Sirloin steak thickness plays a huge role in the total cooking time, to say nothing of the method itself.
I used to think it didn’t matter how thin or thick a steak was, as long as it tasted good. The truth is, the steak will taste a lot better if you understand how to prepare a thick steak versus a thin one.
To help you get started, here’s a comprehensive guide to sirloin steak thickness.
Sirloin Steak Thickness
For best results, sirloin steak should measure about 1-1/2 inches thick. That’s thick enough to allow for precise temperature control, but not so thick that it prevents the meat from cooking in a timely fashion. A sirloin measuring 1-1/2 inches thick should cook for 5 to 6 minutes per side for medium rare, and 7 to 8 minutes per side for medium.
Why It’s Important
There are a lot of components that contribute to a great steak. The cut, the amount of marbling, the USDA grade, the type of cattle—all of these are factors. But thickness, while often overlooked, deserves a spot on the list.
Unless you pay attention to the steak’s thickness, you’ll have a hard time judging how long it needs to cook. That could leave you with a steak that’s either a tad underdone for the cut, or one that’s overcooked to the point of being inedible.
When you sear a steak, the heat doesn’t remain on the surface. Some of it penetrates toward the center, guiding the meat to the proper temperature. Since the heat doesn’t have as far to travel with a thinner steak, these are easier to overcook.
About Sirloin Steak
Sirloin comes from the loin primal, located toward the animal’s rear. This primal is near the leg muscles, which means it gets more of a workout than cuts like the tenderloin. This translates into meat with a chewier texture.
Butchers divide the sirloin into two portions: the top and the bottom. The steaks are typically cut from the top sirloin, because it has a more tender texture. Cuts from the bottom sirloin are better for braising or roasting.
Select sirloin steaks with as much marbling as possible. The intramuscular fat will render during cooking, giving the meat a juicy texture to go along with the superb beef flavor. If you notice any silverskin or external fat, trim it away before you start to cook.
What’s the Ideal Sirloin Steak Thickness?
Some steak cuts are naturally thin. Skirt and flank steak are two notable examples. But others, such as sirloin, should measure at least 1 inch thick. It’s better if they’re a bit thicker, but 1 inch is the bare minimum.
There are plenty of supermarket butchers who disregard this rule. Thinner steaks stretch the meat further, which means they can sell more product. Ideally, though, a sirloin steak will measure 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick.
Preparing a 1-1/2 Inch Sirloin Steak
Steaks cut to this thickness are insulated enough to allow for precise temperature control, but not so thick as to be problematic. Steaks cut to 2-3 inches require special cooking techniques, such as reverse searing. 1-1/2 inches is the sweet spot.
In my opinion, sirloin should be cooked to medium rare. If you want to take it to medium, that’s fine, but be very careful not to overcook it.
When it’s done right, sirloin is chewy enough to be satisfying, but still relatively tender. Overcooked sirloin, on the other hand, is unpleasantly tough and dry.
For optimum results, grill sirloin steaks over a medium-hot fire. A steak measuring 1-1/2 inches thick should take 5 to 6 minutes per side for medium rare. Add a minute or so per side if you’re aiming for a medium steak.
Tips on Grilling Thin Steak
What if the steak measures 1 inch thick—or even less? In this case, it’s better to sear the meat over high heat. This will put a hearty sear on the steak, sealing in the juices. The residual heat should bring the center to the correct temperature.
Before you begin, dry the meat thoroughly. Excess moisture will prevent the steaks from browning properly. Season the steaks as desired.
While the grill is heating up, oil the cooking grates. Once it’s hot enough—500 to 600 degrees—add the prepared steaks and sear for 45 to 60 seconds per side.
Remove the steaks from the heat and let them rest for 5 minutes. Test the internal temperature using a meat thermometer. It should read 130-135 for medium rare, or 135-145 for medium.
If the steaks need a bit more time, return them to the heat for 15 to 20 seconds, flipping them about halfway through the process. Let the meat rest for another 5 minutes before serving.
Tips on Grilling Thick Steak
When it comes to grilling steaks that measure 2 inches or thicker, you have a couple of options.
The first option would be to sear the steaks over high heat, then move them to a cooler section of the grill until they reach the optimum temperature. That will lock in the juices and allow you to focus on other aspects of the meal while the steak cooks.
The second option is known as “reverse searing.” This involves cooking the steak over low heat first—whether on the grill or in the oven—and then searing them briefly just before they rest.
You have to be careful to avoid overcooking the steak, but reverse searing does leave impressive grill marks behind. It also makes it easier to monitor the steak’s temperature, resulting in a more even cook.
If you opt for the second method, be sure to sear the steaks when they’ve cooked to 10-15 degrees below your target temperature. The high heat will increase the temperature in a hurry, and the steak will continue to cook as it rests.
Ideal Steak Sizes
By now, you might be wondering: If 1-1/2 inches is the perfect sirloin steak thickness, how thick should other steaks be? Since every cut is different, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Here’s a short primer on ideal steak thicknesses.
Ribeye steaks can be cut as thick as 2 inches—sometimes more—but I think 1-1/2 inches is the right choice here. It needs to cook long enough to allow the fat to render, but you don’t want it to stay on the heat so long that it achieves a roast beef-like texture.
A filet mignon should measure at least 1-1/2 inches thick. Personally, I believe that 2 inches is preferable.
A T-bone is a bone-in strip steak that has a portion of the tenderloin attached. As such, they’re on the larger side, and should be cut to about 1-1/2 inches thick.
The porterhouse is the same cut of meat as the T-bone, but with one notable exception: The tenderloin portion has to measure at least 1-1/4 inches wide at its widest point. This results in a steak that represents the best of both worlds.
When you’re spending good money on a porterhouse, you want to get the best bang for your buck. Make sure the steak measures at least 2 inches thick.
It’s fine if a hanger steak measures 3/4 to 1 inch thick. The meat has a ton of beefy flavor, and while it doesn’t have much fat, it lacks the buttery texture of the tenderloin.
Flank and Skirt Steak
You don’t have to get out a tape measure every time you prepare sirloin steaks for the grill, but knowing how steak thickness affects the cooking time will take you a long way. Whenever possible, ask the butcher to cut the steak according to your specifications.
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!