Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: March 28, 2023

While there are several ways to go about cooking a steak, charcoal grilling is by far one of your best options. The combination of high heat and smoke helps create a rich and bold flavor in the meat, as well as the signature charring associated with charcoal grilling.

Quick Summary

  • In order to successfully charcoal grill a steak, you should first remove it from the fridge and dry brine the steak with salt prior to cooking.
  • Create two cooking zones in your cooking grill, the first allowing you to sear the meat, while the second allows for cooking through.
  • Lastly, rest the steak before serving.

How To Charcoal Grill Steak

Raw steak being grilled over charcoal

There is no “one way” to charcoal grill steak, but there are certainly many ways in which it shouldn’t be done.

By following a few simple steps, you can be assured of a brilliant end result that will be sure to do the trick every time.

The first thing you need to do is properly prepare your steak.

This will not only help it to cook quickly but will ensure that it's better able to hold onto flavor and seasoning.

Bringing the steak to room temperature will also ensure that it cooks evenly, ensuring a better end result overall.

Trimming any excess fat may also be a good idea as this will prevent the fire from flaring up if fat comes into contact with the flames.

Having said that, removing the fat may compromise the flavor of the steak because fat tends to add vast amounts of flavor to the meat.

About an hour before cooking, remove the steak from the fridge and place it on a roasting rack to allow it to come to room temperature.

Using sea salt with a medium-coarse grain, coat both sides of the steak.

The abovementioned process is referred to as dry-brining and is highly recommended in order to ensure a flavorful, juicy steak.

The salt, when applied to the surface of the steak, draws out moisture from the meat.

This moisture, in turn, dissolves the salt and is then reabsorbed back into the meat.

This not only enhances the flavor but also allows for a crispy exterior to form while ensuring the steak remains internally juicy and tender.

Get The Grill Going

A fiery stack of charcoal

Once you've done the proper preparation for the steak itself, your next job is to get the grill going.

The best way to grill using charcoal is to create two separate cooking zones within the same grill.

The first section uses direct heat, and this will be for searing the meat initially.

The second section will feature indirect heat that will be used for finishing off the meat and cooking it through.

Making use of these two separate zones will ensure the meat is evenly cooked throughout the process, locking in the flavor and ensuring a great piece of meat when the grilling process is complete.

If you’re unsure as to whether the grill is hot enough to cook on, your best bet will be holding your hand three inches above the grill.

If you can’t hold it there beyond two seconds, then the grill is ready for cooking. Visually, the top pieces of charcoal will turn grey, showing small amounts of ash on the surface.

Grilling Time

Steak meat being grilled over charcoal

When the fire is ready, it’s time to begin cooking your steaks. Begin by placing the steaks on the hot section of your fire.

Allow them to sit here for about two minutes before turning them one quarter clockwise.

Once another two minutes have passed, flip the steaks over. It’s important here not to place them down in the exact same spot.

This is because this spot has now cooled down significantly. Again, allow the steaks to sit for two minutes before giving them a quarter turn.

Once searing is complete, move the steaks to the indirect heat zone, ensuring that they aren’t directly over the coals.

This will help form a crispy outer coating and those sought-after sear marks.

Keep cooking the steaks in the indirect heat section of the fire, and turn them once halfway through cooking.

Using a meat thermometer, check the internal temperature of the meat until it reaches your desired level of "done."

The following should serve as an adequate guideline when cooking steak:

  • For rare steak, 125 degrees.
  • For a medium-rare steak, 135 degrees.
  • For medium steak, 145 degrees.

Further Tips For Charcoal Grilling Steak

Grilled steak with grill marks
  • To further enhance flavor, you could season your steak and chill it in the fridge for up to 48 hours, simultaneously dry-brining and air-drying the meat.
  • Always ensure your grill's grates are properly cleaned before cooking.
  • Always use a meat thermometer to ensure your steak is cooked just how you like it.
  • Remove the steak from the grill when it’s ten degrees below the desired temperature before allowing it to rest. This allows the juice to thicken as it cools.
  • Always ensure your grill is very hot before cooking.


While there are many ways in which you can cook your favorite piece of steak, there is nothing quite like grilling it over a real fire made with charcoal. Charcoal briquettes can also do the job just fine.

The flavor is enhanced thanks to the high heat, the smoke, and the woodiness that comes with charcoal fire.

The cooked meat that results is usually more flavorful and boasts the characteristic charring associated with charcoal grilling.

Correct preparation will ensure a delicious crust and a juicy and tender interior that is sure to impress even the most discerning of barbeque guests.

It’s important, however, that you follow the above series of steps to ensure that the meat coming off your charcoal grill is cooked in the best possible way, bringing out all the best flavors from your favorite cut.

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