Hamburgers and hot dogs are perfect for a picnic, but tonight you’re going all out with a hot grill and a juicy steak. After all, it’s easy enough to make for a weeknight dinner and special enough for a celebratory occasion (not to mention it just tastes good). What are the best steak cuts for grilling? Before you head to the butcher, read our advice.
What Are the Best Steak Cuts for Grilling? From Ribeye to Tri-Tip, Here Are 10 We Love
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How to Grill Steak: 5 Tips Before You Start
Regardless of the cut you choose, there are few universal truths about grilling steak. Keep these tips in mind as you head out to the patio.
- Bring the steak to room temp. To ensure your steak cooks evenly and to the temperature you want it at, take the meat out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you plan to grill it. Letting the steak reach an even temp throughout (instead of throwing it on the coals with a chilly interior) will make cooking it a breeze.
- Season the meat ahead of time. While you’re at it, season your steak generously with salt when you take it out of the fridge. This will give the seasoning a chance to sink into the meat. (FWIW, we aim for a teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat.) If you want a gold star, you can actually season the steak as soon as you bring it home from the butcher and put it back in the fridge.
- A meat thermometer is your best friend. The pros might be able to tell how done a steak is just by looking at it, but we can’t. An instant-read thermometer (like the Thermapen) will make achieving the perfect medium-rare a breeze.
- Zone your grill. Whether charcoal or gas, you should dedicate one side of your grill to high heat and one that’s cool—either by leaving half the gas off or keeping all the coals to one side. This will allow you to sear the steaks on high heat, and finish cooking them slowly to your ideal temp. (Call it the Ina Garten method.)
- Don’t skip the final rest. Just like we need to take a breather with a quick TikTok scroll after all that cooking, you’ll want to give the steak a chance to rest after cooking. Resist slicing in for about ten minutes to allow the juices to redistribute within the steak (instead of leaking onto your cutting board).
What Are the Best Steak Cuts for Grilling?
You’re ready to don your “kiss the cook” apron…but you’ll need to choose that steak first. And nothing is quite as overwhelming as staring into a butcher case full of raw meat. Don’t sweat it—there are only a few rules you need to remember.
- Thicker cuts are better for grilling. Aim for about two inches thick (or greater), so you can get a flavorful sear without overcooking the steak. (You can totally grill a thin steak cut, but it won’t have quite the contrast between the exterior and interior.)
- Fat equals flavor. Instead of a lean piece of meat, you want a heavily marbled steak for grilling. When the steak hits the hot grill, the fat will melt and release a ton of flavor.
- The butcher is your BFF. The person selling you the steak is an expert resource and should not be overlooked! Let them know how many people you’re serving, your cooking method and even the preparation, and they’ll guide you to a delicious cut.
The Best Steak Cuts for Grilling
Sometimes labeled as Delmonico steaks, the ribeye is one of our favorites for grilling, because it has tons of marbling and therefore lots of flavor. Buy a thick steak and you won’t have to worry too much about overcooking it, since the fat will help it remain juicy.
2. Strip Steak
Also known as New York Strip (when it’s boneless) or Kansas City Strip (when it’s bone-in), strip steak has a strong beefy flavor and decent marbling. It has a relatively tender texture but retains a bit of chew, and it’s easy to cook, especially on the grill. Err on the rarer side, since it has slightly less fat than a ribeye.
This large, bone-in piece of meat contains two steak cuts in one: tenderloin and strip steak. While delicious, that makes it harder to cook, since you’re working with two different fat contents. A meat thermometer will be your best asset, and you should position the tenderloin portion closer to the cooler zone on your grill so as not to overcook it.
4. Short Ribs
They’re better known for slow cooking methods like braising, but short ribs are a great steak cut for grilling, too. They’re marbled like a ribeye, with a ton of flavor and a thick, meaty texture (not to mention it’s way cheaper). You can buy short ribs cut thick or thin, and both are suited for grilling.
While often used interchangeably, the porterhouse and T-bone are technically different cuts. The Porterhouse is thicker and cut from the back end of the short loin, so it contains more tenderloin meat in each steak (at least one and half inches of tenderloin, to be precise). It’s equally tasty for grilling but break out that meat thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature of the two sections.
6. Top Sirloin
There are a few types of sirloin cuts, but the top sirloin is the most tender. It’s a lean steak—basically a New York strip with less fat content—with a decent amount of beefy flavor considering its relatively inexpensive price tag. You can treat it similar to a strip steak, but cook it slightly less to ensure it doesn’t dry out.
7. Skirt Steak
We know we said thick is best for grilling, but the skirt steak is one exception. This long, thin, fatty cut of beef comes from the plate section of the belly. Since it has a lot of connective tissue, it’s tough, but if you marinate and cook it correctly, it can turn out tender, rich and buttery. Slice it against the grain for the best texture.
This super flavorful cut of beef rivals ribeye in marbling and flavor, but it’s much less expensive. It’s also very tender, as long as you don’t overcook it. All that fat makes it ideal for the grill; just make sure to not cook it past medium for the best results.
A tomahawk steak is just a ribeye steak with the bone still attached. It’s well-marbled with a lot of flavor and usually large enough to feed a few people. That bone will slow down your cooking time slightly, but it will also prevent some moisture loss and insulate the steak, so it gives you a little more control over the doneness.
6 Steak Recipes to Try on the Grill:
- Grilled Flank Steak with Lemon-Herb Sauce
- Lemongrass-Ginger Coconut Grilled Steak
- Flank Steak Tacos with Cucumber Salsa
- Steak Skewers with Chimichurri Sauce
- Strip Steak with Harissa Butter and Parsley Salad
- Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing
Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City restaurants. She used to sling sugary desserts in a pastry kitchen, but now she’s an avid home cook and fanatic baker.