The Art of Grilling: Creating Perfect Grill Marks Every Time

Farhad Ibrahimzade |

Everybody loves grill marks. There’s nothing like a nice hot steak with a perfect black crisscross char on it. Whether it adds flavor is up for debate, but nobody can deny that grill marks make your food that much prettier. 

But if you’ve tried grilling steaks before, you’re probably aware by now that perfect grill marks don’t just happen. If you’re not careful, you’ll get misaligned and discolored marks. Or worse, you might not get any grill marks at all. So how do you create the perfect grill marks every time? Let’s find out! 

The 6 Steps to Perfect Grill Marks

Creating grill marks is not hard, but it does require a bit of effort. Here’s how it’s done! 

Step 1: Prepare Your Grill

Before you even get to grilling, you’ll want the right tools first. The best way to achieve perfect grill marks is if you have a cast-iron grate. 

If your grill doesn’t have one, don’t fret. There are plenty of stores selling gas grill accessories like grill toppers. 

Other grates can also achieve grill marks, but using cast iron is by far the easiest way to get those perfect marks. 

Step 2: Pre-Heat

Pre-heating your grill is a very important step. Without it, it’s likely your steaks won’t have any grill marks at all! 

Aside from pre-heating, you also want to oil and clean up the grill. Any dirt or residue will prevent the meat from contacting the hot grill, thereby ruining its char. 

To clean, simply add some oil, and use a metal brush to scrub off any residue. Cleaning not only helps with grill marks, but it also gives your steak an even cook. 

Step 3: Prepare the Meat

If you’re not using a marinade, you’ll want to lightly oil your protein first. This prevents it from sticking to the grill, which can be a real problem if it happens. 

If you’re using marinated meat, it’s a good idea to wipe it down a little. The problem with too much marinade is that it can sometimes catch fire, which, if it happens too much, can ruin your steak. Once that’s done, it’s finally time to start grilling away. 

Step 4: Grill! 

Erik Mclean |

Here’s the part where most people make a mistake. 

It’s perfectly fine to just plop your steak straight onto the grill without much thought. But that’s where the difference between grill marks and perfect grill marks comes into play. 

To get perfect grill marks, you’ll want to lay your steak down at a 45-degree angle to the grates. 

Remember, you’re going for a fancy-looking grill mark. If you put your steak straight in, chances are you’ll get what looks like a chessboard instead. 

Once it’s in, you’ll also want to lightly press down on the steak. This ensures that there’s good contact between the meat and the grills. 

Step 5: Reposition

Most people leave the steaks there until it’s time to flip. But if you want perfect grill marks, you’ll need to be a perfectionist. 

Once the edges of your steak seem like they are releasing from the grill, gently lift the steak and take a look at the grill marks. Be careful, because you don’t want to move the steak around too much, as this will hurt the grill marks. 

If you see the grill marks are already there, then rotate your steak 90 degrees. You’ll also want to move it to a new area of the grill to ensure that both grill lines are equally charred. 

Step 6: The Other Side

Once one side of the steak is done, it’s time to flip and repeat the same process on the other side. 

A lot of times, you’ll have to sacrifice the grill marks on this side for the sake of perfectly cooking your steak, and that’s okay. After all, when presenting a steak, only one side is face up! 

You should still try to get good grill marks, of course, but don’t go kicking yourself if you can’t get it on both sides. 

Summary: How to Get the Perfect Grill Marks

Here’s a quick summary: 

  1. Prepare your grill, try to use a cast-iron grate as much as possible.
  2. Preheat and clean your grill using oil and a metal brush.
  3. Prepare the meat by lightly oiling it (no marinade), or removing excess marinade.
  4. Place the meat at a 45-degree angle to the grills.
  5. Once the edges stop sticking, check to see grill marks. When you find them, rotate the steak 90 degrees, and move it to a new area of the grill.
  6. Flip your steak over and repeat the process for the other side.

Getting perfect grill marks every time is not hard. 

However, you can’t just carelessly cook your steaks and hope you get good grill marks. You need to be well aware of what you’re doing. 

With this quick guide, you’re now ready to get out there and wow your family and friends with the most beautiful-looking grill marks! 

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