How to Grill Steak on a Charcoal Grill

Jeremy Bivens
Jeremy Bivens
Research Writer
Jeremy Bivens is a passionate writer and grilling enthusiast. He's been working as a freelance journalist for over 15 years now and has a particular interest in food writing read more
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Bruce Williams
Bruce Williams
Expert Consultant
Claims that grilling is the art that he has been learning all his life long and is not planning to stop. Has been grilling for as long as he can remember. Author of numerous read more
Last updated: September 11, 2023
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Nothing beats the subtle smokey flavor of steak grilled on charcoal. If you own a charcoal grill, you don’t have to visit a fancy restaurant every time you crave a scrumptious medium-rare steak. You only need to learn how to grill steak on a charcoal grill, then you can cook any kind of steak on your patio, from t-bone and striploin to good old porterhouse and ribeye.

Plus, all you need is a sturdy charcoal grill and a few ingredients. It is the ingredients, the technique, and the quality of meat you pick from the grocery store that will determine how good your steak tastes. Also, there are different types of steaks, and it would help if you could tell their differences when you go shopping at the grocers. The bottom line is, with a few tips, anyone can cook some delicious steak from home on their charcoal grill.

How to choose the best steak for grilling

There are a few things that you must consider when you go to buy steak. They should help you to make the best buy.

Steak type

How to Grill Steak on a Charcoal GrillIf you are new to cooking steak, you might be confused about the type of cuts to settle for. It’s easier to settle on any random meat cuts at the grocery store or meat aisle at the supermarket, but you can’t play a game if you don’t know its rules and its equipment. As a beginner, you can stick to the classic cuts like T-bone, filet mignon, or ribeye.

Beef grade

Contrary to popular belief, all beef is not the same. Once you have picked the cut of meat you want, you need to choose the grade you need. Beef grades are based on the amount of intermuscular fat in the meat. Fat is the white part you see on your steak. Fatty meat is flavorful; therefore, the more the fat, the yummier your steak will be. The grades include choice, select and prime grade. Choice has more fat than select, and prime has better marbling than choice. For charcoal grilling, go for choice or prime if you have the budget.


The best steak for grilling on a charcoal grill is at least 1-inch thick. Thin steak would cook too quickly, denying you the chance of giving it a good sear on the outside as you’d be risking overdoing it on the inside.

How long does it take to grill steak?

How to Grill Steak on a Charcoal GrillThere is no clear-cut answer for how long to cook a steak on a charcoal grill. How long it will take you to grill steak depends on the cut of steak, how done you like it, and its thickness. Grilling a ribeye will not take the smart time as grilling a thicker cut like fillet mignon.

To be precise with the time and doneness Trusted Source Doneness - Wikipedia Doneness is a gauge of how thoroughly cooked a cut of meat is based on its color, juiciness, and internal temperature. The gradations are most often used in reference to beef (especially steaks and roasts) but are also applicable to other types of meat. when cooking steak, you better invest in a meat thermometer.

For a medium-rare steak, you can grill each side for about 4-6 minutes, depending on how thick the steak is.

For instance, the ribeye is a thick-cut, thus would need more time on the grill. For medium rare-doneness, you can cook it for 5 minutes on each side, and for medium doneness, you can cook it for about 7-10 minutes on each side.

Sirloin is also as thick as ribeye, but some may be a bit thinner. A 1-inch sirloin should cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side for medium-rare doneness and 5-6 minutes for medium doneness.

Filet mignon is one of the thickest steak cuts, usually ranging from 2 to 3 inches. For a medium-rare doneness, you should grill each side for 5 to 6 minutes, while for medium doneness, you should do about 6 to 8 minutes. Just to be sure that the inside cooks to your desired temperature, you can move the fillet mignon to indirect heat and close the grill’s lid.

Grilling process

If you are wondering how to cook the perfect steak for dinner tonight, follow the guidelines below keenly. You can use the instructions to cook just about any type of steak cuts, from top sirloin and T-bone to the classic porterhouse and fillet mignon.

Tools you’ll need

How to Grill Steak on a Charcoal GrillThe first obvious thing you will need is a charcoal grill. Depending on your budget and needs, choose one that suits you. There are multiple brands and models of charcoal grills out there. If you get confused, you can try out the famous Kamado Joe KJ23RHC Classic II Charcoal Grill. Users and expert reviewers swear by it. Its half-moon design offers ample cooking space and allows you to cook different types of foods at different temperatures. With its locking casters and wheels, you can easily move the grill from one place to another.

You will need a meat thermometer. It has to be a digital instant-read thermometer like the popular ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Remote Digital Cooking Food Meat Thermometer. It comes highly recommended by experts and top reviewers. It is also a famous go-to meat thermometer for professionals and grill enthusiasts because it comes with a hands-free monitor that allows you to check on your steak 300 meters away.

Another tool you could use is a charcoal starter. The best charcoal starter will help you start your charcoal grill pretty fast. It is also a healthier and less messy option compared to lighter fluids and other chemicals used to start a charcoal grill.

Another must-have is charcoal lumps or briquettes. Be sure to go for professional briquettes that provide consistent heat and temperature control when grilling, searing, or slow-cooking.


Ingredients are a matter of personal preference, but the most basic steak ingredients you would need as a beginner griller include:

·         Steak of your choice

·         Coarse salt

·         Seasoning (This could be pepper, barbecue rub, or spices of your choice)


Here is a step by step guide on how to grill a porterhouse steak on a charcoal grill. The instructions apply to all kinds of steak.

Step 1. Apply seasoning.

How to Grill Steak on a Charcoal GrillWhen you have the meat ready from the store or well-thawed from the freezer, you can apply seasoning to it. You can use barbecue rub or the good old garlic, salt, and pepper. You can never go wrong with salt, pepper, and garlic.

Step 2. Light the charcoal

You need to give the meat at least an hour to dry brine after seasoning it. It would be senseless to light your charcoal before then. Therefore, the best time to light the charcoal is after seasoning. Load up the chimney and use a charcoal starter to light a fire. Once the charcoal is ashed up, dump it into your grill. You can choose to spread the charcoal evenly on the grill or place it on one side, depending on the cooking method you will use.

Step 3 (Optional). Some more seasoning

For exceptional texture and crust on the outside of the steak, you can add some more seasoning. It also adds an extra layer of flavor.

Step 4. Place the meat on the grill and cook it.

How to Grill Steak on a Charcoal GrillIf you have a grill grate, place it on the charcoal grill, then wait for it to heat up to about 500 degrees F. Place the steak on the grill, then cover it with the lid. The cooking time of the steak depends on how thick it is. Rotate the steak 90 degrees every 2 minutes until the cooking time for one side has been reached, then flip it to the other side and repeat.

Step 5. Check if the steak is done

How to Grill Steak on a Charcoal GrillWhile still on the grill, use a digital instant-read thermometer to check the steak’s doneness. For a rare steak, it should read 130 degrees F, for medium-rare, 135 degrees F, for medium doneness, 145 degrees F, for medium-well 150 degrees F, and for well done 160 degrees F.

Step 6. Remove from grill and rest

Get your steak off from the grill and place it on a chopping board. Cover it with aluminum foil, then let it rest for 5 minutes.

Useful tips

Here are some quick tips that will help you achieve steakhouse steak quality all the time you grill steak at home.

Use a thermometer

A digital instant-read thermometer goes a long way in helping you cook the perfect steak. You will be able to gauge your steaks cooking time better, and chances of overcooking or undercooking your steak will be minimal. Also, be sure to remove your steak from the grill when its temperature is 5 degrees below your desired temperature. This is because the cooking will continue for a while after you remove it from the grill, and you don’t want it to get overdone.

Dry brine

How to Grill Steak on a Charcoal GrillFor a juicier and flavorful steak, dry brine. Dry brining is applying salt to meat before cooking it. The salt will draw moisture out of the meat, which will then dissolve it and then get reabsorbed into the meat. You can use ordinary salt or a rub that contains salt to dry brine.

Indirect grilling

Once you have given your steak a good grill sear, you can move it to another side of the grill with lower heat to prevent it from drying out quickly. Remember only to turn your steaks when the cooking time for each side has been reached. Overflipping can ruin the cooking process and dry out the steaks faster.

Rest the steak

Give the steak a good 5 to 10-minutes rest before serving to allow the juices to move back into the meat for ultimate tenderness and flavor.

Final thoughts

With the right tools and ingredients, anyone can easily cook steak in the comfort of their own home. It doesn’t take much to learn how to grill steak on a charcoal grill. Just a few basic tips, which we have provided in great detail, then you can hone your skills with time to become a professional griller. With the guidelines on this article, you can confidently cook the perfect steakhouse quality tri-tip steak.

You should cook your steak according to your preferences. The cooking time and seasoning all depend on how you like your steak. If you are a beginner and are worried you might not get it right, invest in a high-quality digital instant-read meat thermometer. It will help you know when the inside is done to your liking. Also, when buying the steak, ensure you get enough information about its thickness and grade so that you can get the cooking process right.


Doneness - Wikipedia
Doneness is a gauge of how thoroughly cooked a cut of meat is based on its color, juiciness, and internal temperature. The gradations are most often used in reference to beef (especially steaks and roasts) but are also applicable to other types of meat.

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