When your grill is heated to 400 degrees, how long does the steak need to cook on each side? Though the answers can vary depending on a number of factors, we can provide you with some general guidelines. Let’s take a look.
How Long to Grill Steak at 400 Degrees
A steak that measures 1 inch thick should cook for just 4 to 5 minutes on the first side, then a few minutes more once you’ve flipped it over. If you prefer your steak cooked to well-done, it will take about 12 minutes on the first side and 10 minutes on the second.
What’s the Ideal Temperature For Grilling Steak?
Since steak should be allowed to get a nice sear on the exterior without overcooking, 400 degrees is a great temperature to use. Any cooler, and you might miss out on those lovely grill marks. But if it’s too hot, the outside might burn before the inside cooks through.
This works as a cooking temperature for many steaks, especially if you prefer the meat cooked to a perfect medium-rare (more on that below). But if the steaks measure at least 2 inches thick, you may have to employ the reverse sear method to prevent burning them.
A Guide To Serving Temperatures
What does it mean when a steak is cooked to medium-rare? Seasoned steak lovers already know the answer, but for novices, it might not be as evident. This guide should help to fill in the blanks.
When the steak hits an internal temperature of 120 degrees, it’s considered rare. The meat will be tender and seared on the outside, while the inside remains a dark red color. The center should be just barely warm to the touch.
If the center is still dark purplish-red and cool to the touch, then the steak is considered “blue-rare.” To achieve this temperature, you should sear the steak for just under 1 minute per side. That will crisp up the edges without really cooking the steak.
When you let the internal temperature rise to 130-135 degrees, the resulting steak is classified as medium-rare. This temp is popular among steak lovers, particularly for cuts like ribeye, which have a noticeable amount of fat.
Within this temperature range, the steak should be well-seared on the outside and a warm reddish-pink on the inside. Any fat or marbling in the meat will start to break down at this point, so it should be nice and juicy as well.
The range between 135 and 155 can be classified as medium, though it’s closer to medium-well once it climbs to the farther end of that spectrum. The steak will be pink in the middle and hot throughout, with a springy texture and a good char on the outside.
Within the 155-165 degree range, the steak might retain a hint of pink in the center, but will be mostly brown throughout. At these temperatures, the steak will have lost quite a bit of moisture, which can have an adverse effect on the flavor.
Steaks cooked to well-done—that is, to 170 degrees or more—are firm and dry to the touch, with no pink color remaining. Though some steaks like filet mignon might retain some tenderness at this temperature, most will be tough and unpleasant to chew.
How Long To Grill Steak at 400 Degrees
It’s hard to pin down an exact cooking schedule for steak, even assuming that the grill temperature is set to 400 degrees. There are a number of factors at play here.
First of all, a thin steak will cook through more quickly than a thicker one. For especially thick steaks, you should either use indirect heat to finish the process, or start by partially cooking the steak in the oven before transferring them to the grill.
Your desired internal temperature will also play a role, for obvious reasons. A steak that’s cooked to rare will need just a few minutes per side, while you might wait 20 minutes or more for a well-done steak.
Also, consider the fact that grill temperatures aren’t always as stable as we’d hope. If the weather outside is chilly or windy, the temp might dip below 400 degrees. That could affect your total cooking time.
The following timetable should provide you with a reasonable estimate on how long to grill a steak that measures 1 inch thick. If the steaks are thicker, add a couple of minutes per side to the recommended times.
- Rare: 4-5 minutes on the first side, then 3-4 minutes
- Medium-Rare: 5 minutes on each side
- Medium: 6-7 minutes on first side, then 5 minutes
- Medium-Well: 7-8 minutes on first side, then 6 minutes
- Well-Done: 12 minutes on first side, then 10 minutes
If you want to cook the steak to well-done, be sure to move it over to indirect heat after the first few minutes of cooking on each side. Otherwise, the exterior will burn, giving the meat an acrid taste.
How To Tell When The Steak is Done
A meat thermometer provides the only foolproof method for telling when a steak is cooked to the proper temperature. When you use an instant-read model, you can determine the temp in a matter of seconds, making it easier to avoid overcooking.
Still, you don’t want to plunge the thermometer into the steak more than a couple of times. That will cause the juices to run out. That’s why you should have some idea of how long the process will take before you start to cook.
You can also use the tip of your finger to gauge the texture of the steak as it cooks. This is a method employed by many chefs, especially those who grill multiple steaks on a daily basis.
Here’s how to use the flesh between your thumb and index finger as a guide for gauging steak temperatures. Press the index finger of your opposite hand to this spot while your hand is in the following positions:
- Fingers open and relaxed: Raw steak
- Thumb and index finger forming a circle: Rare
- Middle finger and thumb pressed together: Medium-Rare
- Ring finger and thumb pressed together: Medium
- Pinky and thumb pressed together: Well-Done
The Importance of Resting
All cuts of meat will continue to cook slightly after they’ve been removed from the heat. This phenomenon is known as “carryover cooking.” While it affects larger cuts like beef brisket more than steak, it’s still something to be aware of.
Try to pull the steak from the grill when it’s within 5 to 10 degrees of your target temp. If you don’t mind the steak on the rarer side, it’s best to take it off when the temp is hovering at 10 degrees below.
Transfer the steak to a plate or serving platter and tent it with foil to keep it warm. After 5 to 10 minutes, the juices will be redistributed throughout the meat, giving it a juicier texture when it’s finally time to dig in.
The Bottom Line
Setting the grill to 400 degrees is a great way to achieve the results you want. At this temperature, the steaks should be nicely seared on the outside and juicy on the inside. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that they’re within the right temperature range, and you’re all set.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!