The Art and Science of Grilling Steak

The grilling season is in full swing and we decided to talk with a meat scientist about what it takes to have a good steak grilling experience. What we found was that good tasting beef is both a science and an art. The scientific part is picking the right cut. The art part is what you do with it once you take it home. Dan Hale is a Professor and Texas A&M Agrilife Meat Specialist.

“You want to pick a steak that’s at least medium in tenderness or from tender cuts. And those cuts generally come from the loin or the rib area. They would have that in the name. Or there are new chuck cuts like the petite tender or the shoulder tender and the flat iron that people have heard about that is also a very tender cut and really good for grilling.”

Hale says that he gets a lot of questions about the different grades of meat.

“Most people realize that Prime is the best and then Choice and then Select is one of the lower grades but still a very acceptable grade. So which one do I buy? Well, one is, first of all, how much do you have to pay?”

Hale says generally the higher the grade, the more the cost, so what’s the difference in the grades?

“The only difference is the amount of flecks of fat inside the muscle which we call marbling. That marbling does give it taste and does improve the juiciness and flavor to some extent. It really is more of a probability of serving an undesirable steak. So a Prime, you’d have a much less likelihood of serving a tough undesirable steak than you would a Select.”

Hale says that how you cook a steak has a big impact as well.

“We have shown over time that the more well done, and if you like it well done, great, but you just need to know that the more well done you cook a steak, the tougher it becomes. It tends to dry out, tends to become tougher than a steak that would be medium or even medium rare. You can get different flavorings off of mesquites or peach or apple or hickory. Just like you can add flavors with rubs or sauces or seasonings that you might add to it.”