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The Weekend Chef

Weekend Chef: Steak 101

Posted 11:28pm on Sunday, Mar. 24, 2013

I have fixed a few steaks in my day. To tell the truth, I have fixed a lot of steaks, and not just the coffee crusted, Teriyaki style or bacon-seasoned variety.

Sometimes it is just a basic steak. You know, salt and pepper, then on the grill.

But even when you are fixing “just another steak,” you still need to start with picking out a “winner” before you grill. A winner is just a term I use when I find a nice steak at the grocery store.

So what makes a steak a winner? For me, it's usually a choice or prime rib-eye at least an inch thick (preferrably 2 inches) with good marbling. Let's break that down.


The USDA grades beef for quality, not with an A, B, C, like in school, but with Prime, Choice and Select. Actually there are eight grades, going all the way down to canner, but in grocery stores you are going to find Prime, Choice and Select.

Prime is the best grade of beef, less than 3% of all beef is graded prime, so it is hard to find and expensive. Prime steaks are normally sold to high-end steakhouses, so if you ever wondered why you can’t seem to cook a steak at home as good as that high-end steakhouse, it might just be the steak and not you.

In grocery stores you normally find Choice and Select, with Choice being the better grade than Select. If you want to give Prime steaks a try, both Costco and Central Market have them. I normally try to stick to Choice steaks, and every once in awhile I will splurge and pick up some Prime steaks at Costco.


So what is the best cut of steak? Rib-eye. Sure, the tenderloin (filet) is more tender, and T-bone steaks are king here in Texas, but for flavor the rib-eye is hands-down the best. That is not to say that I will not pick up a nice looking T-bone if I see one. In order of preference I like rib-eyes, strip, T-bone and bacon wrapped filets.


For me, a steak needs to be at least an inch thick (preferably 2 inches). Steaks thinner than an inch are way to easy to overcook. So when buying steaks, it is much better to buy one thick steak to share, than buying two thin steaks. Also, do not trim fat off from around the steak before cooking. That fat will add flavor and protect the steak from overcooking. You can always trim the fat after cooking.


Marbling is the white flecks/streaks of fat within the meat that resembles a marble pattern. Marbling adds flavor and is one of the main criteria used in grading meat. The rule of thumb is the more marbling, the better the steak. So when picking out a steak, try to find one with lots of marbling.

So that is the breakdown of what I look for when I pick out a steak, which like I said before, usually ends up being a choice or prime rib-eye steak at least an inch thick (preferably 2 inches) with good marbling. Sounds expensive? Well it can be, especially if you decide to go Prime. But there is one more thing I look for when I am shopping for steaks, and that is steaks on sale. And fortunately, with this being Cowtown, steaks are on sale a lot in these parts. Last week I picked up a 2-inch thick, Choice rib-eye on sale at my local Albertson’s for $5 a pound. The steak weighed close to 2 pounds, making it the perfect size to split with my wife. So for under $10, my wife and I had a nice “winner” steak dinner.

Now that we picked out a steak, here are a few tips on grilling steaks that Fort Worth Chef Tim Love shared with me at last year's Grills Gone Wild at the Austin Food & Wine Festival.

Chef Tim Love's Grilling Tips

1. Always start with a hot grill, and have a spray bottle handy to control flair ups.

2. Use peanut oil instead of olive oil when grilling meats and vegetables because, Love said, peanut oil can withstand higher temperatures whereas olive oil will break down and burn.

3. Brush your steaks with oil, then season them before grilling, using twice as much salt as you think you need. (Most people don't season meat enough.) Pat the seasoning into the steaks to help close the pores of the meat.

4. Let steaks come up to room temperature before putting on the grill. Don't just pull it out of the fridge and plop it on the grill.

5. Keep the grill cover closed and resist the urge to peek at your meat on the grill. The heat needs to stay trapped in there. Love stressed this point, and he even suggested drinking white wine while you are grilling, to take your mind off peeking.

6. After pulling your steaks and letting them rest, put them back on the grill for a couple of minutes to finish the steaks. You now can serve the steaks straight off the grill with no need to rest them again.

Basic Steak


  • 1 steak (bone-in rib-eye, 2 inch thick)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (peanut oil is best for grilling)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Rub steak down with a little vegetable oil, and then season steak liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Let steak set out of refrigerator for 1 hour to get to room temperature.

  2. Preheat grill to high (400-450ºF) temp.

  3. Grill a 1-inch thick steak 4 to 5 minutes per side till temperature reads 130ºF for medium rare on an instant read thermometer. A 2-inch thick steak takes 8 to 9 minutes per side. If you want crosshatch grill marks, watch the video by Weber underneath this recipe.

  4. Let steak rest covered for 5 minutes, then slice and serve.

Be sure to check out the slideshow above for step-by-step pictures.

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