Really fine steak needs nothing more than a sprinkling of salt and pepper before it's grilled. Less expensive cuts benefit from marinating.
Either way, steak grilled to charred perfection on the outside and juicy pink on the inside is a summertime treat.
1. Choose the Best Steak for Grilling
There is no right or wrong cut of steak to grill, but the higher the quality, the less fuss. Sirloin, club, T-bone, and porterhouse steaks all qualify as high-quality steaks.
Flank steak, which is sometimes labeled London broil, is a less expensive cut that takes nicely to marinating. Top round, another less expensive cut, is also sometimes called London broil.
2. Get the Steak Ready for Grilling
Let the meat come to room temperature before grilling. This usually means about 30 minutes on the countertop. For safety, the meat should never be left out for longer.
(Chopped meat should go directly from refrigerator to grill, with no time at room temperature.)
Wipe the steak dry with paper towels and then season it with salt and freshly cracked or ground pepper. Nothing more is necessary, although some grill cooks like to brush the meat lightly with olive oil or sprinkle it with lemon juice.
3. Marinate the Steak
Marinades add flavor and interest to steak. They are not necessary for tenderizing - in fact they penetrate a mere quarter inch of the meat.
Use marinades on flank steak and chuck steak to give them a flavor boost. They are unnecessary on high-end cuts.
All marinades include an acid, which usually is vinegar, wine, citrus juice, or tomatoes. They also usually have oil, which conducts the flavor and holds in moisture.
Because of the acid, marinate steak (and anything else) in non-reactive pans - not aluminum, which reacts with the acid to impart a metallic flavor. Instead, use glass, ceramic, or sturdy plastic. Heavy plastic bags are a good choice, too.
Steaks only need two or three hours in the marinade to take on optimal flavor, but except for very tender cuts, they will not be harmed by longer soaks.
4. Prepare the Grill
Let the coals get moderately hot to hot. If using charcoal, this means the coals will have a thin coating of ash and glow deep red. If using a gas grill, the temperature should be 375 to 400 degrees F.
Set the grill rack so that it is approximately five inches from the coals. Spray it lightly with nonstick vegetable spray before you set it over the coals. This will prevent the meat from sticking.
5. Grill the Steak
Put the steak on the grill and sear it for two to three minutes on both sides. Use tongs to turn the meat. A fork pierces the meat and you can lose delicious juices.
Depending on the thickness of the steak, it will reach its desired degree of doneness in 10 to 25 minutes.
For rare meat, steaks that are one inch thick will need a total of 10 minutes on the grill, including searing. Steaks that are between one and one-and-a-half inches thick will be rare in about 12 minutes.
For medium-rare meat, increase the cooking times by five minutes. For medium-well done meat, increase the cooking time by 10 minutes (for example, a one-inch-thick steak, needs about 20 minutes to reach medium-well done).
Also check internal temperatures with an instant-read thermometer:
130 degrees F. = rare meat
140 degrees F. = medium-rare
150 degrees F. = medium
Let the steak rest for about five minutes before slicing. This gives the juices time to collect.