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Rubbing oil on steaks before grilling...what's up with that?

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I keep seeing all the cooks on TV and in recipes recommend that steaks be oilde before grilling. I have grilled thousands of steaks over the past 50 years and never oiled one. Particularly if one is cooking a ribeye, it is already heavily laden with fat. I use only lots of kosher salt or sea salt. What am I missing here?

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  1. Dunno ... maybe so that they won't stick?

    I've never oiled myself.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      If the grill is as hot as it should be, you need not worry about steak sticking.

      I'm with you, steakman.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        I think it is the sticking factor. If you have a leaner steak you need to put just a dab of oil on it. Not much, just a touch. Also if the steak is fatty, as in a ribeye, don't you get a flare-up when you cook it? Or are you just getting it past the "moo" stage (as in pretty rare)?

      2. I don't know about TV cooks but I've done this for years. One of our favorite steaks is flank which is pretty lean. Olive oil not only keeps the steak from sticking but gives some flavor as well.

        1. In some Asian style grilling, rubbing with sesame oil (after a soy marinade) is done for flavoring.

          1. i always thought rubbing oil on the steak before cooking helped give it a crisper 'crust' and help keep the salt, pepper, and/or spices on the steak.

            4 Replies
            1. re: soypower

              Exactly. Get some better crust ont he steak before some of the intramusclar fat begins to render. Not alot is needed, just enough oil on the steak to give it a slight sheen. maybe a tsp per side.

              1. re: ESNY

                Yes I do think it makes for better crust. Oil also helps to provide a layer of even heat as it heat up on the surface. One of the reasons you rub vegetables with oil before grilling.

                1. re: scubadoo97

                  I agree with Soypower, ESNY, and Scubadoo97. I never used to oil my steaks until I kept hearing it recommended on the Food Network. It works! You get a nicer crust and the inside is juicier. Also, it gives the kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper something to stick to.

                2. re: ESNY

                  I always oil my steak and let it get to room temperature before I cook it.
                  I get a beautiful carmelized crust on top and none of that cold interior nonsense..just a pink delicious center. It's a beautiful contrast in a nice piece of meat.

              2. I grilled a grassfed steak last night and brushed it with olive oil (thanks to a chowhound's advice!) It was a NY strip steak and pretty lean (grassfed being leaner than grainfed beef). It didn't stick to the grill, though I did oil the grate, but I will say that the final product was delicious!

                And I have always thought it was because of the "sticking" factor.

                1. I think it has to do with leaness of the cut of steak - should not have to oil a nicely marbled rib steak IMHO

                  1. I sometimes brush with melted butter, but for the flavor as much as anything else.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: coll

                      For leaner cuts of meat I sometimes use bacon fat, mostly for the flavor.

                    2. Clean hot grill surface...apply the meat...leave it alone for a couple of minutes...it want stick....No oil required..

                      1. Oil displaces water. On the TV shows they have cold steaks and hot lights, a combination guaranteed to get surface condensation. The oil chases off the moisture.

                        At home you should make sure your steak is nice and DRY so that you don't cool the grill with WATER and you will get the nice sear/char that you desire. For all the major cuts(t-bone, sirloin, filet, porterhouse) this is perfect. If you are doing something with a fresh herb rub (like with basil or rosemary) or particularly lean cuts (like flank) the oil is a good way to get the herbs to stick and provide some needed lipids, but I really don't think that if you have the grill nice and hot (over 500) that olive oil is adding flavor -- all the aromatic properties will flare right away...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: renov8r

                          The problem with using oil for the purpose of getting herbs or spices to stick during grilling is that the herbs and spices will burn. That goes for pan broiling, as well as over coals.

                          Oiling a steak before broiling does promote a better crust. I never salt before broiling, but do use sea salt after. If I want an herb flavor, then I mix the herbs -- fresh or dried -- with butter, use plastic wrap to roll it into a log, and tuck it in the fridge, the longer the more herb flavor. Then, after broiling the steak, salting it, letting it rest a bit, I melt a big pat of herb butter in the middle of it and serve. Good stuff, Maynard!

                        2. I don't use oil, I cut a potato in half and rub it on the grates to clean them. Some people look at me weird, until they try it. I've never had a problem with sticking.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: azhotdish

                            az- do you clean the grates prior to firing up the grill, or while the grates are hot? I have always used the heat of the fire to help clean the grates, and a grill brush helps get the gunk off, too. Would like more info on the potato as grill cleaner- very intriguing.

                            1. re: mkmccp

                              after the grill is hot. of course, with a potato in your hands, you'll have to have gloves on. and no red potatoes, it needs be to waxy.

                              1. re: azhotdish

                                I thought red potatoes WERE waxy ?

                              2. re: mkmccp

                                (i'm not az but wanted to add a tip for grate cleaning in general)
                                i find that cleaning the grates twice (once after grilling, while they are still hot, and a second time when the grill is fired up for the next round of grilling) gets the grates super-clean, and not even raw pizza dough will stick to them.

                            2. i have to agree it is not about sticking. it is about heat transfer and getting a good crust

                              1. I think olive oil keeps the steak's juices and flavors in. If you don't put olive oil on, when the steak heats up, the juices that are drizzle off the steak come mostly from the steak. If you put olive oil on and I mean lots, most of the juice that drips off is the olive oil, leaving the steaks natural juices locked in. This works for me and I swear by it. The family just loves steaks cooked this way. All I ever do is put a rub on the steak and then coat them with olive oil. I then throw them on the grill and they come off freaking delicious. Try it! It'll make a believer out of you.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: tedryder

                                  If you are using a rub the oil will help it stick

                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                    Yeah that's true too. I do think there is something to keeping the steaks juices locked in though. All the steaks I cook with olive oil on them are especially juicy and just taste more like steak if that makes sense. I think it puts a sort of barrier on the steak, locking in the steaks natural juices.

                                    You can cook steaks this way with no rub and they are still very, very delicious and moist.

                                    1. re: tedryder

                                      It can also create higher heat at the surface since the oil has a higher smoke point that the natural juices. Just a guess.