Evaluating the Rules of Steak Grilling

We wait all year for Summer to come. Summer means warm weather, longer days, and spending time outdoors with family and friends. For many of us, that means grillin’! Heating up the grill either at the house or on the beach is a big a part of summer as getting a tan, and in the evenings the meal of choice is often steak. Just as predictable as the warm weather are all the foodies coming out and providing tips on how you can improve your grilling game. But we wanted to nip them all in the bud, and answer the most popular grilling myths and set you straight on what is fact and what is fiction when comes to you making the perfect steak for your family and guest.

Rule of Thumb: You Should Marinate a Steak Before Cooking

Ok, let’s start at the very beginning with steak preparation. This one is false. The myth goes that if you marinade your steak you help tenderize the meat. This is not accurate. We’re not saying a marinade can’t add some added flavor to your steak, particularly if you have developed a specific taste or the recipe calls for it, but it certainly not something that needs to be done regularly. Firstly, if you’re adding moisture to your steak you run the risk of making it too wet and then no matter what you do, you will have the effect of “boiling” your meat rather than grilling it, which will surely dry it out. You can get just as much flavor in the form of olive oil, chopped herbs, or other seasonings after cooking.

Rule of Thumb: You Should Not Season Your Steaks Until After Cooking

Not True: The concern is valid enough, fear of drying out the steak with the seasoning. However, salting the steak and having it sit at room temp (covered) for about an hour prior to cooking allows it to dry and creates the best surface for browning.

Important note: the previous step is not intended to be a ‘tenderizing’ method. If you prefer for your steaks to hit the grill at close to room temperature then let them sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours prior to cooking then proceed with the previous step. If you simply try to heat the steak on low, or let it sit for a half-hour prior to cooking this will not increase the internal temperature a significant amount and will run the risk of coming out with a really dry and chewy steak when finished.

Rule of Thumb: You Should Sear A Steak at A High Heat To Lock in the Juices

This is probably the rule that you’re going to get the most push back on. I for one, always used to abide by it. The theory goes that by searing the meat you create a pseudo “barrier” that helps lock in the juices and keeps the steak tender. However, the truth is that this is not really possible, juices still seep out. Slower perhaps? I’ll by that. What can be argued is that a sear at the end of cooking will have a result of being cooked more evenly, flavorful, and more juicy.

Rule of Thumb: Avoid Using a Fork to Turn Your Steak

This one is true. Continuously poking your steak will inevitably allow the juices to seep out, particularly on a grill. However, it should be noted that this is not a game changer unless you are constantly prodding the meat. Otherwise it may make a small difference, but not enough to ruin the effort. But c’mon, you’re inviting friends over and while the conversation is flowing, you’re going to take out a pitchfork to make ‘the turn’ with? Step you game up and invest in a good pair of tongs.

Rule of Thumb: You Should Only Flip the Steak Once

False: Not only is this one false but the truth is that flipping the steak multiple times while cooking actually helps it cook faster, makes it more difficult for the juices to seep out, and thus allows it to cook more evenly. This probably stems from the “locking in juices” theory.

Rule of Thumb: You should let your steak rest for 5-10 minutes after cooking.

This one is true and an important one. After a steak is cooked the fibers contract because of the increased heat and inner temperature. Subsequently, the juices move toward the center of the steak so better to let it rest as it hasn’t had the opportunity to be reabsorbed by the meat yet. With that in mind you should let your steaks rest 10 minutes for every pound.

Ok, now you’re armed with not only a solid playbook but some great talking points to woo your guest with they comment on how great the steaks came out. There is one caveat to following these steps however. It may ruin dinning out for steaks for you. I’ve found that now that my home court advantage is so big, ordering a steak when I go out often ends in disappointment unless I am familiar with the restaurant or steakhouse. Hopefully you’ll run into the same problem.

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