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Jun 14, 2011 09:50 AM

How to get a tender, medium-well steak?

I love the rich, robust taste of a grilled, fully-cooked steak (I find the bloody taste of medium or less to be unpleasantly similar to the smell of picking a scab on a hot day.) My "perfect" steak is rich brown outside with just a bit of charring, and lighter brown/gray inside except for a thin pinkish-gray line in the center.

I understand that the more done a steak gets, the less tender it will be. However, I've grilled some steaks to my perfect doneness that turned out deliciously tender. Unfortunately, it is more often a bit on the tough side - not usually *too* bad, but more chewy than I prefer.

Obviously the cut, the cooking temperature, searing time, and the cooking times are all factors, as well as the starting temperature of the meat, dryness, resting time, etc. My problem is that I can't afford steak often enough to figure out the combination of factors that accidentally come together sometimes to make the steak turn out so tender and good.

So with the understanding that a medium-well steak will never be quite as tender as medium or rare, what is my best bet for making that medium-well steak turn out as tender as possible, while still getting those delicious grill marks from proper searing?

I have a gas grill but have been tossing around getting a charcoal one too.

Thanks for any ideas,


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  1. Hey Matthew,
    I would get the grill as hot as possible, salt the steak well and maybe drizzle some olive oil on top. Sear the steak just until the grill marks appear and then get it over a low heat. You could kill the heat all together on the gas grill or move the steak indoors to a very low oven (200 maybe). Watch it carefully and as soon as the meat thermometer nears the temperature you want (what is that by the way?), take it out and let it rest for a good 10-15 minutes before you cut it. That should give the juices more time to reincorporate and will keep it from getting dry.

    This will be much easier with a thicker cut. Good luck and please report back!

    1. Buy steaks that are more tender by nature. I find that skirt steak, due to its well-marbled nature and distinct grain, is generally still tender if cooked to medium or beyond as long as you cut it against the grain as you eat. Filet is still tender at just about any temperature, but because it has so little fat it does get dry if you go past medium rare. What cut of meat do you generally use?

      2 Replies
      1. re: biondanonima

        Thanks for the idea, I'll take a look at skirt steaks sometime soon.

        I generally buy top sirloin, which I can often find for $3.49 to $3.99 a pound at Kroger or Walmart. Once in awhile I'll get ribeye, which we like better but can rarely find for a price we're willing to pay. I tried t-bone once but definitely overcooked it due to a small emergency in the house just when the grill needed careful tending, so I'd like to try those again.

        Some of the best beef I've ever turned out was a chuck roast. It took nearly two hours to grill, but I kept basting it throughout that time and it came out delicious and quite tender and juicy, even though I'd done it to well all the way through.

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. If you're interested in experimenting, you could season the steak with butter, salt, pepper and whatever aromatics you want, vacuum bag it and then drop it into a water bath set at 150-155ºF for a few minutes to a few hours depending on how thick the steak is.

          Then unzip the bag, dry off the meat with some towel, and throw it onto your screaming-hot IR grill to burn in the grill marks.

          4 Replies
          1. re: wattacetti

            Hmm, the OP sounds like my husband's preference, too. So is 150-155 F also the internal temp for the medium well not vacuumed/hot water bathed?

            1. re: pine time

              150-155 is the range I've always used for medium/medium well cow irrespective of cooking method.

              I'm proposing sous-vide primarily to allow for temperature control and a way for the butter to help work on the meat.

              1. re: wattacetti

                Thanks -- will give the 150-155 a try for his steak next time. I like mine less well done, so usually overcook his.

                1. re: pine time

                  Rest his piece of cow irrespective. If you're doing the grilling or oven thing, I suggest pulling at 145-150 and tenting for 10-15 minutes.

          2. Using a Jaccard will help with tenderness and will also prevent some of the moisture loss caused by muscle fibers contracting. All of this will make your med well steak more enjoyable.