This Is The Best Time To Season Grilled Steak

One of the things we love most about grilling is the spontaneity of the whole process. As opposed to, say, planning out the steps of an intricate Mexican mole or cranking out some homemade pasta, when you feel like grilling you can typically just light the grill, slice and season some meat and vegetables, and go to town. But as we recently learned, there can be advantages to planning ahead at least a little bit before firing up the ol' barbie.

If what you feel like grilling is steak, it's important to avoid some common pitfalls such as choosing the wrong cut or not patting your meat dry before searing. And it's also super important to consider how — and when — you choose to season your meat. As it turns out, there's an ideal window in which to season steaks before grilling, one which helps ensure your T-bones, strips, and hangers turn out just right.

Salt your steak 40 minutes before grilling

According to the experts at Otto Grill, a countertop stainless steel grill gas-powered to 1,500 degrees is the winning ticket to tender, perfectly seasoned steaks is to salt them 40 minutes before grilling. Why 40 minutes? As their website explains, pre-salting meat helps pull out its juices, and, since there's adequate time, those juices will be reabsorbed before cooking. When that moisture gets sucked back into your steak, it's salty, imbuing the actual cut of meat with flavor that penetrates instead of just sitting on the surface.

When you salt your steak, the seasoning mixes with the moisture on the meat's surface and dissolves into a brine. This brine starts to break down muscle fibers, ensuring a tender result and, due to osmosis, it draws out the steak's juices before they are reabsorbed. So by the time you head to the grill, your steak is already tenderized and marinated: a win-win.

If you got caught up in the moment and didn't get a chance to pre-salt your steak, never fear. Otto recommends a second-best approach, which is to generously season your meat right before grilling. Although the salt won't have time to penetrate and marinate the meat, it will help create a nice, thick crust and will still produce a delicious steak. But if you've got the time, go ahead and pre-salt, crack open a beer, and set a timer for 40 minutes. Your BBQ guests will thank you later.