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Preparing Steaks for the Grill

Get Your Steaks Ready Before You Grill Them

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Porterhouse steak
Jean-Claude Winkler/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Preparing Steaks for the Grill

Cooking steaks involves more than just taking the meat out of the fridge and slapping it on the grill. You could do that, but if you want to enjoy the perfect steak, you'll get better results if you understand a few basic guidelines for how to prep your steaks for the grill.

Also see: What is the Best Steak?

The first thing you're going to want to do is take the steak out of the fridge and let it sit out at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. At this point you can also pre-heat your grill, and trim any excess fat from the steaks. But don't trim it all off. Leave about ¼ inch of fat all the way around.

A Cold Steak is a Tough Steak

The reason we don't want to cook chilled steaks is simple. A cold steak will cool off the grill or pan or whatever. The key to a perfect steak is cooking it at a high temperature for a short amount of time. The colder the steak is when it hits the grill, the longer it will take to cook it. And the more time it spends over the heat, the tougher it gets.

So just remember that a cold steak equals a tough steak. By taking the meat out of the fridge for a few minutes beforehand, you help your grill stay nice and hot.

Some people recommend leaving the meat out at room temperature for as long as an hour. The problem here is that you start to approach the territory of food safety hazard. Also, you would ideally like the interior of the meat to be a bit cool when it hits the grill. This helps you to achieve that perfect medium rare steak. If you leave the steak out for too long, the whole steak gets warm (especially if your kitchen is hot and/or it's a hot day) and you give yourself less margin for error. It's better to undercook a steak than to overcook one.

Season Steaks with Salt and Pepper

When it comes to seasoning a steak, you don't have to get too complicated about it. There are all kinds of spice rubs and seasoning mixes out there, but a perfect steak really doesn't need much more than Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Kosher salt is the best kind of salt for seasoning a steak because its coarse crystals will really grab onto the meat. Season generously. When it comes to pepper, everyone's tastes are a little different. But even a little bit of freshly ground black pepper will spice up a steak and also give it a slight crunch. But please be sure to use freshly ground black pepper and not the powdery stuff that goes in pepper shakers.

Seasoning a steak is one of those topics someone could write a whole article about, and in fact I have. For a little more depth, check out this article on seasoning a steak.

Brush the Steaks with Melted Butter

Finally, it's common practice to brush some oil onto steaks right before grilling them. Doing so prevents the steaks from sticking to the grill and provides a bit of moisture. This is all well and good, but do you know what tastes even better than oil? Butter. So I always brush some melted butter onto my steaks before I grill them.

Clarified butter works best because it has a higher smoke point than whole butter, but if you don't have time, whole butter is fine. Alternately, use a combination of melted butter and oil. Just brush it lightly — the steak shouldn't be dripping with oil when it hits the grill, or it could start a grease fire.

Next: Grilling Steaks
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