How to grill the perfect steak
Summertime, and the grillin’ is easy. Especially when you know how to grill a steak to perfection. Barbecue expert and Traeger Grills brand ambassador Josh “Traeger” Dixon shares his tips on choosing, prepping and cooking the perfect steak.
Choosing your steak
Find a fresh cut of quality Aussie beef. For optimal flavour and texture, buy your steak the day you anticipate eating it. For the best cuts, buy your meat from your local butcher.
“Don’t shy away from those white flecks in the meat,” Dixon says. “This visible fat is called marbling. It dissolves when exposed to heat and leaves your steak extra moist and tender.”
Prepping your steak
Let your steak adjust to room temperature before you begin cooking. This will allow for more even cooking, and ensure your steak stays juicy all the way through. For additional flavour absorption, feel free to marinate or season your steaks the night before cooking.
“When seasoning, add as little or as much as you like,” Dixon says. “Just ensure you’re rubbing and massaging instead of sprinkling on top. Flavour won’t absorb this way.
“If you’re new to the grill and want the perfect flavour pairings, have a look at the rubs and sauces available from Traeger Grills. The Traeger Signature Rub combines basil, garlic and paprika. It’s guaranteed to step up the flavour of any meat. It pairs perfectly with prime rib and thick-cut steaks. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, try the Traeger Coffee Rub. This will bring notes of coffee, cocoa and black pepper to seriously wake up the senses!”
Grilling your steak
The time you spend grilling your steak all depends on personal preference – rare, medium-rare, well done, etc. But this relies heavily on the internal temperature of the meat.
“When cooking a steak, you’re doing two things,” Dixon says. “The first is searing the surface; the second is heating the inside temperature. You want to keep this cooler.
“The temperature you’re cooking at is crucial, as it sets off the Maillard reaction. This is a chemical reaction between sugars and amino acids when the meat sizzles at around 150°C. It creates hundreds of flavour compounds and aromas. Basically, the Maillard reaction is what browns the meat, initiates that delicious smell and makes your mouth water.”
Dixon’s favourite method of cooking is a smoke bath followed by a reverse sear.
“Set your grill to 100°C (use the super smoke function if your grill has this feature) and cook the meat until it reaches an internal temperature of 50°C,” he advises. “Remove and turn your grill up to 230°C, letting it heat for 10-15 minutes. Then sear both sides of the steak until its internal temperature is to your liking.” Here’s a guide:
Rare: 50 to 55°C internally, with a red centre
Medium-rare: 55 to 60°C internally, with some pink in the centre
Medium-well done: 60 to 70°C internally, with a light pink centre
Well-done: 70 to 75°C internally, with a primarily brown centre
It’s important to rest your meat after cooking, as heat draws the moisture away from the proteins. Resting steak will allow the moisture to redistribute. This leaves you with a tender, juicy piece of meat. So grab a warm plate and let your steak sit and reabsorb its juices.
“I recommend loosely wrapping the steak in foil to really trap in the flavour before plating up,” Dixon says. “As a guide, rest the steak for the same amount of time it took to cook it.”
What about vegetarians?
While plant-based meat might look the part, its cooking requirements do differ from real meat. Dixon says you should eat it while it’s hot. No resting is required for plant-based meat, as the texture often changes during the cooling process.
“Compared with beef, plant-based meats contain less protein,” Dixon says. “So they tend to stick to your grill when cooking. Try brushing with oil before placing on the hot plate.
“Take risks and experiment with marinades the same way you would meat. Branching out and trying new sauces is one way to elevate the experience of a vegie-only barbecue. And don’t forget your fruit! It’s always overlooked. Grilled peaches, pineapples and avocados make the best addition to salads and salsas during summer.”
You can find Traeger Grills at Barbeques Galore and Seabreeze Supply Co. For more on grilling steak, check out the science behind the perfect steak by Professor David Pethick from Murdoch University. You can also check out our tips on cooking with fire, a pit master’s pro advice on getting the most out of your backyard barbecue and some expert guidance on how you can raise your humble barbie to greatness.