How to Cook Steak on Charcoal Grill: Easy Steps & Tips for Delicious Results

Discover the art of grilling a perfect steak on a charcoal grill, as we guide you through the essential steps for achieving succulent and flavorful results every time.

Picture this: a beautiful summer evening, the sun is setting, and you have your favorite cut of steak ready to be grilled. You can already smell the smoky aroma of charcoal filling the air.

But wait, do you know how to cook that perfect steak on a charcoal grill? Fear not, my fellow grill enthusiasts! In this article, we’ll walk you through step by step on how to cook your steak to perfection on a charcoal grill. From choosing the right cut of meat to getting that perfect sear, we’ve got you covered.

So grab your tongs and let’s get grilling!

Choosing the Perfect Steak Cut

how to cook steak on charcoal grill easy steps amp tips for delicious results

Choosing the right cut of steak is crucial to achieving a delicious and juicy result on your charcoal grill. The most popular cuts for grilling are ribeye, sirloin, filet mignon, and New York strip.

Each cut has its unique flavor profile and texture.

Ribeye is known for its marbling which gives it a rich buttery taste when grilled. Sirloin is leaner than ribeye but still packed with flavor; it’s perfect if you’re looking for something more affordable without sacrificing taste.

Filet Mignon comes from the tenderloin area of the cow; this cut has less fat than other steaks but makes up in tenderness making it an excellent choice if you prefer a softer texture over bold flavors.

New York Strip also called Kansas City Strip or Top Loin Steak offers both tenderness and bold beefy flavors that make them one of America’s favorite cuts to grill.

When choosing your steak at the butcher shop or grocery store look out for well-marbled meat with bright red color as these are signs of freshness. Also consider thickness as thicker steaks will take longer to cook while thinner ones may dry out quickly on high heat.

Grade of Beef

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grades beef based on its marbling, maturity, and color. There are three main grades: Prime, Choice, and Select.

Prime is the highest quality grade with abundant marbling throughout the meat. It’s typically found in high-end restaurants or specialty butcher shops but can be challenging to find at your local grocery store.

Choice is a popular option for home cooks as it still has good marbling but is more widely available than prime. It’s also less expensive than prime while still providing excellent flavor and tenderness.

Select has minimal marbling compared to Prime or Choice cuts making it leaner but less flavorful overall. This cut may require additional seasoning or marinades before cooking to enhance its taste profile.


The thickness of your steak will determine the cooking time and temperature required to achieve that perfect sear while keeping the inside juicy and tender.

A general rule of thumb is that thicker steaks require lower heat for longer periods, while thinner cuts need higher heat for shorter times. A 1-inch thick steak should be cooked over medium-high heat for about 4-5 minutes per side, whereas a 2-inch thick cut requires low-medium heat for around 10-12 minutes per side.

It’s important to note that different cuts have varying thicknesses, so it’s crucial to choose wisely based on your desired outcome. For example, ribeye or porterhouse steaks are typically thicker than sirloin or flank steaks.

When selecting your cut of meat at the butcher shop or grocery store, pay attention to its thickness and adjust accordingly when planning out your cook time and temperature.

Selecting Quality Charcoal

Not all charcoals are created equal, and selecting a high-quality option will ensure that you achieve optimal results when cooking your steak on a charcoal grill.

Firstly, avoid using briquettes as they contain additives such as sawdust and chemicals that can affect the flavor of your food. Instead, opt for natural lump charcoal made from hardwoods like oak or hickory.

This type of coal burns hotter and cleaner than briquettes while imparting an authentic smoky flavor to your meat.

Secondly, consider purchasing premium brands like Fogo or Jealous Devil which offer consistent size pieces with minimal dust content ensuring even heat distribution throughout the grill surface area.

Lastly but not least important is checking if there are any foreign objects in the bag before lighting up; rocks or other debris could cause flare-ups leading to uneven cooking temperatures resulting in overcooked steaks.

Tools and Accessories

Having the right equipment can make all the difference in achieving a perfectly grilled steak. Here are some essential tools you’ll need:

1. Tongs: A good pair of tongs is crucial for flipping your steaks without piercing them, which would cause juices to escape.

2. Grill Brush: Keeping your grill grates clean is important for preventing sticking and ensuring even cooking.

3. Meat Thermometer: To ensure that your steak reaches its desired level of doneness, invest in a meat thermometer.

4. Chimney Starter: This tool helps light charcoal quickly and evenly without using lighter fluid or other chemicals that could affect flavor.

5.Grill Gloves : Protecting yourself from burns while handling hot grills or food should be taken seriously.

Prepping the Grill

This step is crucial in ensuring that your steak cooks evenly and doesn’t stick to the grates. Begin by cleaning the grill grates thoroughly with a wire brush or scraper tool, removing any leftover debris from previous use.

Next, oiling the grate will help prevent sticking and make for easy cleanup later on. Use tongs to hold a folded paper towel dipped in vegetable oil or cooking spray and rub it over the entire surface of each grate.

Ensure that all vents are open before lighting up your charcoal fire so that air can circulate freely throughout the grill while cooking.

Charcoal Grill Preparation

First, remove any ash or debris from the previous use of the grill. Next, clean the grates with a wire brush and warm soapy water to ensure that they are free of any leftover food particles or rust.

Once your grill is clean and dry, it’s time to add fresh charcoal. The amount of charcoal needed will depend on how much food you plan on cooking and for how long.

As a general rule of thumb, fill half of your chimney starter with briquettes if you’re only cooking for two people; otherwise fill up three-quarters.

After lighting the coals in a chimney starter until they turn gray (usually about 20-30 minutes), carefully pour them onto one side of the bottom grate using tongs or gloves while leaving an empty space next to them where there are no coals (this is called indirect heat). This setup allows for both direct heat searing as well as slower indirect cooking depending on what type(s)of meat being grilled.

Lighting the Charcoal

There are several methods for lighting charcoal, but we recommend using a chimney starter. This tool is easy to use and ensures that your coals will be evenly lit.

To start, fill the chimney starter with enough briquettes or lump coal for your cookout. Next, place crumpled newspaper or fire starters in the bottom of the chimney starter and light them up.

The flames will ignite the coals above them.

Allow about 20-30 minutes for all of your coals to become fully ignited before dumping them into your grill’s designated area (usually on one side). Be sure not to spread out too much as this can cause uneven cooking temperatures across different areas of the grill surface.

How to Build Your Fire

Building a charcoal fire is an essential part of grilling, and getting it right can make all the difference in achieving that perfect sear on your steak.

Firstly, ensure you have enough charcoal for your cookout. A good rule of thumb is about 30 briquettes per pound of meat.

Next up is arranging them correctly; there are two popular methods: The first method involves piling up the coals into a pyramid shape before lighting them with lighter fluid or using a chimney starter.

The second method involves placing unlit coals around lit ones in what’s called “the snake” formation – this allows for more even heat distribution throughout cooking time.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to let the coals burn until they’re covered with white ash before adding any food onto the grill grate. This ensures optimal temperature control and prevents flare-ups from occurring during cooking.

Seasoning the Steak

Seasoning is an essential step in grilling a delicious steak on a charcoal grill. It enhances the natural flavors of the meat and adds depth to its taste.

To season your steak, start by generously sprinkling kosher salt or sea salt over both sides of your meat. The amount will depend on how thick your cut is; as a rule of thumb, use about 1 teaspoon per inch thickness.

Next up is black pepper – freshly ground if possible – which complements beef perfectly with its earthy flavor and aroma. Sprinkle some over each side but don’t go too heavy-handed as this spice can easily overpower other flavors.

If you want to add more complexity to your seasoning blend, try adding garlic powder or onion powder for extra savory notes that pair well with grilled meats.

Remember not to add any acidic ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar at this stage since they can toughen up the meat fibers before cooking even begins!

Grilling Temperatures

How hot should your charcoal grill be? The temperature of your grill is crucial when it comes to cooking a perfect steak. If the heat is too low, you risk undercooking the meat; if it’s too high, you’ll end up with a charred exterior and an overcooked interior.

The ideal grilling temperature for steaks on a charcoal grill ranges from 450°F-500°F (232°C-260°C). This high heat will give your steak that beautiful sear while locking in all those delicious juices.

To achieve this optimal grilling temperature on a charcoal grill, use enough coals so that they cover about two-thirds of the bottom grate surface area. Once lit and ashed over (usually takes around 20 minutes), spread them out evenly across the grate using tongs or gloves.

It’s important not to rush this process as getting an even distribution of coals can take some time but once achieved will ensure consistent temperatures throughout cooking.

Cook Time Guidelines

How long should you cook your steak on a charcoal grill? The answer depends on several factors such as the thickness of the cut, desired doneness, and grilling temperature.

As a general rule of thumb for medium-rare steaks:

  • 1 inch thick: Grill for 4-5 minutes per side
  • 1.5 inches thick: Grill for 6-7 minutes per side
  • 2 inches thick: Grill for around 10 minutes per side

For medium-well or well-done steaks:

Add an additional minute or two to each side depending on thickness.

It’s important not to overcook your steak as this can result in tough meat that lacks flavor. Use a meat thermometer to check internal temperatures; aim for an internal temperature of around: – Medium-rare (warm red center): Internal temp of about 130°F.

– Medium (pink center): Internal temp between 135°F–145°F. – Well-done (little or no pink): Internal temp above 160°F.

Remember that these are just guidelines; every cut is different so adjust accordingly based on personal preference and experience with grilling times.

Flipping Techniques

It ensures that both sides are cooked evenly, resulting in a perfectly grilled steak. However, flipping too often or at the wrong time can lead to overcooking or undercooking your meat.

To avoid this, use tongs instead of a fork to flip your steaks. Piercing the meat with a fork will cause juices to escape and dry out the steak.

Tongs allow you to grip and turn without piercing.

When it comes time for flipping, wait until you see grill marks on one side before turning it over – usually around 2-3 minutes depending on thickness and heat level. Once flipped, let it cook for another 2-3 minutes before checking again.

Searing a Steak On Charcoal

Searing is an essential step in grilling a perfect steak as it creates that delicious crust on the outside while keeping the inside juicy and tender.

To achieve this, move your steak directly over the hottest part of your charcoal grill. This will create an intense heat that will caramelize and brown the surface of your meat quickly.

Use tongs to flip only once during this process; flipping too often can cause you to lose those precious juices.

For best results, aim for 1-2 minutes per side or until you see those beautiful grill marks forming on each side of your steak. Once done, remove from heat and let rest for at least five minutes before slicing into it.

Testing Steak Doneness

The most accurate way is by using a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the steak without touching any bone or fat.

For rare, aim for an internal temperature of 125°F (52°C), medium-rare should be around 135°F (57°C), medium at 145°F (63°C) and well-done at 160°F (71°C). If you prefer not to use a meat thermometer, there are other methods that can help determine doneness such as touch and sight tests.

The touch test involves pressing on different parts of your hand while comparing it with how firm or soft your steak feels when pressed in different areas. A rare steak will feel like pressing on the fleshy area between your thumb and index finger when making an “OK” sign; medium-rare will feel like pressing on that same spot but with fingers slightly apart; medium feels similar to touching just below that area towards where wrist meets palm while well-done is akin to feeling pressure near base of thumb.

Resting the Steak

Resting allows the juices in the meat to redistribute evenly throughout, resulting in a more tender and flavorful steak.

To rest your steak, remove it from the grill with tongs or a spatula and place it on a cutting board. Tent loosely with foil or an upside-down bowl for about 5-10 minutes depending on its thickness.

This will allow time for the internal temperature of the meat to rise slightly while retaining moisture.

Resist cutting into that juicy piece of meat right away! Cutting too soon can cause all those delicious juices you worked so hard for during grilling time to escape onto your plate instead of staying inside where they belong.

Use this resting period as an opportunity to prepare any sides or garnishes you plan on serving alongside your perfectly grilled masterpiece.

Slicing and Serving

Use a sharp knife to cut against the grain of the meat for maximum tenderness. The thickness of each slice will depend on personal preference, but aim for around 1/2 inch thick slices.

When serving your steak, consider adding a pat of butter or drizzle with olive oil for added flavor and moisture. You can also top with fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme.

Pairing options are endless when it comes to grilled steaks! A classic pairing is a baked potato topped with sour cream and chives alongside some grilled asparagus spears. Or try something different like roasted garlic mashed potatoes paired with sautéed mushrooms in red wine sauce.

Serving Suggestions

What should you serve with your deliciously grilled steak? Here are some serving suggestions that will complement and enhance the flavors of your perfectly cooked meat.

Firstly, consider pairing your steak with a fresh salad or roasted vegetables. A simple green salad dressed in vinaigrette can provide a refreshing contrast to the rich flavor of beef.

Roasted vegetables such as asparagus or Brussels sprouts also make for an excellent side dish.

If you’re looking for something more substantial, try serving mashed potatoes or sweet potato fries alongside your grilled steak. The creamy texture and savory taste will balance out any smoky notes from grilling.

For those who prefer lighter fare, consider adding some fruit to their plate like sliced peaches or pineapple chunks which add sweetness and acidity that complements well with beefy flavors.

Don’t forget about wine! A full-bodied red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon pairs exceptionally well with grilled steaks due to its tannic structure that cuts through fat while enhancing meaty flavors.

Sides and Pairings

While a perfectly grilled steak can stand on its own, adding some complementary flavors to your meal will take it to the next level. A classic pairing for a juicy steak is a baked potato topped with butter and sour cream or roasted vegetables like asparagus or Brussels sprouts drizzled with balsamic glaze.

If you’re looking for something more adventurous, try grilling some corn on the cob alongside your steaks or whipping up a batch of garlic mashed potatoes. For those who prefer lighter options, consider serving up an arugula salad tossed in lemon vinaigrette dressing.

When it comes to drinks, red wine is always an excellent choice when enjoying beef dishes; however, if you’re not into wine, beer pairs well too! Try pairing your grilled steaks with hoppy IPAs that cut through rich meaty flavors.

Charcoal Grilling Safety

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Always use heat-resistant gloves or mitts when handling hot coals or grates.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area.
  • Never leave your lit grill unattended.
  • Use long-handled tools to avoid getting burned by flames or hot surfaces.
  • Avoid wearing loose clothing that could catch fire while cooking on a charcoal grill.

By following these simple guidelines, you can ensure that your outdoor cooking experience is both enjoyable and safe for everyone involved. Now let’s get back to perfecting our steak-grilling skills!


How long should you cook a steak on a charcoal grill?

Cook a steak on a charcoal grill for 4 to 5 minutes on one side, then turn over and grill for an additional 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare, 5 to 7 minutes for medium, or 8 to 10 minutes for medium-well.

Do you close charcoal grill when cooking steak?

Yes, close the charcoal grill when cooking steak to prevent excessive oxygen from burning the food and only open it to flip or remove the steak.

How long to cook 1 inch steak on charcoal grill?

To cook a 1-inch steak on a charcoal grill to medium-rare, it takes about 8-10 minutes, and for medium, it takes 10-12 minutes; always use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature before removing it from the grill.

What is the ideal temperature for cooking steak on a charcoal grill?

The ideal temperature for cooking steak on a charcoal grill is between 450°F and 500°F.

How can you ensure even cooking of a steak on a charcoal grill?

To ensure even cooking of a steak on a charcoal grill, regularly flip the steak and maintain consistent heat throughout the cooking process.

What are the best seasonings or marinades to use for a steak cooked on a charcoal grill?

Best seasonings/marinades for steak on charcoal grill: garlic, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, sea salt, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, dijon mustard, and olive oil.