Food & Drink

5 secrets to a perfect grilled steak for Father’s Day

New York Strip with Summer Tomato and Blue Cheese “Salsa.”
New York Strip with Summer Tomato and Blue Cheese “Salsa.”

We all know that it is women who allow the guys to look great when they grill. Women do the marinades, buy the proteins, get the sides together, and most important, stand in the background and let the men take all the credit for a masterful feast. We secretly thank you for protecting our egos.

So for Father’s Day next Sunday – his “no yard work day,” “guilt-free round of golf day” and “on the sofa watching sports day” (wait, isn’t that really like every weekend day?) – have a steak dinner in place, ready for him to be the master of the grill.

To me there is no better steak than a New York strip, but feel free to substitute your favorite cut. The stout flavor and aroma of blue cheese are great foils to the sensuous flavor of the flame-lashed beef. If you’re not a blue cheese fan, you can use another strong cheese, such as an aged Gruyere or Parmesan. The result is steak nirvana.

The 5 secrets for grilled steak

1 Always buy good meat – at least USDA choice and, if you can, step up to grass-fed or grass-finished beef; its bold flavor seems to love being licked by the flames of the grill.

2 Don’t go too nuts on seasoning. Salt and pepper are generally all a steak needs. Many chefs have different opinions about salting. Some salt a steak the night before; others only salt after the steak is cooked. I’ve found that salting right before you cook is the best way.

3 Help the grill do its job. I brush steaks with olive oil, which accelerates the transfer of heat to the steak. Why do you want to transfer heat quickly? Because a big part of steak’s flavor comes from the crusting (caramelization) that occurs when it’s exposed to high temperature. What you’re doing is converting the natural sugars in the beef into tasty bits of flavor. Understand, though, that caramelization is not the same thing as burnt. You’re looking for a crusty mahogany brown.

4 Timing is important. Nothing is worse than an overcooked steak. A good steak is best when cooked from rare to medium rare. That’s the point where you will be able to enjoy all the juiciness and tenderness that comes with a good piece of beef.

5 When it’s done, let it rest. This is critical. Let your steak rest for at least 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into it. This allows the juices inside to be reabsorbed into the muscle so that each bite you take is full of moisture and flavor. If you cut into a steak as soon as it comes off the grill, you’ll have a puddle of juice all over your plate instead of in your mouth.

Being a dad and a granddad, I like my special day, but I really like having the moms around to make me look good! Dads, have a great day.

Fred Thompson is a Raleigh cookbook author and publisher of Edible Piedmont magazine. His latest cookbook is The Kamado Grill Cookbook.Reach him at

New York Strip with Summer Tomato and Blue Cheese “Salsa”

Fred Thompson recommends serving this steak with a baked potato brimming with butter and sour cream and a wedge of lettuce with Dad’s favorite dressing. Or slice a head of romaine and wilt it slightly on the grill. Because of the acidity in the salsa, enjoy with a light Pinot Noir. Adapted from “The Kamado Grill Cookbook,” by Fred Thompson (Stackpole, 2014).

6 New York strip steaks, 1 1/2 inches thick (8 to 10 ounces)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

2 cups sliced cherry tomatoes or chopped regular tomatoes

A sprinkling of sea salt

1/2 cup sliced red onion

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/4 cup garlic-flavored olive oil

2 tablespoons fig-infused balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Remove steaks from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking. Generously salt and pepper both sides and brush with olive oil.

Combine the tomatoes, onion, blue cheese, garlic oil, vinegar, basil and salt in a medium bowl, and toss to mix. Let sit at room temperature until the steaks are ready.

Light a fire in your charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high. Place the steaks on the grill, and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Rotate the steaks 90 degrees. Cook for another 2 minutes. Flip the steaks and cook until well marked and cooked to your liking, about another 5 minutes for medium rare.

Remove the steaks to a warm platter and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Spoon the “salsa” over the steaks and serve.

Yield: 6 servings.