How to Cook Steak on Charcoal Grill? | Use My Best Method

Are you staring at that beautiful cut of steak with the charcoal grill fired up and ready to go but feeling a bit unsure about your next move? Trust me, this is a common moment for backyard chefs everywhere.

Perfecting the art of grilling steak—with its seared crust and succulent center—is no small feat.

But here’s some good news: I’ve done my fair share of grilling (with a few mishaps along the way) to bring you a tried-and-true method that delivers stunning results time after time.

One key step many overlook is letting your steak come to room temperature before it hits the grill—this simple act can make all the difference between tough and tender.

Hang tight because we’re about to elevate your grilling game. With insights gathered from countless cookouts, I’m here to guide you toward those picture-perfect grill marks and flavors that dance on the palate.

So grab your tongs, and let’s dive in—the path to becoming the neighborhood grill hero starts right here!

Key Takeaways

  • Preheat the charcoal grill by arranging the coals and lighting them until covered with white ash, ensuring even heat distribution for perfect grilling results.
  • Choose thicker cuts of steak like ribeye or New York strip with visible marbling for juicier and more flavorful grilled steaks.
  • Sear the seasoned steak over direct heat on the hot side of the grill, then move it to indirect heat for even cooking while maintaining its tenderness and juiciness.
  • Remember to let your grilled steak rest for 5 – 10 minutes before slicing into it, allowing the juices to redistribute within the meat and resulting in a more flavorful bite.

Why Grilling Steak on a Charcoal Grill is the Best Method

Why Grilling Steak on a Charcoal Grill is the Best Method

Grilling steak on a charcoal grill is the best method because it brings out flavorful results and provides an authentic grilling experience that you can’t get with other cooking methods.

Flavorful Results

The moment you lay your steak on that hot charcoal grill, something magical happens. The intense heat from the coals sears the meat, locking in those savory juices and creating a delicious crust that’s teeming with flavor.

Seasoning plays a pivotal role, too; I always sprinkle my favorite blend of salt, pepper, or other spices at least 15 minutes before grilling to ensure each bite is infused with taste.

Cooking on direct heat charms the steak with smoky hints while charring it to perfection – these are flavors you just can’t replicate with any other cooking method. It’s critical to use the high heat for searing and then move your steaks over to the indirect heat for finishing off.

This two-zone approach not only tenderizes but also deepens those complex flavors we all crave from a perfectly grilled steak.

After capturing that smokiness and sealing in seasonings under beautifully charred grill marks, be sure to transition smoothly into “Authentic grilling experience” where we’ll explore how this method elevates every aspect of your backyard BBQ.

Authentic Grilling Experience

To achieve an authentic grilling experience, preheat the charcoal grill by piling the charcoal to one side. This allows for two cooking zones where you can sear the steak over direct heat and then move it to the cooler side for even cooking.

Season your steaks with salt and pepper or your favorite seasoning for at least 15 minutes before grilling to infuse flavor into every bite. Place the steaks on the hot coals for a few minutes on each side, then transfer them to indirect heat until desired doneness is achieved, ensuring juicy, tender results that embody classic outdoor cooking.

This method ensures that your steaks attain that smoky flavor characteristic of charcoal grilling while allowing you full control over how each steak is cooked. By creating two separate temperature zones on your grill, you maintain versatility in achieving different levels of doneness and flavors without sacrificing tenderness or risking overcooking.

It’s about savoring every bite with authenticity, from searing to perfection right on your backyard barbecue.

Steps for Cooking Steak on the Charcoal Grill

Steps for Cooking Steak on the Charcoal Grill
  1. Preheat the grill by arranging the charcoal in a pyramid shape and lighting it, allowing it to burn until the coals are covered with white ash.
  2. Choose the right cut of steak, such as ribeye or New York strip, and make sure it is at room temperature before grilling.
  3. Season your steak generously with salt and pepper, or any other seasonings of your choice, and let it sit for about 30 minutes to an hour to absorb the flavors.
  4. Sear the steak over direct heat for a few minutes on each side to create a flavorful crust.
  5. Move the steak to indirect heat by placing it away from the hot coals and cover the grill, allowing it to cook through without burning.

Preheat the Grill

I always make sure to preheat the grill by piling charcoal to one side. This creates two cooking zones for searing over direct heat and cooking over indirect heat, which is essential for achieving a perfectly grilled steak.

  1. Bank the charcoal to one side: Pile the charcoal to one side of the grill, creating a hot zone for searing and a cooler zone for cooking.
  2. Use direct and indirect heat: Place the steaks on the hot side for a quick sear, then move them to the cooler side for even cooking.
  3. Control the temperature: Adjust the vents to manage the heat level, keeping it consistent throughout grilling.
  4. Monitor doneness: Utilize a meat thermometer to ensure your steak reaches your desired level of doneness.
  5. Be patient: Allow your steaks time to rest before serving, letting the juices redistribute for maximum flavor.

Choose the Right Cut of Steak

When selecting the right cut of steak for grilling on a charcoal grill, it’s important to consider thickness and marbling. Opt for thicker cuts like ribeye, New York strip, or sirloin for even cooking and juicy results.

These cuts are ideal for grilling over direct heat as they can withstand high temperatures without drying out. Look for steaks with visible marbling, as this intramuscular fat ensures tenderness and flavor during the grilling process.

By choosing the right cut of steak with optimal thickness and marbling, you’ll set yourself up for a delicious grilled masterpiece. Thicker cuts will hold up well to the intense heat of a charcoal grill while retaining their juiciness, while marbling will enhance flavor and tenderness.

Season Your Steak

I sprinkle salt and pepper generously on each side of the steak, making sure to coat it evenly. Then, I let the seasoned steak sit for at least 15 minutes before grilling to allow the flavors to penetrate into the meat.

Sometimes, I like to add a bit of my favorite steak seasoning for an extra kick of flavor. This simple step really enhances the taste of the steak and creates a delicious crust when searing over hot charcoal.

For added flavor, consider marinating your steaks with your favorite marinade before seasoning them. You can use ingredients such as soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or balsamic vinegar in your marinade to add depth and richness to the flavor profile.

Sear the Steak

After seasoning your steak, the next step is to sear it on the charcoal grill. Searing the steak at high temperatures helps to lock in the juices and give it that delicious outer crust. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Preheat the grill evenly before placing the steak on it.
  2. Use direct heat under the steak for a brief period, usually 2 minutes per side.
  3. Rotate the steak a quarter of a turn for even searing.
  4. Ensure that both sides are browned but not burned before moving to indirect heat for further cooking.

Move to Indirect Heat

After searing the steak to lock in the juices and create a flavorful crust, it’s time to move the steak to indirect heat for even cooking. This method ensures that the steak cooks through without burning on the outside. Here are the steps for moving your steak to indirect heat:

  1. Bank the charcoal to one side of the grill, creating two cooking zones.
  2. Place the seared steaks on the cooler side of the grill, away from direct heat.
  3. Close the lid of the grill to maintain an even cooking temperature inside.
  4. Let the steaks cook on indirect heat for about 10 minutes per side or until they reach your desired level of doneness.

Tips for Grilling the Best Steak on Charcoal

Tips for Grilling the Best Steak on Charcoal

Give the Steak Time to Rest

Once the steak is taken off the grill, it’s crucial to give it time to rest. This allows the juices within the meat to be redistributed and ensures a more flavorful and tender bite. During this resting period, cover the steaks with aluminum foil for about 5-10 minutes to retain heat while letting them rest properly.

Resting also allows for a more even cook as carryover cooking occurs, resulting in a perfectly juicy and delicious steak.

After grilling, resist the urge to immediately cut into your steak. Letting it rest helps maintain its juiciness by allowing the muscle fibers to relax and reabsorb moisture. The resting process contributes greatly to achieving an overall perfect outcome when cooking steak on a charcoal grill.

Control the Heat

To control the heat while grilling steak on charcoal, I recommend preheating the grill by piling the charcoal to one side. This way, you create two cooking zones: one for searing over direct heat and another cooler side for cooking.

It’s essential to monitor the temperature of the grill throughout the cooking process to ensure that your steaks cook evenly and reach your desired level of doneness.

By creating two distinct cooking zones, you can easily adjust the heat based on your needs and preferences. This method allows you to achieve a perfectly grilled steak with a delicious charred exterior and a juicy interior.

Use a Meat Thermometer

To control the heat while grilling, it’s essential to ensure that your steak reaches the perfect level of doneness. Using a meat thermometer is the most accurate way to check the internal temperature of your steak and avoid undercooking or overcooking it.

Insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the steak, away from bone and fat, to get an accurate reading. This simple tool will help you achieve your desired level of doneness every time, whether you prefer rare, medium-rare, medium, or well-done steaks.

Monitoring the temperature with a meat thermometer ensures that your steaks are cooked perfectly without any guesswork.

Experiment with Different Seasonings and Toppings

Experimenting with different seasonings and toppings is a fun way to add variety to your grilled steaks. I like to try out different combinations of herbs, spices, and marinades on my steaks to see which flavors complement the meat best.

For example, I often use a blend of garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and a touch of cayenne for a savory kick. Additionally, I enjoy experimenting with various steak rubs as well as homemade or store-bought marinades to infuse the meat with extra flavor.

When it comes to toppings, I find that adding compound butters or flavorful sauces can elevate the taste of grilled steaks. Whether it’s a classic garlic herb butter or a tangy chimichurri sauce, these additions can take your steak from ordinary to extraordinary.


How to determine when the grill is ready, you should close the grill while cooking steak, and how to properly sear steak on charcoal are common questions I will address. Read more for all your grilling FAQs.

How to determine when the grill is ready?

To determine when the grill is ready, I start by preheating the charcoal until it turns ashy and gray, usually taking about 15-20 minutes. Additionally, using a grill thermometer helps ensure that the grill reaches the optimal temperature for searing steaks over direct heat or for grilling them to perfection over indirect heat.

By paying attention to these indicators, you can be sure that your charcoal grill is ready to cook delicious steaks.

I check if my charcoal is properly lit and evenly distributed across the coals before placing my steaks on the grill. It’s essential to wait until all of the coals are glowing red with a light layer of ash before starting to cook.

Should you close the grill while cooking steak?

After determining when the grill is ready, it’s common to wonder whether to close the grill while cooking steak. Closing the grill helps in trapping heat for more even and consistent cooking.

This method allows the steaks to cook through evenly without drying them out. It also infuses a smoky flavor into the meat by allowing the smoke from the charcoal or wood chips to circulate around the steak.

Ensure that you keep an eye on the internal temperature of both your grill and your steak, as closing it might raise its temperature. By using a thermometer, I can ensure that my steak reaches my preferred level of doneness while keeping an optimal grilling environment inside with closed-lid grilling on a charcoal grill.

How to properly sear steak on charcoal?

To properly sear the steak on charcoal, it’s essential to preheat the grill and bank the charcoal to one side. Once the grill is hot, place your seasoned steaks directly over the hot coals for about 2 minutes per side.

Rotate them a quarter turn to achieve those coveted crosshatch grill marks before moving them to the cooler side of the grill for further cooking.

Using a meat thermometer ensures you cook your steaks to perfection without guessing. By following recommended cooking times and temperatures based on desired doneness, you’ll achieve juicy, tender steaks with a deliciously charred exterior.

What’s the best method for grilling steak on a charcoal grill?

To grill the perfect steak on a charcoal grill, start by searing it on high heat directly over the coals and then finish cooking to your preferred doneness.

How long should I cook my steak on the charcoal grill?

The grilling time for steak on a charcoal grill varies depending on thickness but typically involves several minutes per side to get a nice sear and reach medium-rare.

Should I flip my steak often while cooking it over charcoal?

No, minimize flipping your steak; let it cook steadily, turning only once to ensure even cooking and get those classic grilled marks.

At what temperature should I maintain my charcoal grill when cooking steak?

For optimum results, keep your charcoal grill at a high temperature between 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re ready to sear your seasoned steaks.

Can you give tips for seasoning steaks before grilling them on charcoal?

Sure! Always season your steaks generously with salt and pepper or other BBQ spices of choice so they are packed full of flavor before hitting the hot grate of your smoky barbecue.


Grilling steak on a charcoal grill offers a flavorful and authentic experience. The steps provided for cooking steak on the charcoal grill are practical and easy to implement.

By mastering these techniques, you can achieve significant improvements in your grilled steaks. Explore further reading or resources to enhance your grilling skills. With determination and practice, perfecting the art of grilling steak on a charcoal grill is within reach.

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Will Frost

Will Frost

When Will is not behind the grill at one of his two Texas Steakhouses, He can be found exploring new recipes, researching the latest grilling gadgets, or sharing his culinary adventures on social media. Join Will Frost on as he embarks on a flavorful journey, unlocking the secrets to mastering outdoor cooking and creating unforgettable meals that bring people together.

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