Grilling The Perfect Steak: 'The Rule of Threes'

So often I hear from people who burn a steak or undercook it and the point of this post is to provide you with a reliable method to properly grill your steaks ...

Welcome! My name is John and I’ve been writing a food blog called Grilling24x7 for the past couple of years. My interests include low and slow barbecue, grilling, and Ravens tailgating. I’ve lived in Glen Burnie for about 15 years and I was thrilled when the Glen Burnie Patch invited me to share some of my recipes and grilling methods with you. Let’s get started.

For my first post, I want to share a really easy and successful method for grilling a steak. So often I hear from people who burn a steak or undercook it and the point of this post is to provide you with a reliable method to properly grill your steaks. The ingredients are not elaborate because in my opinion grilling a steak should not require a lot of ingredients. It should be simple and the primary flavor should be STEAK! I call this method the “rule of threes” and it works perfectly for a steak that is about 1-1.5 inches thick. 


New York Strip or Ribeye steaks about 1-1.5 inches thick
Salt and pepper

Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the steaks and let them rest at room temperature while you are preparing your grill. Fill the charcoal chimney to the top with coals and start the fire. You want a high heat here so use at least 50 coals. Alternatively, crank your gas grill as hot as it will go. Once the coals are ready, dump them out only on one side of your grill and spread in an even layer. This will be the direct heat side. The other side where no coals are will be the indirect heat side.  You should be able to hold your hand over the direct heat side for no more than 2 seconds without screaming “ouch!” 

The rule of threes now comes into play. The rule of threes is simple and applies to cooking a 1-1.5 inch thick steak on very high charcoal heat:

3 minutes direct heat on side 1
3 minutes direct heat on side 2
3 minutes indirect heat on side 1
3 minutes indirect heat on side 2

If your heat is right, this will turn out a perfect medium or medium rare steak. It works well.  The time spent over direct heat will sear the steak and give it a great exterior, while the indirect heat will finish cooking the steak without burning it. A good rule of thumb is to never keep your steak, regardless of size, over high direct heat for more than 3 minutes or you will burn it. 

After the steaks are grilled, take some butter and let it sit on top of the finished steaks. Once the butter has melted the steaks are ready to serve. If you want a more well-done steak, increase the indirect cooking time an extra 1-2 minutes.  This should get you closer to a medium-well/well-done steak. Delicious steaks … it’s all about the technique; it’s all about temperature and time.

Check out more grilling recipes and methods from John at http://www.grilling24x7.com and follow John on Twitter at http://twitter.com/grilling24x7.  E-mail comments and suggestions to john@grilling24x7.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Phillip May 08, 2011 at 02:32 AM
Just that picture.. oh yummy! I do like the chard edges of a finely cooked medium well done steak! We have a gas webber which I love, but I still love the taste of charcoal cooked steak!
Jenn May 12, 2011 at 09:16 PM
I'm like Paula Deen when it comes to butter but I've never heard of putting it on steak! I'll definitely try it the next time we have steak! (If it were up to my husband, it would be every night!)
John - Grilling24x7 May 14, 2011 at 02:43 PM
The butter idea comes from Ruths Chris steakhouse. They top their steaks with butter and it can't be beat!
Dan February 07, 2013 at 06:39 AM
I'm not going to run so hot, as to need to turn the steaks as much. Turn it once and be done, or take the chance of eating dry steak. Butter is great after the grill, but I'm starting with EVO, salt and pepper. The EVO will give the sear that you want, with a bit lower heat. I also will almost warm the steaks, by letting them sit at room temp for an hour or two, therefore allowing the middle to cook faster. using the threes, but turning once should be rare. Add 30sec for med-rare, then 25sec more for med. For this cut nobody should need any more time. John also didden't address the presence of bone, which adds flavor to a steak. but requires more time to cook. Only add another 15-30 sec on each side, for bone-in. With the times he gives, I would guess, are for boneless. As for the salt, I recommend a medium grain sea or med-course kosher, so that it will still melt while being cooked, rather than as table salt, will penetrate and overtake the steak flavor. John is on the right track, but needs to add these extra considerations, so that the reader, can make the best of his advise. Just saying salt or pepper, or even NY Strip can be misunderstood.


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