How to Grill a Steak

A sizzling, succulent steak; just the thought of one makes your mouth water. But how hard it is to properly prepare the best beef? You can surely get a sublime grilled steak at a fancy steakhouse, but how many times have you been disappointed with the steaks at a friend or neighbor's backyard barbecue? Or worse, at your own?

You may have premium barbecue equipment, but you still need the second and third component to a perfect steak -- a quality cut and the knowledge of how to grill it to perfection.

Among the two basic kinds of steak, the preferred are the tender cuts such as the tenderloin, t-bone, porterhouse, ribeye, strip steak and filet mignon. Because they're so tender and have just the right amount of fat, they are perfect for the grill. The other category of less tender cuts would be chuck, round and rump. These are great seared and braised rather than grilled.

The most important rule about a perfectly grilled steak is to know when it is done. Some of the most promising steaks have been ruined because the cardinal rule was broken. To make first-rate steaks, you should know how to determine when a steak is done to taste.

You don't need any fancy equipment for this either, just your hands. Relax your body and push your index finger into the flesh between your thumb and index finger of the other hand. That spongy feel is how a rare-cooked steak should feel. To test for medium-rare, spread the fingers of one hand and push your other index finger into the same place, the feel will be firmer, the same as the medium-rare steak will feel. For a medium steak feel, form a fist and touch that spot, it will feel firm and bounce right back. Any tougher than that and a steak's doneness can get out of control and become dry and tough.

When you get ready to grill your steaks, it helps to be organized. Follow these five steps to prepare your steak to perfection.

*Make sure your grill is on level ground in a secure position at least a few feet away from your house. Have a fire extinguisher handy, and a spray bottle of clean water.

*If using coals, have enough in the grill and let them burn to an even grey, which may take a half hour or so. If using wood chips soak them in water beforehand and add them, drained, when the coals are ready.

*Place the steaks on the grill and broil them. After a minute, turn them at a ninety degree angle and flip to other side. This step gives the diamond-shaped grill marks that are so appealing. After another minute, turn them at a ninety degree angle again and flip to other side. A one- inch steak should take about ten minutes to finish, watch closely and test by touching them. Once they are seared with the grill marks, you can move them to a less intense heat to complete.

*Have a receptacle to place the finished steaks.

There you have it. You may not have a very hot (800 degree F) broiler, or the means to dry-age your steaks like the finest steakhouse restaurants, but you can make a great backyard barbecue by following these steps.