Burgers are about as fancy as I get at most cookouts, but if I'm really celebrating I'll ditch the ground beef and break out the steak—it's hard to look at an open flame and not imagine a perfectly charred slab of beef. Our basic recipe will teach you how to get started, but a simple grilled steak is just the beginning. Whether you want an affordable mojo-marinated skirt steak, meltingly tender brisket, or a smoked porterhouse worth the splurge, you'll find the perfect recipe in this collection of our 18 favorite grilled beef recipes for Memorial Day.
If you've got questions about your grilling set up, or you're looking for more recipes, head over to our grilling hub for tips, tricks, and techniques.
When it comes to grilling steak like a pro, there are only a few things you really need to keep in mind: start with thick steaks, salt them at least 40 minutes before cooking, reverse sear them over a two-zone fire, and check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Follow those steps and you'll end up with perfectly cooked meat every time.
Barbecuing beef chuck isn't as simple as sticking it in the smoker and letting it do its thing—the exterior of the meat dries out and becomes tough as nails. The solution is to wrap the chuck in a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil partway through the cooking process, which traps in moisture and keeps the beef tender from edge to edge.
Barbecue purists might want to move to the next recipe, because here we're making smoked brisket sous-vide style. We start by cooking the beef in a water bath for at least 24 hours (depending on the temperature), then we finish it on the smoker for a couple hours to give it a smoky bark.
Fast-cooking cuts like steaks aren't generally good candidates for smoking, but with the right technique it's possible to cook a porterhouse in a way that it ends up both smoky and medium-rare. To do it take thick steaks, set them on their sides and smoke them over a very low fire for a few hours. Once they just about hit about 115°F, take them on and finish them over a roaring flame.
Skirt steak is one of our favorite choices for grilling because it's relatively inexpensive and comes out rich and tender when cooked over a hot fire. The meat has a loose structure that's perfect for soaking up marinades, which in this recipe means a citrusy, mojo-style mixture of lime juice, orange juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper.
For our version of classic Tex-Mex fajitas, we marinate skirt steak with lime juice, brown sugar, and chili powder. We also add one less traditional ingredient—soy sauce—to add extra savoriness. You can't have fajitas without sizzled peppers and onions, which we cook in a cast iron skillet placed right on the grill.
Dijon mustard, rosemary, and champagne vinegar come together to form an easy marinade that is also perfect for skirt steak. The acidity of the mustard combined with the vinegar helps tenderize the meat, and the marinade is salty enough to both season the steak and help it retain moisture on the grill.
A good steak really needs nothing more than salt, pepper, and heat (and the pepper is optional), but when there's a parade of grilled beef coming off the grill, sometimes you want to mix it up. To that end, here's a marinade recipe that will work with any steak you want to toss on the fire: a dark and savory mix made up of soy sauce, Worcestershire, balsamic vinegar, and onion and garlic powders. If you want some other marinade options, we've got two more that are similarly versatile: one's a zippy combination of lemon zest, ginger, lemongrass, beer, and floral ground coriander; the other is an intriguingly bitter and buttery mix of coffee and chocolate, with a little bit of an added surprise from a hit of chili powder.
You have a lot of options when it comes to making carne asada, but it should always be buttery and moist and have a great crust. Our recipe is flavored with a marinade of citrus juices, soy sauce, dried chilies, and chipotles in adobo. We soak the meat in the marinade for several hours before cooking it on a super hot grill.
While I usually prefer to make Pakistani seekh kebabs with lamb, beef works too if you prefer something a little less gamy. We flavor the kebabs with a long list of spices and aromatics. Most of them are easy to find, but sour amchur powder might be tricky—citric acid powder, tamarind paste, or lime juice are the best replacements.
Lomo al trapo is a wonderful dish for entertaining because it's remarkably simple but incredibly impressive. To make it, just wrap a beef tenderloin in salt and a kitchen towel and throw it onto hot coals. The towel will burn up and leave you with a juicy, flavorful tenderloin. The meat will keep cooking quite a bit after you take it off the coals, so pull it well before it reaches your desired level of doneness.
If you see short ribs on an American menu, chances are they've been braised. In Argentina, though, short rib is often destined for the grill. Because short ribs are so fatty, they're a pretty forgiving cut to work with—just make sure to cook them to at least medium-rare so that all of the intramuscular fat can start to melt. To complement the Argentinean technique, serve the beef with a classic Argentinean chimichurri.
There's nothing wrong with a simple grilled flank steak, but it's not especially festive. To make it more impressive, try wrapping it up with scallions, ginger, and a teriyaki glaze before throwing it onto the grill. Or if that doesn't sound quite your speed, how about a muffuletta-inspired version stuffed with cured meat, Provolone, and olive salad?
Tenderloin is definitely tender, but it's also on the bland side. We like to stuff it with other ingredients to add a little more flavor—in this case we go with mushrooms, shallots, and spinach. A reverse sear is the best way to cook a roast like this, so slowly bring the meat up to 120°F on the cool side of the grill before browning it on the hot side.
When you're grilling a steak, you need to make sure it's at least an inch and a half thick so that you can get a great crust before it overcooks. A New York strip that thick can easy serve two people, so only buy half as many steaks as you have guests. To balance out the meaty steak, try serving it with a refreshing cucumber tomato salad and yogurt sauce.
If a plated steak sounds too formal for a cookout, then how about a sandwich instead? This one is made with grilled hanger steak marinated with jalapeño and lime, served on toasted baguettes with charred onions, fresh cilantro, and cotija mayonnaise. Be extra careful to cut the meat against the grain so that it doesn't all come out of the sandwich at once when you take a bite.
Beef ribs aren't the most common cut, but if your butcher sells prime rib roast then they should have some for you. This bargain piece of beef is great for smoking—a few hours on the grill and they'll be tender and smoky, with a great bark. In Colombia they serve beef ribs with a side of ají, and I strongly suggest you do the same.
Wrap beef meatballs (moo) in bacon (oink) and you get MOINK balls, a tasty appetizer worth keeping on the table as your guests arrive. We season ours with a barbecue rub and serve with barbecue sauce for extra flavor. They grill up pretty quickly, but get plenty of smoky flavor thanks to hickory chips added to the coals.
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