Ask the Chef

How to Grill the Perfect Steak at Home in Six Steps

Matthew Zappoli knows a thing or two about cooking steak. As one of two executive chefs at NYY Steak at the Seminole Casino at Coconut Creek, the former Food Network Chopped competitor is tasked with grilling and broiling some of the finest cuts of meat in South Florida.

Prior to his arrival at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, Zappoli worked at the popular Charlie Palmer Steak restaurant in New York City. A graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Zappoli has worked at such restaurants as Aureole (in New York City and Las Vegas) and the four-star rated Raven & the Peach in his home state of New Jersey. 

Now he's manning the kitchen at NYY Steak, considered one of the top steak houses in Broward County.

Want to be the master chef in your own kitchen? No problem. Here, Zappoli gives us six tips for cooking the perfect steak at home.
1. Pick your meat.
Yes, USDA prime is expensive, but the quality is in the taste. Chef Zappoli says they are the very best you can acquire. The USDA grades meat based on the ratio of marbling and its age, and prime is the highest grade, followed by choice, then select. Marbling is a content of fat in the steak that allows the beef to age better and taste better at the time of cooking. They’re the lines of fat that run throughout a piece of meat, melting into the meat as it cooks and making for a juicier piece of steak.

From there, it's all about price point. There are several different cuts that work well on the grill, and some that don't. Any part from the middle of the animal loin through the ribs will be good for grilling, including cuts like filet mignon, tenderloin, strip loin, New York strip, skirt steak, and rib-eye (bone-in and bone-out).
2. Season or marinate. 
Zappoli encourages a good season or marinade, depending on the cut. For a London broil, skirt steak, and flank or hanger steak, you'll want to marinate overnight — at least six to 12 hours before cooking. The chef suggests a blend of high-quality oil, herbs, shallot, balsamic, and a touch of soy, ingredients that help to tenderize and flavor the meat. For more expensive cuts like strip or filet mignon, no marinade is needed. Instead, apply a simple dry rub of kosher or sea salt and fresh-cracked black pepper. Zappoli uses a precise seasoning blend that includes French gray sea salt, paprika, garlic, and onion. The ingredients help to create a nice crust and just the right hint of flavor to compliment the meat.
3. Prep the grill.
A hot, clean grill is an important step in cooking the perfect steak. Once it's hot, clean the grate with a kitchen towel dipped in oil, handling both the grate and towel with tongs to keep hands and fingers safe. When you toss on your meat, be sure to allow for a nice char on both sides. Charring is where the flavor is at. For most steaks, that means cooking over the hottest part of the grill for about four to five minutes on each side.
4. Time your cooking perfectly.
But how do you know exactly the right timing for each side? Cooking your steak to the perfect doneness is a skill worth mastering. But until you do, you'll want to use a meat thermometer for a foolproof way to know exactly how done your steak is. Rare is 130 degrees Fahrenheit, medium rare is 135, medium is 140, and well-done is 145 to 150. 
5. Rest your meat.
Once it’s done cooking, resist the urge to dig in right away, says Zappoli. Instead, let it rest so the juices inside settle. If you cut in right away, that flavorful juice will drain out immediately, ending up on your plate instead. Thinner cuts (one to two inches thick) you'll want to give five minutes or so, while larger cuts should get at least 15 to 20 minutes.
6. Cut against the grain.
We've all heard these words of wisdom, but what does it matter which way you cut into your meat? The grain actually refers to the tissue that runs in a thatched pattern across the steak. Cutting against the grain isn’t as important when you buy a high-quality of steak, but cutting against the grain makes for a softer cut (and pieces that are easier to chew). Just look for the lines that run through the meat and cut perpendicular to them. You'll want to do this with less expensive cuts like flank, skirt, or hanger steak where the natural lines are easier to spot.

NYY Steak is located at 5550 NW 40th St., Coconut Creek. Call 954-935-6699, or visit

Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.
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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna