New York Strip Steak

A New York strip steak hot off the grill, sprinkled with smoked sea salt. Photos courtesy of Morton’s The Steakhouse.




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May 2008

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Meat & Poultry

Tips For Grilling Steak

You Can Grill The Perfect Steak With These Tips

If you’ve had a steak at Morton’s, you know how delicious it is. Here are tips from the Morton’s experts to make your steak as good. Understand the temperatures and the cuts, and you, too, can be serving your guests memorable steak that meets their expectation for doneness, taste and appearance.


1. Start With Great Beef

A top restaurant like Morton’s specializes in USDA prime, grain-fed, aged beef, which has the finest taste and tenderness due to superior marbling (the fat speckled throughout the meat that gives the steak its flavor—marbling is a primary indicator of a steak’s quality).  Only about 2% of beef is graded prime, and it’s snapped up by the foodservice industry (top butcher shops, restaurants, hotels and caterers). However, you can ask for Certified Angus,* or be certain you purchase Choice-graded meats; and check out our article on the best value cuts of steak to examine your options. See our Beef Glossary for more information on USDA Prime, USDA Choice and other grades of beef.

*Certified Angus Beef is a trademarked brand that licenses the trademark to ranchers who are approved by the licensor. See our Beef Glossary for more information on Certified Angus Beef.

The best cuts for grilling are New York sirloin, Porterhouse, rib eye and T-bones because of their relative thickness and fat content (marbling). Keep that lovely filet mignon off the grill: It doesn’t have enough marbling to be prepared this way.

2. Thicker Is Better

Thickness is very important in selecting a steak. Steaks at least 1" to 1-1/2" thick cook best.  The thicker cuts can sear on the outside and still not be overdone inside. Steaks less than an inch thick can easily dry out on the grill unless the temperature is adjusted. Steaks that are too thick will burn on the outside before the inside is cooked to the desired temperature.

Morton’s prefers steaks that are about two inches thick, like the lovely rib eyes at the right.

Ribeye Steaks
Rib eye steaks, bone in or bone out, are favorites for grilling.

3. Oil The Rack

Before you begin to cook, lightly oil the grilling rack. Lubrication keeps the meat from sticking and tearing—and losing natural juices in the process. First, be sure the rack is clean. Then fold a paper towel, dampen it with any salad or cooking oil and wipe the grill grates to make a nonstick surface, coating all surfaces of the rungs.

Porterhouse Steak

Two beautiful Porterhouse (T-bone) steaks and
two New York strip steaks, ready for the grill.

4. Pre-Heat The Grill

Pre-heat the grill to 600° to 800°F and keep it that hot for 30 to 45 minutes before putting the steaks on. It’s during the first few minutes of cooking that the high temperature sears the meat, forming the coating that seals in those tasty juices.

Morton’s chefs advise that high direct heat is almost as important as the quality of the meat itself. Know your grill: Most kettle grills reach a maximum temperature of around 600°F; some gas grills can get as high as 800° to 1,000°F.  If you want to get a char on thinner steaks without overcooking the inside, you’ll need very high temperatures. Remember:

  • If the grill is not hot enough, the inside of the steak will overcook before the outside gets a char.
  • Similarly, if the grill is too hot, the outside of steak will burn before the inside cooks.
  • For thicker steaks grilled over coals, wait until the coals have gotten past their prime.
  • If the steaks are thinner, put them on when the coals are at their maximum temperature.

5. Hold The Salt

Experts know not to salt meat before cooking: Salt drains juices from the meat while cooking. Instead, lightly salt the meat when you remove it from the grill, or allow each diner to salt the food to his or her preference. However, you can use pepper or other spices.

6. Never Stick A Fork In It

Always use tongs or a spatula to turn the steak—never a fork or anything that might pierce the meat and cause the juices to run out. By the same token, never use a fork or a meat thermometer to test the steak for doneness. Morton’s chefs say that this is almost like testing an egg for doneness by breaking it open while it’s still being boiled! Do so, and you’ll lose the good stuff inside.

Don’t turn the steak over for at least five minutes. Turning too soon can prevent searing from taking place. The steak should be seared on one side for five minutes or more, then turned, seared on the other side and allowed to cook to the preferred doneness.

7. Your Thumb Knows When It’s Done

Have you noticed on T.V. cooking shows how the professionals test when meat is done? Chefs don’t use a thermometer: It’s all in the touch. Here’s what you’d learn in cooking school:

  • For a rare steak: Squeeze the pad at the base of your thumb with your index finger. It should feel spongy and offer very little resistance. That’s what a rare steak will feel like
  • For a medium steak: With your index finger, press on the middle of the palm of your outstretched hand. It should feel firm and snap back quickly. That’s what a medium steak will feel like.
  • For a well-done steak: Squeeze the base of your palm, right beneath your small finger. It should feel very firm, with almost no give. That’s what well-done steak feels like. However, advise your guests against cooking beyond medium. It dries out the meat, robbing it of its flavor and tenderness. If someone is accustomed to well-done meat, ask him to try it medium. You can always put it back on the grill if he isn’t satisfied.

Remember that food continues to cook for a minute or two when it is taken off the heat source, so you don’t need to give it “an extra minute.”



About Morton’s The Steakhouse

Morton’s Restaurant Group, Inc. is the world’s largest operator of company-owned upscale steakhouses. The Company owns and operates 79 Morton's steakhouses located in 67 cities in 28 states and Puerto Rico and five international locations (Toronto, Vancouver, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau).  This year marks Morton's 30th anniversary. To celebrate, the company is partnering with the Make A Wish Foundation in a “30 Wishes for 30 Years” national campaign, online at The site shares wishes from Make-A-Wish children, allows Morton’s guests to share their own memories over the past 30 years and provides ways for people to contribute to the 30 Wishes for 30 Years program.


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