Nina’s Tips & Techniques Grill Master Series: Steak

I want my steaks to be like the ones you get at a steak house, but they always come off the grill sort of gray and rubbery. What’s the secret?
Heat. Heat is the secret. Generally, I find people wimp out on using enough heat when they cook, both inside and on the grill. But heat is what gives you that crusty, brown outer layer of goodness. Ok, let me back up…

The reason grilled meat tastes so good is based on three things:
1. Black lines – When food is black or burnt, it comes through as a bitter taste in our mouth. This is called “marking.” Small amounts of bitter, when paired with things that are sweet or savory, taste very pleasing.
2. Brown crust – The browning of a meat protein is called the Maillard reaction. Chemically it is different than caramelizing, because only a sugar can caramelize, but the flavor profile is the same. Think of it like this…the color brown is what you would describe as “roasted,” “earthy,” or “savory.”
3. Smoke – Plain and simple, the flavor of smoke is unique and totally delicious, but too much can be a bad thing.

Without heat you will never achieve both the brown crust and the black lines. The steak will cook through before you have a change to achieve proper color—which translates to proper flavor. Get your grill HOT HOT HOT. Turn it on 30 minutes before you cook, close the lid and let it rip. You’ll get great results with this one simple step.

Ok, my grill is HOT. Now do I just blast it on high when I cook the steaks?
Well, it depends what kind of steak you are cooking. A lean steak can be cooked quickly on high. Cuts like skirt steak, hangar steak, and flat iron, cook fairly quickly, so you’ve got a limited amount of time to get that color. These leaner cuts I cook on high the whole way through. Fattier cuts, like ribeye and strip, I mark on high and then turn the heat down (or move to a less hot area of the grill) so that the fat can render out into the meat. So, first you’re getting nice lines on the outside (marking) and then you’re letting all the fat melted into the meat, via slow-and-low (rendering). Fully rendered fat is another one of those steak-house qualities that comes only from good technique.

Bonus tip!

REST it before you cut it. Resting helps meat retain the juice. Cut too early and you spill it everywhere. Let it rest at least 10 minutes… you’ll be glad you did.

Recipe: Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Tomato-Corn Relish