As someone who’s grilled more meat in his time than the doctor or missus would approve of, I’ve encountered my fair share of frustrating moments on the BBQ.
But let me tell you, there’s nothing more maddening than a steak that won’t stay put on the grill. You know what I’m talking about: the stubborn steak that curls up on the edges and makes it damn near impossible to get grill marks.
Fortunately for me—and for y’all—I’ve learned a thing or two about how to keep a steak from curling, and I’m here to share my secrets with you. Grab your tongs, fire up that grill, and let’s talk about the things that you can do to stop your steaks from curling once and for all.
Why Steaks Curl on the Grill
Why do steaks curl in the first place?
It’s all about the muscle fibers, folks. You see, every steak has a grain—the direction in which the muscle fibers run. When heat is applied to the steak, those fibers contract and tighten up, causing the steak to curl.
Now, this ain’t a problem if you’re cookin’ up a nice, thin steak. But when it comes to thick steaks, by which I mean anything over an inch (2.5 centimeters) thick, the curling can be a real nuisance.
Don’t get discouraged just yet!
While it’s true that steaks have a tendency to curl up on the grill, there’s good news too. This curling business is preventable, at least to some extent. Now, I’m not saying you can completely eliminate the curl (hey, sometimes a steak is just going do what it wants). But with a little bit of know-how, you can certainly keep it to a minimum.
How to Prevent Steaks From Curling
Now that we know what causes steaks to curl, what can we do to prevent it?
Well, the key is to break down those muscle fibers before we even fire up the grill. Some people recommend scoring the steak—making shallow cuts across the grain of the meat. This will help to loosen up those fibers and keep the steak nice and flat on the grill.
But there’s a problem with this method, because it leads to the loss of juice. And a steak that isn’t juicy is a steak that’s left over.
Another method recommended by many a griller is to tenderize the steak using a meat mallet. The pounding will break down those fibers, resulting in a less curly steak. But then the texture’s off, unless you like your steak with the mouthfeel of a cutlet.
So what should you do to keep your steaks from curling?
Bring the steak to room temperature. Now, I know this might sound like common sense to a lot of you, but you’d be surprised at how many folks forget to take their steak out of the fridge before they start grilling.
When a steak is cold, the muscle fibers are tighter, making it more prone to curling. So before you even think about firing up the grill, make sure to take that steak out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
And, now, another little trick I’ve learned along the way.
Dry-brine the steak. What in the world is dry-brining, you ask? Well, it’s a method of seasoning the steak and tenderizing it at the same time.
Simply sprinkle a generous amount of kosher salt on both sides of the steak, and refrigerate it for about 60 minutes before cooking. The salt will work its way into the meat, breaking down those pesky muscle fibers and adding a ton of flavor to boot.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little lesson on how to prevent steak from curling on the grill.
With these simple tips in your back pocket, you’ll be well on your way to grilling up some perfectly flat, juicy steaks in no time. Just remember to bring the steak to room temperature and dry-brine it for added flavor and tenderness.
Happy grilling and don’t be a stranger, now!