North Carolina native Elizabeth Karmel is a veritable boss of the barbecue. As the former executive chef of Hill Country Barbecue and author of the forthcoming cookbook, Steak and Cake: America’s Favorite Saturday Night Meal, she knows her way around the grill and then some. Below, she tells us the best way to grill every single major beef cut.
Well-marbled rib-eye likes an indirect heat
Rib-eye, which is cut from the center of the rib, is the King of the Grill, especially the bone-in variety known as the cowboy steak. If the bone is left long and cleaned, the steak is known as a tomahawk. Make sure to buy a cut that’s at least 1.5 inches thick. I like to serve mine with a slice of whiskey butter: mix bourbon-soaked shallots with soft butter, fleur de sel, and chopped parsley.
Ready the meat: Wrap the meat in paper towels to dry off the surface moisture. Just before grilling, brush it with olive oil — this will prevent stickage and keep it juicy. (Some recommend oiling the grates, but the oil is more likely to burn off, which is why I oil the meat.) Then season with kosher salt.
Grill it up: Sear over high heat on each side for 1-2 minutes. Move the steak to indirect heat (which means that the heat source is equally divided on either side of the food and there is no heat directly under the food — gas or charcoal). Then cook it for about 15 minutes with the lid closed. The rotating hot air ensures the food cooks through uniformly. (I cook all cuts with the lid on.) How long you leave it there depends on how thick the steak is and how rare you like it. If using a meat thermometer (my favorites are this one and this one), take the meat off when it registers 120-125F for rare, and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. If you like your meat more well done, cook it longer (medium rare: 135F, medium: 145F).
Hanger is best served charred on the outside and rare in the center
This is my favorite “bistro steak,” which is kind of a catch-all term for fibrous cuts you’re likely to find on those French restaurants’ menus.
Ready the meat: Mix a quick marinade of brown sugar, red wine vinegar, and olive oil together and marinate for 10 minutes. Just before grilling, blot dry and season with kosher salt and pepper.
Grill it up: Sear over high heat for 1-2 minutes on each side, and move to indirect heat for about 10-15 minutes, again, depending on how large the steak, and how rare you like it. If using a meat thermometer, take the meat off when it registers 120-125F for rare, and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
Flat iron is what you want for steak sandwiches
Second in tenderness to the tenderloin, the shoulder cut known as the flat iron is a value cut, but well marbled and juicy. When trimmed and portioned, it is compact and square-ish in shape, weighing about 11 ounces.
Ready the meat: Brush with oil and season with salt and pepper
Grill it up: I like it grilled rare over direct, medium-high heat for about 3 minutes each side, and served open-faced on grilled sourdough bread with a mess of caramelized onions.
Thin and fibrous skirt steak comes off the heat quickly
This is the butcher’s cut; traditionally butchers would sometimes keep this rich, beefy steak for themselves rather than put it on sale. Skirt steak pairs well with Mexican flavors and it makes a mean taco.
Ready the meat: Brush all over with olive oil and season with kosher salt
Grill it up: Cook over a high, direct heat for about 2 minutes a side for a juicy, rare interior. Cut against the grain for maximum tenderness — this generally means that you are slicing the meat on the diagonal. You can tell that you have cut it correctly if the meat fibers are short and make a “honeycomb” pattern. If the meat fibers are long and go across the slice lengthwise, something went wrong.
A thick-cut porterhouse will take at least 20 minutes
This steakhouse cut is part filet mignon and part New York strip. Cut from the same muscle as a T-bone, the porterhouse has more filet on it. Buy the best-quality thick-cut porterhouse that you can afford.
Ready the meat: Wrap in paper towels to dry off the surface moisture, then brush with olive oil and season with kosher salt just before grilling
Grill it up: Sear each side 1-2 minutes over a direct, high heat and finish cooking over indirect heat, about 20 minutes depending on thickness. Cut a lemon in half and place it cut-side down on the grill while the steak rests. Drizzle with good olive oil and squirt with grilled lemon juice just before serving.
Strip is the easiest steak to grill
The strip comes from the middle of the back (the short loin) and is referred to by many names, including New York strip, Kansas City strip, shell dteak, and the Delmonico steak (because some guys in NYC claim to have invented it). It is most often sold boneless.
Ready the meat: Brush with oil and season with salt
Grill it up: Five minutes on each side over a direct, medium heat will result in a perfect medium-rare interior.
Marinate sirloin for ultimate flavor
“Sirloin” is used as a quality descriptor on many restaurant menus, but it is actually more of a value cut than a premium steak. Choose a thick steak, at least 1.5 inches.
Ready the meat: Marinate it for 20 minutes before grilling. I like a simple red wine marinade made with a full-bodied red wine, olive oil, rosemary, and garlic. Brush with olive oil and season with kosher salt.
Grill it up: Immediately after seasoning, grill the marinated steak for about 5 minutes a side over direct, medium heat, turning once halfway through the cooking time.
Tenderloin can feed a crowd
This is my favorite party “steak.” It’s delicious hot, warm, or cold. I like it sliced with a bearnaise butter, which is really easy to whip up. Mix soft unsalted butter with chopped tarragon, fleur de sel, and shallots.
Ready the meat: Wrap in paper towels to dry off the surface moisture. I season the whole tenderloin, about 4 pounds, with olive oil and coarse salt — pink Himalayan sea salt is a favorite.
Grill it up: Cook it over indirect heat for about 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 122F. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes.
Lean filet mignon benefits from fatty bacon
Steaks cut from the tenderloin are called filet mignon. You can buy them already cut or cut your own tenderloin into filets, I like 2-inch thick filets. I like to add a pat of the béarnaise butter (see recipe above in tenderloin). But you could also wrap each filet in a slice of par-cooked bacon before grilling if you’re feeling fancy.
Ready the meat: Don’t forget to brush all over with olive oil and season with salt (sensing a pattern?).
Grill it up: Sear it over direct, medium heat for five minutes a side for a perfect medium-rare.
Short ribs need to be cooked low and slow
Choose bone-in short ribs for best results and add soaked wood chips at the beginning of the cooking time for a kiss of smoke.
Ready the meat: A simple rub of kosher salt, coarse-ground black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne amps up the meat’s rich flavor.
Grill it up: Let the beef ribs grill for 4-6 hours (depending on size) over indirect heat around 300F or until the bone is clean and loose enough to slip out.
Brisket is an all-day affair
But worth it! Make sure you buy a whole brisket and leave the fat cap on the top. The fat will protect the meat and season it as it renders out and melts through the meat. If a whole brisket is too large for your crowd, consider grilling only the point for an all-moist brisket meal. Here’s where I buy mine.
Ready the meat: I use a simple rub of kosher salt, coarse-ground black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne to bring out the rich, beefy flavors, but you can use your favorite dry rub.
Grill it up: Set your grill for indirect cooking, about 300F, and place the brisket in the middle of the cooking grate, fat-side up. The brisket is done when it reads 190F in the thickest part. Depending on size, this could be up to 7-8 hours, but begin checking the internal temperature at 2 hours in case your grill is running hot.
Burgers are best when they’re a blend of chuck and sirloin
For the best burger, don’t add too many seasonings to the meat and don’t mix it too much or it will get tough.
Ready the meat: I like to add a little Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper to my meat blend. Make thick patties and press your thumb in the center to make an indention. This will keep your burgers flat and prevent them from blowing up and looking like meatballs.
Grill it up: Place the patties over medium, direct heat for about four minutes a side, turning once halfway through the cooking time. For an exceptional end-to-end crust, preheat a cast-iron pan on the grill and cook the burgers on the cast iron on the grill, turning once halfway through the cooking time.
Hot dogs only need to be heated
You only need to char the hot dogs because they’ve already been cooked. I like Hebrew National or another all-beef dog.
Ready the meat: Make a couple of small holes in the hot dogs (or pre-cooked sausages) with a toothpick. The holes will let steam escape and prevent the hot dogs from “exploding” as they cook. No seasoning is necessary.
Grill it up: Use a lower-medium direct heat to keep them from burning. Turn the hot dogs once or twice to get grill marks on all sides.