The price of an expensive steak doesn't guarantee that it will be tender. If you want to avoid the concentrated enzymes in powdered meat tenderizers, you can grill tender steak by controlling the grilling environment and following a few basic tips. Pound the steak with a meat mallet to tenderize it by loosening the meat fibers, and use a marinade to add flavor and moistness. Make the most of your grill by taking advantage of special features such as rack placement and adjustable temperature settings. Your family will appreciate a tasty, tender steak that even little ones can chew and enjoy.
Mix a marinade that has an acid base. Vinegar and fruit juice are common acidic ingredients, but don't settle for the mundane. Try red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, use lime, lemon or apple juice with your favorite herbs and spices, or use a creamy salad dressing. The acids have the effect of softening the meat tissue similar to the action of enzymatic tenderizers. Place your steak in a plastic zipper bag with the marinade and leave it in the refrigerator for at least six hours, or overnight for the tougher cuts of meat. Turn the bag occasionally so all sides of the meat are exposed to the marinade.
Grill Settings and Preparation
Bring your steaks to room temperature before grilling. About 30 minutes on the counter is enough time. Placing cold meat on the grill causes it to contract and toughen immediately. Preheat your grill to medium before you load it with steaks. For a charcoal grill, make sure the charcoal has burned so all briquets are covered with white ash. Use a paper towel to pat the steak dry after you remove it from the marinade. If the sauce remains on the meat, it creates steam which prevents browning and makes the meat tough. Don't salt the steak before cooking, because salt draws tenderizing moisture from the center of the meat. Start cooking with the rack close to the flame or coals, and adjust it farther away as the meat cooks.
The length of time it takes to cook steak varies with the size and thickness of the meat, the cut of meat and how much marbling it contains, the actual temperature of the fire and the doneness level you desire. The USDA guidelines for whole meat -- not ground -- recommend an internal safe temperature of 145 degrees F, which is considered medium-rare for beef. A 1-inch thick rib-eye steak requires between nine and 14 minutes to reach the safe temperature, while a 1-inch thick T-bone needs 14 to 19 minutes.
Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the steak to test for doneness. Allow the steak to rest on a plate for three minutes after you remove it from the grill. During the resting time, the internal temperature of the meat increases so it finishes cooking, and it reabsorbs some of the juices that drained onto the plate. Cover the steak loosely with a piece of foil while it rests to help retain tenderizing moisture.