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Grilling the Perfect Steak

Spring has sprung my friends!

Today is more of a lesson in the fine art of grilling meat than it is a recipe, so no long lists of ingredients will haunt you this fine afternoon.

One of the most popular questions I get asked by friends, family and readers alike is “how do you tell when meat is cooked?” This is a loaded question. Everyone likes it differently and everyone you ask this humble question to will probably have thier own answer. Here’s mine:


The actual testing of doneness is crucial, yes, but there are other steps of equal important. Let’s take a look, shall we:

1. Always bring your meat up to room temperature before grilling, this ensures even cooking throughout. You wouldn’t jump in a steaming hot shower after running around naked in the cold would you? It might sting a little bit, unless you’re one of those crazy Norwegians…I hear they like doing that.

2. Always rub steaks with a little oil before grilling. This will help keep the meat moist and also prevents sticking.

3. Season with a little salt and pepper not more than 10 minutes before grilling. If you load up your meat with salt too early, it will begin to draw moisture out of the steak, not much, but some. You want to keep it all in there though.

4. Never use a fork to turn your steaks (or any meat for that matter**). Piercing your lovely steaks and other cuts with a fork allows all those delicious juices to run right out before you’ve even had a chance to taste them. Keep all your juices where they should be by using tongs. Tongs are your friends. In commercial kitchens across the nation, chefs battle over the best pairs and I can remember even hiding some to ensure I always got my favourite.

5. Prehat your grilling device thoroughly. This also help with even cooking. Whether it’s a charcoal or propane BBQ, an indoor grill, a hibachi, or whatever you can fandangle into searing your meat. Always preheat!

6. Learn the art of touching your meat to test for doneness. There are various ways in which one can gauge the doneness, such as comparing the spring back to the flesh between your thumb and index finger when you hold them together. All nonsense to me. A heavier person may have more fleshy bits there then say, Kate Moss. Poor Kate will never be able to tell when her steak has passed into inedible territory. So here is my best advice; learn what you like in a steak. Most people will tell you medium rare, thougha great many (*sob*) will tell you medium to well done.  Feel your steak by pressing down on the thickest part with your index finger when it is still raw. See how it gives, but does not spring back? That’s raw. A slight variation of the same feeling you would get after a scant minute or two on the flames, which will yield you a blue rare steak. For medium rare, your steak will begin to spring back to you, but not much. Remove immediately and let stand for 5 minutes or so before cutting in.

7. Here is a list of the definitions of each “doneness”:

  • Blue rare (aka. bloody, blood rare, or even just seared): only just seared on the outside, will be red and cool on the inside.
  • Rare: Outside will be cooked and gray-ish, inside will be red throughout and slightly warm.
  • Medium rare: Cooked and gray/brown on the outside, warm and red throughout.
  • Medium: Outside will be gray brown, inside will be slightly red, though mostly pink and hot.
  • Medium-well: Inside is now only slightly pink, and hot.
  • Well done (My Father’s choice): Meat will be gray and hot throughout

8. To achieve the ever sought after cross-hatch grill marks, place your steak on the grill at a 45 degree angle, a quarter of the way through cooking, turn 90 degrees and cook for another quarter of the total. Flip steak over, keeping it on a 45 degree angle and repeat. Et voila! Perfect grill marks every time.

** Duck and goose are the only things I can think of right now that you would pierce at all before cooking, but even then, you only pierce the skin and fat, never the flesh.

Since I can say that Spring is officially on it’s way, we celebrated this week with a side of (California) asparasgus. Yes, yes, boo hiss. I couldn’t resist! Top your steak off with a little herbed goat cheese and you have yourself a celebration!

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