Rick Browne — aka the doctor of barbecue — shares his must-read tips on grilling in our continuing series. (Don't miss his tips on turning out perfectly grilled burgers, grilled chicken, grilled corn and barbecued pork ribs.) Today, he helps you grill steak to that perfect desired doneness.
Any cut will do
Browne says that when it comes to steak, you can grill just about any cut, from filet mignon and strip to hanger and skirt steak. But his favorite is a juicy, flavorful bone-in ribeye. He says the bone gives the meat better flavor and transmits heat to the inside of the steak, which helps it cook evenly.
Minimalism at its best
If you buy high-quality meat, Browne recommends keeping the seasoning to some salt and pepper and letting the flavor of the beef shine through. "With beef, I'm not a huge marinating fan unless you are looking for a specific effect," he explains. "I know people who put huge amounts of rub or barbecue sauce, [but] serve the sauce on the side — don't cover up the meat. Otherwise, you might as well buy the cheapest cut you can."
Oil the steaks and the grill, and allow the grill to heat up before you put the meat on. Most steaks should be cooked briefly (about two minutes) on each side over direct heat to sear them; then move the meat to a cooler part of the grill and continue cooking, turning once.
The best doneness test
The best way to judge doneness is to use an instant-read thermometer, says Browne. Don't have one? Get one! Browne claims this tool is "invaluable, and takes the guesswork out of every barbecue outing." Many people keep an eye on the clock, but Browne warns against this. "Cooking by time can lead to raw or overcooked food and other sorts of culinary disasters — time is only a guideline," he says. "Steaks are cooked to medium rare at 145° internal temperature, medium at 160°, and well done (if you really must ruin a good steak) is ‘ready’ at 170°," Browne writes in "The Ultimate Guide to Grilling." (The USDA recommends a minimum of 145, as well). Whatever level of doneness you choose, allow the steaks to rest for a few minutes before slicing.