults are ready for perfectly grilled, juicy steak, the little people want nothing more than a hot dog or burger. A word to the wise: don’t attempt to cook too many things at once. Your attention will be split as you work to ensure a delicious outcome on all fronts, and it is only natural that one or more items will bear the brunt of your divided focus.
Major Grill Mistake #4: You didn’t respect your steak.
We know steak, and we know you know steak. But knowing how to grill steak doesn’t always mean we remember exactly what’s at stake, when it comes to grilling steak. In the heat of those final grilling moments, it can be easy to foul out.
1. You turned the steak too soon.
In the quest to achieve the perfect crust, it can be tempting to flip your steak a little on the early side. Don’t do it! Instead, wait until a nice crust has formed around the edges, then slowly attempt to lift. If the meat releases easily, it’s time to turn it over. If not, give it a little longer.
2. You moved your steak too much.
Once your steak has a nice sear, try to position it at the right place on your grill grate from the get go. This will help you avoid moving it around too much, which can cause uneven cooking and will make it difficult to reach optimum internal temperature for doneness.
3. You failed to temp your steak to see if it was done.
We’ve all seen the grill gurus and cooking show hosts who swear by the “poke test,” but we don’t recommend this method. Instead, invest in a good meat thermometer, check it against our grill guide and skip the guesswork.
4. You served your steak too soon.
Once you pull that mouthwatering, perfect steak off the grill, we know how tempting it is to serve it immediately. Don’t do it! Always allow your steak to rest before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the cut of steak, and it gives you a chance to put on the finishing touches. Sprinkle a little coarse sea salt or top with a smooth finishing butter for a plate that will truly impress.