You know how it goes. The sun is slipping under the horizon on a warm summer evening. The flames of your grill are flickering orange and red like the sunset. Guests might be milling around the fire. Hopefully you don’t have a weird uncle setting up a karaoke machine, but who knows? Cocktails might be flowing, and maybe you are not quite sure how many you have had, but you are feeling fine and excited to grill. We live for moments like these … and we also tend to get distracted during them. Just as you are about to put the meat on the heat, someone asks you to look at pictures of her cat.
To be a better griller in that moment, you need a solid plan – a short checklist to steer your attention away from the karaoke machine or cat photos and toward the priorities that will help you put fantastic food on your plate. I call this plan “The 4T’s.” If you pay attention to each one – Temperature, Time, Techniques, and Tools – I assure you that you will blaze a clear path to your culinary destination.
I explain “The 4T’s” at length in a brand new book, “Weber’s Ultimate Grilling,” but here’s a condensed version for porterhouse steaks. Priority #1 is getting your grill to the right temperature and holding it there, usually hovering near five hundred degrees for a proper sear and crust on those steaks.
Priority #2 is timing. You should know in advance how long to grill those steaks. That answer depends mostly on thickness. If you are shooting for a medium-rare doneness, one-inch steaks will take 6 to 8 minutes, assuming you don’t lift the lid too much. Please, don’t lift the lid too much; it throws off the whole process.
Next up is Priority #3 -- Techniques. Here you have several options – all explained and photographed in step-by-step detail in the book. The simplest option is to go with direct heat all the way, just tuning the steaks once or twice. Another option is the “sear-and-slide” technique, where you sear the steaks over direct heat and then slide them over to indirect heat to finish cooking. Then there is the “reverse-sear” technique, where you slowly roast the steaks over low, indirect heat first and then blast them over direct high heat at the end. You might even consider the “coal-cooked” option, where you set the raw steaks right on burning embers. There are lots of techniques to consider here. The point is, you should pick one and stick with it.
Your Priority #4 should be your Tools. The obvious choice for steaks is a long set of spring-loaded tongs. Less obvious perhaps but definitely also important is a reliable, instant-read thermometer. It is the surest tool for determining without a doubt when your steaks have reached the doneness of your dreams.
I speak from experience when I say that “The 4T’s” work. I love my friends and family, but there always seems to be at least one person trying to draw me into a political debate or to challenge me to a game of pool. It’s easy to get distracted and end up improvising with everything on the grill. Trust me, that approach usually does not end well. This year, I hope you will enlist “The 4T’s” instead. They will take you -- one step at a time -- to ultimate grilling.