In addition to being a crowd-pleaser, a perfectly grilled steak also happens to be a relatively simple main course to prepare, making it an ideal choice whether you’re entertaining or treating yourself to a slightly indulgent mid-week meal. To demystify the process behind the delicious flame-cooked dish, we asked Paulie O’Connor, owner and chef at Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for to share his expert advice. From what to ask your local butcher to achieving the ideal temperature, here are his recommendations.
Consider the cut. The perfect steak begins with the right high-quality cut of meat, and your local butcher is likely your best source. In terms of what to order, “My favorite cut of steak is a bone-in ribeye or a bone-in tenderloin,” O’Connor says, attributing his affinity for bone-in cuts to the fact that they impart so much flavor. When in doubt, talk to your butcher about the best cut they have available.
Don’t over-think the seasoning. If you have a high-quality cut of meat, there’s no need to get complicated with flavoring. “For steaks, I simply season liberally with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper,” O’Connor says. Another option is to marinate the meat in olive oil, fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, and crushed garlic cloves for a couple hours, remove the steak from the marinade, and season with salt and pepper prior to cooking.
Pay attention to temperature. “It’s essential to let steak come up to room temperature before putting it on the grill,” O’Connor advises. Meanwhile, prepare a hot grill—500 degrees, or the highest it can go. Once the meat is on, keep in mind that cook time will vary depending on the thickness of your cut of meat. While some grill-masters swear they can tell when a steak is ready by touch alone, an instant thermometer will help you gauge the doneness until you’ve perfected your methods. A good rule of thumb is to cook the steak for 4 to 5 minutes on the first side to get a good char, then flip the meat and cook according to preferred doneness, using the following ranges as your guide:
- For medium-rare: 3-5 minutes, or to 350 degrees F.
- For medium: 5-7 minutes, or to 140 degrees F.
- For medium-well: 8-10 minutes, or to 150 degrees F.
Once you have achieved your desired doneness, O’Connor recommends letting the meat rest for 5-8 minutes. “This will give the meat time to relax and reabsorb its juices, resulting in a better texture and a juicier steak.”
Photography by Sarah Averill. TSG Tip 319 from Paulie O’Connor of Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse is featured in The Scout Guide Jackson Hole.