How to BBQ a great steak!

How to BBQ a great steak!

I often get asked about cooking a great steak on the barbeque.  How should it be prepared? How long should I cook it for?  How do I keep it juicy rather than turning it in to a piece of over-done leather?  Well here are my top tips for preparing and cooking a great steak on the barbeque this summer. 

Top tips

  1. Bring the steaks out of the fridge an hour before cooking to bring them up to room temperature.  If they are cooked straight from the fridge then can become tough.  Choose steaks that have a slight marbled-effect of fat running through them as these will be juicier than those will little to no fat.

  2. Make sure the barbeque is at the right temperature.  Steaks are best cooked at a fairly high heat - the coals need to be smouldering, but with no flames, and the meat should sizzle when it hits the grill. 

  3. If you are marinating your steaks, do so at least 3 hours before you want to cook them.  Leaving overnight is ideal.  If you are just seasoning the steaks so you can enjoy the more natural meaty flavour, do this just before you put them on the grill as the salt in the seasoning can draw moisture out of the steak if left on for too long, making it tough.  Brush one side lightly with olive oil, add seasoning and place that side face down towards the coals.  When ready to turn the steak, brush and season the upward-facing side and carefully turn the steak over.  This process helps to seal in the flavour and moisture.

  4. Turn the steaks using tongs rather than skewers or sharp implements.  This reduces the risk of piercing the steak and letting the juices out.  Try to turn it only once to prevent it drying out.

  5. After cooking, place the steak on a plate and loosely cover with foil.  Allow it to rest for 5 minutes.  This will allow the juices that head towards the centre of the steak during the cooking process to seep back to the edges. 

How long to cook steaks for

The other question I get asked a lot is how long to cook the steak for.   Everyone has their own preference as to how "well done" their steak is.  Below are typical timings based on my experience, but actual timings will depend on the thickness of the meat and the temperature of the barbeque.

 Thickness of steak Rare Medium Well Done
2cm 1 - 1.5 minutes each side 2 - 2.5 minutes each side 3 - 3.5 minutes each side
3cm 2 - 3 minutes each side 4 - 4.5 minutes each side 5 - 5.5 minutes each side

Leave the steaks to rest for 4 - 5 minutes before serving.

The other way to test steaks is to use a pair of tongs and press them on to the steak.  If it springs back and feels soft then it's likely to be rare.  Medium feels slightly firmer and still springy.  Well done steaks have no spring and feel firm to the touch.

The two-temperature cooking method

This is a very popular way to cook steaks and a great way to prevent the steak from drying out on the barbeque.  It's pretty straight forward.  Set up your barbeque so that you have one side with lots of really hot coals and one side with a medium heat from a few coals.  Start by placing the steaks on the really hot side to sear each side and seal in the juices.  Remember just to turn once, when the down-facing side turns gets some good grill lines on it.  Once both sides are sealed, place the steak on the medium heat and cook to the desired state.  Here the tong test above is probably the best way to check how well done your steaks are.  Remember to leave the steak to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Our favourite grills

The two grills most suited to cooking steaks are the Atago and the Fire BBQ Grill

They both have large round cooking surfaces and it's easy to create the two heat zones required for the two-temperature cooking method above.  They are easy to clean and very robust.   The Atago is better if you are on the move as it collapses in to an easily-transportable size and is lighter than the Fire BBQ Grill.  The latter is great if you are cooking in situ and required a solid and stylish grill and, being cast iron, it is easy to clean after use. 



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