How to barbecue the perfect steak

Bronagh Fletcher

What you need

To barbecue steak and to get great results, make sure you have the following equipment ready:

  • A charcoal or gas barbecue for cooking the steak.
  • Long-handled tongs for turning your steak. This keeps your hands a safe distance away from the grill, hotplate or exposed flames.
  • An oil bowl and a pastry brush for brushing your steak with oil before placing it on the barbecue.
  • A large plate for resting the cooked steak before serving.
  • Cleaning tools, such as a stiff wire brush or barbecue scraper, for cleaning your barbecue after use so it’s ready for next time.

How to barbecue steak

Follow these simple steps for cooking steak on the barbecue and you’ll impress your family and friends with tender, juicy meat that’s full of flavour and cooked to perfection.

Step 1:

Preheat a barbecue grill or flatplate on medium-high. Brush both sides of the steak with olive oil to prevent it from sticking to the barbecue. This is better than brushing the barbecue, as it prevents the oil from burning. Excess oil can create smoke and cause flare-ups on the barbecue.

Step 2:

Wait until just before cooking to season your steak, as salt draws out the flavoursome juices from the meat, making it tough. Season one side with salt and pepper, then cook the steak, seasoned-side down first, to seal in the flavour. Season the other side just before turning over.

Step 3:

Cook the steak on the barbecue, using long-handled tongs to turn the steak, until cooked to your liking. Cooking times vary depending on the thickness. Turn steak once only during cooking – any more and the juices escape, which can make the meat tough.

Step 4:

After cooking, transfer the steak to a plate and cover with foil. Set aside for 5 minutes to rest. Heat pushes the juices to the centre of the steak. Resting it after cooking allows the meat to relax, and the juices then distribute evenly throughout the steak, making it succulent and tender.

How to know when steak is done

The time needed to cook a steak varies depending on its thickness, and how you like it. Don’t be tempted to cut into a steak to see if it’s done. This allows the precious juices to escape, making the meat tough. Instead, press the centre of the steak with the back of your tongs – if it’s medium the meat will spring back. Use this guide for cooking times and to tell when it’s ready.

For steak 1.5cm-thick:

Rare – 1-1 1/2 minutes each side
Medium – 2-3 minutes each side
Well done – 3-4 minutes each side

For steak 2-3cm-thick:

Rare – 2-3 minutes each side
Medium – 4-5 minutes each side
Well done – 5-6 minutes each side

Tongs test

Rare – soft
Medium – slightly firmer and springy
Well done – very firm with no spring

Best barbecue cuts

The best cuts of beef steak to use for barbecuing are fillet, T-bone, rump, round and blade. Look for cuts with a little fat marbled through the meat, as this helps to keep the steak moist.

Try these steak marinades

Steak marinades usually contain 1-2 tablespoons of acidic liquids, such as wine, vinegar and citrus juice, per cup of marinade (any more acid can dry out your steak). These recipes will marinate four beef steaks. To make them, combine the ingredients in a glass or ceramic bowl, add the steaks and turn to coat, then cover and place in the fridge to marinate before barbecuing.

1) Soy, chilli & ginger marinade

80ml (1/3 cup) dark soy sauce – 1 large fresh red chilli, deseeded, thinly sliced – 2 garlic cloves, crushed – 2 tsp grated fresh ginger – 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice: marinate 4 hours or overnight

2) Oregano & lemon marinade

80ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil – 1 tbs fresh lemon juice – 2 garlic cloves, crushed – 1 tsp dried oregano – 1 tbs fresh thyme leaves: marinate up to 2 hours

3) Indian korma curry marinade

60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil – 2 tbs mild korma curry paste – 2 tbs chopped fresh coriander: marinate 2-4 hours

4) Olive tapenade, red wine & parsley marinade

80ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil – 2 tbs red wine – 2 garlic cloves, crushed – 2 tbs olive tapenade – 2 tbs chopped fresh continental parsley: marinate up to 4 hours