By Suzanne Corbett, Food/Travel Editor

Grilling to impress means one thing to me. Grilling steak. Steak has been the ultimate indulgence for summer backyard soirees since the 1950s when the porterhouse and T-Bone cuts were king of the grill. Yet, today’s patio grill masters often shy away from grilling steak feeling it’s too risky - not wanting to mess-up an expensive cut of beef.

Granted, beef has gotten expensive, however, steaks are one of the easiest beef cuts to master. Just ask Seth Verseman, executive chef at River City’s 1904 Steak House where steak is always a sure bet. “ Steaks aren’t hard,” said Chef Seth. “ Start with good a quality steak and a clean grill. Then all you really need is salt, pepper and a good char that brings out the flavor.”

Chef Seth’s tips for grilling the perfect steak include bringing the steak to room temperature (taken from the refrigerator about 45-60 minutes before grilling) and simply seasoning it with salt and pepper. And, Chef’s most important tip, “ Don’t mess with it. Let it grill on one side to get a nice char, and then turn it over. Don’t poke at it, which will make it lose its juices and let the steak rest for 10 minutes before you serve it.”

Today there are a variety of what the National Cattleman’s Association’s Beef-Checkoff calls “steakable” cuts, which range in prices and include the popular and affordable flat iron and skirt steak to the higher priced sirloin and Rib-eye. Each cut can be successfully grilled using Chef Seth’s tips along with the following grilling basics provided by The Beef Check-off. 

• Watch the charcoal: Never grill while the charcoal is still flaming. Wait until the coals are covered with grey ash (about 30 minutes). Use a grill thermometer to check grill temperature. Another option, cautiously hold the palm of your hand above the coals at cooking height and count the number of seconds you can hold your hand in the position before the heat forces you to pull your hand away, approximately 4 seconds for a medium heat.

• Know your gas grill. Since gas grill brands vary consult the owner’s manual for information about preparing the grill for medium heat.

• Turn properly. Use long-handled tongs for turning steaks, spatulas for burgers. A fork will piece the meat causing loss of flavorful juices.

• Use an instant read thermometer to determine doneness of steaks by inserting it horizontally from the side to penetrate the center of the meat. Internal temperatures for burgers are at least 160 degrees. Steaks are recommended to cook to at least 145 degrees, a medium rare doneness.

No matter if you’re grilling steaks, burgers or your favorite brats practice good food safety. Keep raw meat separate form other foods both in the refrigerator and during prep. Wash hands, utensils and work surfaces in hot soapy water after it has been in contact with meat. Never place cooked meat on platters tat held raw meat. Use a clean serving plate and utensils. Serve cooked food promptly and refrigerate leftovers within two hours after serving.

Treat your guests like royalty and grill up a steak. It’s the center of the plate protein that will make any backyard party a winner. Recipes courtesy of the National Cattleman’s Beef Checkoff.

Garden Herb Strip Steaks
2 (10-ounce) beef sirloin steaks, cut about 1-inch thick
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel
¼ teaspoon pepper

Combine the seasoning ingredients in a small bowl; reserve 2 teaspoons for garnish. Press remaining seasoning evenly onto steaks.
Place steaks on grill over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 11 to 14 minutes over medium heat on preheated gas grill - 11to 15 minutes for medium rare (145 degrees) to medium doneness, turning occasionally.

Remove form grill and allow steaks to rest for 10 minutes Carve steaks into slices, sprinkle with reserved seasoning and season with salt, as desired.
Serves 4.

Grilled Rib-eye Steaks and Potatoes with Smoky Paprika Rub

2 beef rib-eye steaks cut 1-inch thick (about 12 ounces each)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large russet potatoes, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges each
1 tablespoon minced green onions
Sour Cream and Onion Sauce (optional)

Rub Seasoning:
2 tablespoons smoked or Spanish paprika
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

Combine seasoning ingredients in small bowl; remove and reserve 2 tablespoons. Press remaining seasoning evenly onto beef steaks; set aside.

Combine reserved seasoning, oil and salt in large bowl. Add potatoes; toss to coat.
Place steaks in center of grid over medium, ash-covered coals; arrange potatoes around steaks. Grill steaks, uncovered, 11 to 14 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, covered, 9 to 14 minutes) for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally. Grill potatoes 14 to 17 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, covered, 13 to 15 minutes) or until tender, turning occasionally.
Carve steaks into slices; season with salt, as desired. Sprinkle green onion over potatoes. Serve potatoes with Sour Cream and Onion Sauce for dipping, if desired. Serves 2 –4

Sour Cream and Onion Sauce: Combine 1/2 cup dairy sour cream and 2 tablespoons minced green onion. Sprinkle with smoked or Spanish paprika, as desired. Yield: 1/2 cup