Want to know how to grill a ribeye steak? Just keep it simple. The only seasonings you need are salt and pepper. No garlic or onion powder, no rosemary or thyme, no barbecue sauce, and steak sauce on a good ribeye is a sin. The cow was nice enough to put all the flavor you need right in the meat, don’t rob it of its sacrifice.
First things first, buy the right meat. If you’re going to spend the money on ribeyes, don’t buy select grade. Buy choice or better. Select doesn’t have the marbling that is essential for that big beef flavor and tenderness. When in doubt, buy Certified Angus Beef. A requirement to carry that label is that it be choice or better. If it doesn’t say the grade on the label at the grocery store, then it’s probably select, take a pass on it.
What you’ll need:
- One ribeye per person. Most stores typically sell them boneless, but bone in will work too. Get them 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch thick. Too thin and they’ll cook too fast and too thick may be too much for your guests. At the right thickness, you’ll get a nice balance of the grill flavor on the outside and the beef flavor on the inside.
- Kosher Salt. Kosher salt tends to penetrate the meat better than table salt during cooking.
- Freshly ground black pepper. Pre-ground pepper tends to lose its spice within months of when it’s ground.
- If you want to dress up your ribeye, consider trying a compound butter and adding it after the steak is cooked.
Preparing your ribeyes
When you take your ribeyes out of the package, pat them dry with paper towels. That layer of water on the surface can prevent your steaks from developing that tasty brown crust by actually steaming the meat, and not letting the heat get directly on it. After that, sprinkle your steaks liberally with your salt and pepper and pat it in so it sticks. Don’t worry if you use more than you would if you were seasoning just prior to eating it, some of it will fall off on the grill.
Some people suggest coating your ribeyes with a layer of oil to help develop a better crust. I’ve found that it does help somewhat, but it’s almost negligible. I don’t bother. Also, conventional wisdom is to let your steaks come up to room temperature prior to cooking them. I also see no point in doing this either. The only difference I can see is that it may take an extra minute or two on the grill to cook them.
Preparing your grill
Light one chimney starter full of charcoal. Set up your grill for two-zone cooking (as in the picture below) by putting your charcoal on one side of the grill and an aluminum pan full of water on the other. The water in the pan will help regulate heat on the cool side of the grill. You want enough charcoal on the hot side so that your grill grate is only about 2 -3 inches above the coals.
Once your charcoal is fully lit and covered with a fine gray ash, close the cover of your grill for about five minutes so that it can heat up. Open it up and clean your grill grates with a grill brush. A dirty grill sticks and those old bits of food from the last time you grilled don’t add anything but funk to your steaks. Get rid of them.
How to grill a ribeye steak
Now that your grill is ready, it’s time to throw on the steaks. Start by grilling over the hottest part of the fire so that you can get a good crust. It should take about two or three minutes per side. Watch out for flare ups from the fat dripping into the fire. You don’t want your steaks getting a sooty flavor. If it does flare up, move the steaks to the cooler part of the grill until it dies down, then back over the fire. In getting your steaks seared nicely on the outside during this part of the cook, be careful you don’t burn it. There’s a fine line between burned and blackened.
Once, you’ve got a good sear on both sides of the steak, move it over to the indirect heat part of your pit (over your water pan) and close the lid.
When is it done?
You can use the list below to judge when your ribeye is done by checking with an instant read thermometer (I recommend the Thermapen, for the speed, thin probe and accuracy). The numbers below may seem a little low, but remember, the internal temperature of your ribeye will rise as much as another five degrees after you take it off the pit.
- 120 for rare
- 125 for medium rare on the rare side
- 130 for medium rare on the medium side
- 135-140 for medium
- You can go to prison in some countries for cooking a ribeye to well done
Give it a rest
Once you take your ribeyes off the grill, be sure to let them rest for five minutes before cutting into them to ensure the best flavor and juicyness. During the cooking process the moisture tends to move toward the center of the meat, away from the heat in your grill. This creates an area in the meat of high pressure. When you cut into the steak, the pressure will push the moisture out and onto the plate. By letting it rest, you are allowing the internal pressure to equalize so that the juices will more equally distribute throughout the meat. Serve immediately when rested. (the science behind letting a steak rest)
There are a lot of different recipes on the internet for how to cook a ribeye steak, but the meat packs all the flavor for you. No need for marinades and complex rubs. If you want to dress it up, I suggest adding a compound butter to the plate or on top of the steak when you serve it.