It must be primal. There’s something about standing over a piece of meat that’s cooking over an open flame that brings out our basic instincts. I’ve seen it everywhere from cookouts in Milwaukee to asados in Argentina—grill masters rule. The best part? A little bit of know-how can make even the novice come off like an expert chef.
1. Plan ahead. Grilling is fast and furious, so get everything you need—tongs, gloves, a large fork, salt and pepper, your marinade, carving board, dishcloth—before you even think of putting the steak on the grill. Trust me you’ll end up overcooking the meat if you have to leave the grill to rummage around in the kitchen for oven mitts.
2. Give it a rest. Meat needs a little alone time—both before and after grilling. A half-hour before your cook, take the meat out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature. After it comes off the grill, put aluminum foil over it to hold in the heat and let it rest for half the time it took to cook it. If it took 10 minutes to grill a steak, let it rest for 5 minutes. Resting lowers the core temperature of the meat so when you carve it, the juices stay inside.
3. Heat it up. People often make the critical error of not getting the grill hot enough. That means the meat won’t get that gorgeous carmelization on the outside. The grill is ready when you’re barely able to hold your hand about an inch above it. When you put the meat on, cook it fully on one side, flip it just once and cook fully on the other side. This allows the middle of the meat to reach the proper temperature.
4. Season. Here’s where you get to play. Because grilling happens in a flash, the flavor of the meat often comes alive from a dry rub or a marinade. You can drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper like the Argentines do, or get a little fancy with a rub made from cumin, chili powder and garlic. Experiment to find combinations that work with your tastes. Just remember that marinades must be able to endure high temperatures. Sauces like pesto or chimichurri will burn on the grill, so add them after the meat has rested.
5. Embrace your inner grill master. As soon as the meat has rested, you’re going to want to serve it, so enlist your friends and family to help get everything else ready. Ask your girl to set the table. Have a mate take care of the music. Designate your neighbor to dress the salad. And then make an entrance. You know that buddy who shows up to the bar and suddenly everyone knows the party has officially started? You’re that guy. There’s a reason your apron says Kiss the Cook.
Ready to grill? Try my Grilled Chili-Rubbed Steaks with Summer Succotash.