CIA Grilling Tips: How to Get Grill Marks on Steak

CIA Grilling Tips How to Mark a Steak og image

Want to know The Culinary Institute of America’s secret on how to get those great grill marks on a steak? CIA Chef Howie Velie has just the grilling tip to teach you how.

“To make the grill marks, you need to place the steak onto the grill in a certain direction,” says Velie. “If you think about a clock, think about placing it first at 10:00. Let that grill for a while, then pick it up, keeping it on the same side, and turn it to 2:00 which will make the “x” pattern. Do the same on the other side and you will have a beautiful crosshatch pattern on your steak.”

In addition to making a visually appealing pattern, this method also produces what food scientists call the Maillard Reaction—a complex browning reaction that turns meat golden brown when cooked and results in a big flavor.

Try out this technique with the following recipe for steak Tuscan-style (Bistecca alla Fiorentina) that is perfect for Father’s Day.

Sprinkle it with salt and pepper, rub it with garlic and rosemary, and drizzle it with olive oil and fresh lemon juice as it comes off the grill. Paired with a side of creamy herbed polenta, each juicy steak is large enough to serve two.

The following recipes, along with more than 175 others, are explained and illustrated in the CIA’s Grilling cookbook (Lebhar-Friedman 2006).

Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Grilled Steak Tuscan-Style)

Serves 8

  • 4 T-bone or strip loin steaks, 1 1/2 inches thick
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced rosemary leaves
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  1. Preheat a gas grill to high; leave one burner off. If you are using a charcoal grill, build a fire and let it burn down until the coals are glowing red with a light coating of white ash. Spread the coals in an even bed on one side of the grill. Clean the cooking grate.
  2. Brush the steaks with a bit of the oil and season generously with the garlic, salt, pepper, and rosemary.
  3. Grill the steaks over direct heat until marked, about two minutes on each side. Move the steaks to the cooler part of the grill and continue to grill over indirect medium heat until desired doneness; six to seven minutes per side for medium (cook slightly less for rare, slightly more for medium-well).
  4. Transfer the meat to a cutting board or a large platter. Drizzle each of the steaks with two teaspoons more olive oil and finish sprinkling the steaks with lemon juice.
  5. Let the steaks rest for about 10 to 15 minutes before carving into slices. To carve the steaks, cut the meat from the bone with the tip of a knife; it will separate easily and cleanly from the bones if you use short strokes and keep the blade as close to the bone as possible. Once the meat is cut free, carve it into slices. Serve on a heated platter or plates.

Nutrition analysis per 4.5-ounce serving: 300 calories, 31g protein, 2g carbohydrate, 18g fat, 1240mg sodium, 85mg cholesterol, 0g fiber.


Herbed Polenta

Serves 8

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons chopped thyme
  1. Bring the chicken broth to a boil and season with the salt and pepper. Add the cornmeal in a stream, stirring constantly until all of it has been added. Simmer, stirring often, until the polenta has thickened and starts to pull away lightly from the sides of the pot, 10 to 25 minutes depending on coarseness of meal. Remove from the heat and blend in the cheese, butter, rosemary, and thyme. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if desired.

Nutrition analysis per 5.5-ounce serving: 180 calories, 10g protein, 17g carbohydrate, 7g fat, 1230mg sodium, 15mg cholesterol, less than 1g fiber.