How to Grill the Perfect Steak

By Stephen J. Silverberg
New York Elder Law Attorney

Annual Summer  BBQ Recipe

Buy the steak

Choose steaks best for grilling. Examples are flank steak, T-bone, tenderloin, and skirt steaks. With skirt steaks, always ask for an “outside” cut – it is larger, has more meat, and is more tender. Inside skirt steaks are thinner and tougher. They are primarily used for fajitas. The thickness of the steak will determine how long you need to grill the meat. Like rib-eyes or porterhouses, Thicker steaks will take longer to cook than thinner/leaner steaks, like skirt steak, which benefits from a marinade and a quick cook time on the grill.

Prep the steak

Bring your steak to room temperature at least 30 minutes before grilling—a cold steak won’t cook evenly. You can marinate the steaks but don’t go over two to three hours. Marinades contain acids that break down the meat and leave the steak mushy.

Whether you use a marinade, pat the steak very dry with a paper towel and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides. A wet steak will not caramelize properly, and if there is sugar in the marinade, it will burn.

Grill the steak

Fire up your grill and make sure it’s nice and hot! Whether using a charcoal grill or a gas grill, you’ll want to preheat your grill before adding the steaks. Set up two zones in your grill; the heat should be intense on one side. You should not be able to hold your hand over it for more than five seconds. On the other side of the grill, the heat should be lower but still hot. Sear the steaks for two to three minutes each on both sides, depending on the thickness of the meat. This will produce a nice, charred crust.

Move the steaks to the cooler side and flip them every minute or two. A quality digital thermometer is critical to prevent overcooked meat. I prefer the digital thermometers from Thermopen. They are professional quality and give quick, accurate readings in seconds. They may cost a little more, but it has countless applications in the kitchen.

Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the steak (avoiding the bone or fat) and follow the temperature guide below. How long you grill the steak will depend on your desired doneness. But remember, the meat temperature will continue to rise after being removed from the grill, so you’ll want to remove the steak when it reaches about 5˚ lower than the temperatures below, as the residual heat will continue cooking the steak after it you take off the grill.

Grilled Steak Temperatures

  1. Rare: 125 to 130˚ (very red/pink)
  2. Medium Rare: 130 to 135˚ (pink)
  3. Medium: 135 to 145˚ (slightly pink)
  4. Medium-Well: 145 to 150˚ (mostly brown)
  5. Well-Done: 155˚ or higher (all brown

The two most important things to remember are never cutting into the steak while cooking (trust your thermometer) and giving your meat a chance to rest once it comes off the grill. Otherwise, the juices from the meat will dry up, leaving you with shoe leather. The juices accumulate in the meat while cooking. Letting the steak rest for about 5 minutes will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the steak. You can loosely cover the steak with foil, then let it sit for 5 minutes.


About the Author
Stephen J. Silverberg is nationally recognized as a leader in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, asset preservation planning, and elder law. He is a past president of the prestigious National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), and a founding member and past president of the New York State chapter of NAELA.