Seven Myths About Grilling A Steak

Cooking instructor and author of Planet BarbecueSteven Raichlen knows a thing or two about grilling a steak, and today he's debunking a few grilling myths that'll help make your weekend barbecue that much better.

The perfect steak is one of the "high holies" of the grill. So let's dispel some common myths to help you nail the perfect steak every time.

Photo by FotoosVanRobin.

Myth 1:

A steak is a steak is a steak.

Fact:

Not all steaks are created equal and each requires its own special way of grilling. Thin ones, like skirt and flank steaks, should be grilled quickly over a hot fire. Thick steaks, like a porterhouse or T-bone, require a two zone fire - the hot zone for searing, the medium hot zone for cooking the meat through. Tough, fibrous steaks, like flank steaks, should be scored on the top and bottom to tenderise them and thinly sliced across the grain when served. Lean steaks, like filet mignon, require added fat, either in the form of an oil-based marinade or a wrapping of pancetta or bacon.

Myth 2:

You should bring a steak to room temperature before grilling.

Fact:

Leaving meat out at room temperature is a formula for disaster and there isn't a respectable steak house in the world that does it. Steaks (indeed, any meat) should be kept ice-cold - and bacteria free - until the moment they go on the grill. (When you're working over a 300C to 400C fire, it takes mere seconds to take the chill off the meat.)

Myth 3:

Salt toughens steak. Don't apply it before grilling.

Fact:

A generous sprinkling of salt (kosher or coarse sea salt) and cracked black peppercorns applied just prior to grilling gives you the savoury crust and robust flavour characteristic of the best steak house steaks. Grill masters from Florence to Florianópolis back me up on this. Season steaks right before they go on the grill. Just don't season them hours ahead or the salt will draw out the meat juices and make the steaks soggy.

Myth 4:

A barbecue fork is the proper tool for turning a steak.

Fact:

Stabbing a steak with a fork serves only to puncture the meat and drain out the juices. Turn your steaks with tongs.

Myth 5:

Turn the steaks often while grilling.

Fact:

If you watch really top steak masters from around the world, you'll notice they turn a steak only once. Why? This produces a better crust.

Myth 6:

The best way to check a steak for doneness is to cut into it with a knife.

Fact:

Again, cutting the meat releases the juices. The best way to check for doneness is to poke a steak with your finger. A rare steak is soft and squishy; a medium rare steak is yielding; medium is gently yielding; medium-well is firm; and well-done is hard and springy.

Myth 7:

Steak tastes best sizzling hot off the grill.

Fact:

Like most grilled meats, a steak hot off the grill will taste leathery and dry. You need to let it rest for a few minutes on a warm plate before serving. This allows the meat to "relax", making for a juicier, more tender steak.

Finally, for flavour, sheen and succulence, don't forget to drizzle a little extra-virgin olive oil, melted butter or beef fat over your perfectly grilled steak before serving. Think of it as the varnish on your masterpiece.


Comments

    Re Myth 5: Better crust isn't the only reason. If you turn the steak more than once, you effectively re-cook the meat before the heat penetrates to continue cooking the inside.

      But even without turning it, the already cooked meat is still receiving heat and being "recooked" - I vaguely see what you're getting at, but I'm not so sure that's right :)

      Great article, this is why I subscribe to lifehacker

    Don't know if its true but its worked for me, but I was told that to cook you steak medium rare, the firmness of the meat should be the same as the webbing between your thumb and index finger.

      I'd learnt that with placing the thumb touching various fingers, you could use the pad at the base of your thumb as a guide.

      Thumb to index - Rare
      Thumb to middle - Medium Rare
      thumb to ring - Medium
      Thumb to pinky - Well Done
      Wave thumb at steak - Blue

    #5 is not a myth. I flip my steaks every 20 seconds it works. I learnt it from Heston Blumenthal:
    http://www.perthnow.com.au/entertainment/to-flip-or-not-heston-blumenthals-tips-on-cooking-the-perfect-steak/story-fnhocr83-1226781871800
    http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/heston-blumenthals-perfect-steak

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