How to Cook Different Beef the Right Way
When cooking meat like chicken, you really need to have the temperature all the way up and make sure that your food cooks all the way through. When cooking meat like beef, on the other hand, you’re going to spend more time judging how the meat is cooking through and less time on raw temperature numbers.
Before you really get started though, you may want to check out our article on different cuts of beef, which can help you navigate the differences in flavor from one cut to the next. Ready? Alright, let’s cover cooking different cuts of beef!
How Would You Like Your Steak Cooked?
You like your steak how you like your steak. While the purists may prefer it rare, if you like it plain old medium, be confident in your grilling. And to be confident in your grilling, you need to have a plan in mind for how to get what you want.
Rare steaks are beloved by steak eaters everywhere because of their bright red centers and juicy tenderness. For some, this is a needlessly risky move, because if the meat has any issues prepackaging, cooking a steak too rare may bring along with it some serious health concerns. Many others know, however, rare steaks are usually perfectly fine to eat after only about 5 minutes of cooking and an internal temperature of just over 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
Considered by many to be the optimal temperature to cook a steak to, the medium-rare steak has a good sear on the outside and a pinkish/red interior. It may have a streak of red in the middle, but so long as it’s mostly pink, a little firm, and has a bit of a texture to it, you’ll know you’ve cooked your medium-rare steak to perfection. To get your steak there, cook to just shy of 130 degrees. Realistically, you should skip the next three sections, because this is the only cook-through you should be doing…
Medium steaks may have a tiny bit of pink on the inside, but will mostly be a grilled brown. For your pickier guests, this may be the cook of choice. Leave one of your cuts on the grill for a little longer than you did your medium-rare meat.
Medium-well steaks shouldn’t have any strong color differences between the outside and the center of the steak. They may have the very faintest pinkish color in the middle, but that’s about it. Medium-well steaks are usually cooked to just shy of 155.
Well-done steaks have the strongest texture of any of the steaks, and have a more charred flavor. There is usually no pink at all in a well-done steak, and should be cooked to an internal temperature of just over 160 degrees.
A Guide to Cuts of Meat in Beef
Whatever kind of beef you’re going to be cooking, you’ll need the right equipment for the right grill. Being well-armed helps you take on any cut of meat.
Beef Cuts You Don’t Want to Grill
There are certain cuts of beef, like Chuck and Plate, that generally taste better when cooked in a liquid, like a pot roast, but when you do this, you sacrifice the smokey flavor the grill gives your food. Your best option is to grill these cuts after a long marination and use your slices as sandwich meat. And if you want to add something a little more interesting as a side dish or replacement for your favorite cut of beef, these 12 things you never thought to grill will be sure to satisfy your appetite just as well.
We’ve already got an extensive kick ash guide to beef brisket, and we can’t outdo ourselves here. Check out that guide for information on how to make the best beef brisket you’ve ever sunk your teeth into.
A top sirloin is the most tender cut of beef that you can get, and the tenderest amongst the already tender sirloin. It should be grilled. It deserves the grill. Anything less than a grill, and a top sirloin is disrespected. Keep the heat hot, dry, and even to seal in the flavors.
The bottom sirloin is also an incredibly tender cut, although not quite as tender as the top sirloin. Because it isn’t as tender, you can turn up the heat a little bit more and focus on the high-quality dry rub you want to apply to it before tossing it on the grill.
This is a well-marbled piece of the loin that is perfect for different kinds of grilling. Definitely don’t waste a NY Strip with a marinade or even a dry rub. Just toss a little bit of salt and pepper onto it and get grilling.
A top round is a really lean cut of beef, and very much unlike the Strip, this is the perfect cut for a solid marinade. If you can build a great, savory marinade out of oils and spices, and leave the top round overnight in the fridge, it will be nice and tenderized for grilling the next day.
Beef ribs can be delicious when cooked in a hot, dry kind of heat. You can best achieve that perfect cook-through if you have the right kind of basket for your grill, and don’t be afraid to apply a dry rub to it, too.
Tri-tip is known for tender flavors and delicious crust. The best way to cook a tri-tip is with a reverse-sear method, which cooks the meat slowly before searing the edges at the end. Fire up some indirect heat and allow the smoke to flow freely. Cook slow and low until you hit an internal temperature of 120 degrees.
Next, remove the smoldering tri-tip from the grill and wrap it in foil while you crank up the heat. You’ll find a Kick Ash Super Lifter and Kick Ash Basket Heat Resistant Gloves super useful here. Remove the heat deflector, open the vents, and turn up the heat. The hotter the better here, but at least hit 400 degrees. Then put the tri-tip back on the grill and sear the outside for that savory tri-tip crust. Without the crust perfectly seared, you might as well not cook tri-tip at all!
Cooking Beef Evenly
Chicken must be cooked all the way through in order to keep things safe (and if you’re interested in some great chicken recipes and ideas, check out our guide to chicken on the grill). When cooking beef though, you don’t actually have to cook it evenly. Some cuts of meat do very well when you simply cook the outside thoroughly and leave the middle a nice, pinkish color.
Cut Your Meat Right (Get a Good Butcher)
One of the best ways to make sure that you’re cooking meat evenly is to buy meat that isn’t a really weird shape. This sounds like an odd rule, but keep in mind that if you buy meat that has really thin parts near the ends and a really fat part in the middle, then the thinner sections are going to cook much quicker than the fatter parts of your next meal.
You can avoid these problems by cutting your meat evenly and by buying the right cuts of meat in the first place. Buy cuts that are even, and tenderize to even out when you have to. This will be especially crucial if you are putting together some chicken breasts for the grill, but is also important with tougher cuts of beef.
Make Sure the Grill is Good and Hot
If the grill has not reached the optimum temperature before you toss your meat onto it, then you’re going to cook the meat unevenly. Cooler temperatures will not penetrate the outside of the meat nearly as well, only cooking the outside before reaching the interior of the meat. Make sure your grill is heated up and ready before cooking--unless you are reverse-searing! It’s a great cooking method which aims to cook slower at first, and then add the grill-marks and flavor at the end!
Cooking Connective Tissue
If you have tougher cuts of meat; like ribs, brisket, and shoulder; using a slower, lower kind of heat will help break down the tougher connective tissues that can make meat hard to handle (and harder to chew). If you’re worried that the meat is going to be tough, then simply continue to cook it low and slow.
Additionally, resting the meat can help restore some moisture to it. Right after it has been cooked, the muscle tissue loses some moisture, as well as loosens it up. To restore that moisture, letting meat rest away from the heat for a bit allows your meal to moisturize to that perfect tender juiciness you’ve been pining after.
Cook Times and Meat Fat
A good basket will get you the right temperature control to get those lovely sear marks you’re looking for when cooking meat, but will still allow you to handle cuts that have a higher fat content compared to the leaner cuts of meat you may cross paths with. It’s pretty important to know that cooking will bring down the fat content of beef because fat begins to liquify and melt away at about 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s so important to keep in mind that this process can take hours, however, so you aren’t going to take the edge off the meat fat much by simply grilling steaks for 10 minutes. If you begin to cook at higher heats for longer times, you can get some of that fat to render, which is bound to leave a lasting taste in your mouth (in a good way).
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