Hurrah! The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and it’s finally warm enough to officially declare it “grilling season.” I wait for this moment all winter. There’s nothing better than preparing a simple meal of protein and vegetables and tossing it all over glowing charcoal chunks. My family loves the way grilled food tastes, and I love the way it keeps my kitchen relatively clean. It’s a win-win.
Of course, the kitchen only stays clean if the meal is indeed simple, which isn’t that hard to achieve on the grill. For me, the simplest preparations seem to shine best when grilled. Butterflied chicken, seasoned with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of ground ancho chiles, pork chops that have been briefly soaking in a salt and maple syrup brine, or shrimp, tossed in a little fresh lemon juice and olive oil, are all frequently found sizzling away on the grill.
I find I eat red meat more often in the summer, probably because steak is one of our favorite things to cook outside. There’s something so satisfying about a perfectly grilled steak. In fact, it’s so satisfying that one thick slice is all I ever want. I usually cook a thick steak, then slice it and divide it among two or three other people alongside a big serving of grilled vegetables or salad. No one walks away hungry.
I know it feels good to plop a whole steak on everyone’s plate, but sharing it makes sense on several levels. The obvious plus is that it’s healthier to keep your portions small. Nearly as important, though, are the economic and gastronomic benefits. After all, if you don’t feel obligated to feed everyone their own steak, you save money, though I find I end up spending some of those savings when I upgrade the cut of meat I’m buying.
Ribeye is widely thought to be one of the best steaks to grill, but it’s definitely not the cheapest, so getting 3 pounds of it for a family of four is not only excessive, but also expensive. I buy one 1½-inch-thick steak, cook it to a perfect medium-rare and cut it into ½-inch slices. My favorite “sauce” is just a drizzle of good olive oil and squeeze of lemon juice.
Here are a few tips to ensure that your grilled steak is perfect every time:
Bring it to room temperature. It’s widely understood among restaurant chefs that letting meat come to room temperature before cooking helps it cook more evenly.
Salting is key. There are two philosophies when it comes to properly seasoning your steak: Season it early or season it at the last moment. I prefer the former. Salting a steak 30 to 60 minutes before cooking gives the steak a chance to absorb it, which helps the cells retain water, guaranteeing flavorful, juicy meat. But make sure to pat the meat dry with paper towels before grilling, as the salt causes juices to accumulate on the steak. A wet steak won’t brown well.
Use a thermometer. When it comes to doneness, don’t guess. Do yourself a favor and buy a good instant-read thermometer. You won’t regret it.
Let it rest. Always give your cooked steak at least 5 minutes, preferably 10, to rest before you cut into it. This lets the fibers relax and juices spread. I know it’s not easy, but patience is a virtue in the game of protein perfection.
Italian Grilled Steak
Note: The Italians have perfected the art of perfectly grilled steak. This one is seasoned with a bit a garlic and rosemary, but rest assured, it tastes terrific with just salt and pepper, too. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1 (1 1⁄2 in.-thick) ribeye steak (about 1 1/4 lb.)
• 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
• 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• Lemon wedges, for serving
Season steak with 1/4 teaspoon salt and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon oil, rosemary, garlic and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat a charcoal grill or set a gas grill to high; bank coals or turn off burner on one side. Brush the rosemary-garlic oil on both sides of the steak. Place on the hottest part of grill, flipping once, until browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Cook to desired doneness, another 4 to 6 minutes for medium-rare, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 125 degrees. If the outside starts to burn before the steak is fully cooked, move the meat to the cooler side of the grill until done.
Let steaks rest 5 to 10 minutes; cut into 1/2-inch slices against the grain. Drizzle the steak with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and serve with lemon wedges on the side.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 290 Carbohydrates 0 g Protein 34 g Fat 17 g Saturated fat 5 g Cholesterol 100 mg Sodium 340 mg
Total sugars 0 g
Dietary fiber 0 g
Exchanges per serving: 5 lean protein, 1 ½ fat.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @meredithdeeds.