It’s always the season for delicious steak, especially when it comes to steak tips. These smaller, sliced pieces from the most tender and flavorful cuts are perfect for adding protein and beefy flavors to your meal. Grilled steak tips require a lot of the same skills you use for grilling other cuts like filet mignon, tri tip steak, flat iron steak, ribeye steak, or flank steak. But there are some tips and tricks that could help you create the perfect steak tips on the grill, and you’ll find them in this guide from our friends at Chicago Steak Company.
What are Steak Tips?
Steak tips are super tender, delicious pieces of beef cut from the sirloin area of cattle. However, you’ll hear people from different parts of the country refer to steak tips in different ways. While some say that they’re basically chunks of meat cut from any steak, others say they come from flank steak or skirt steak. Still, others call them different names, like tri-tip steal or sirloin tip steak.
Steak tips are actually their own cut of meat, though, and they deserve to be known as such. These delectable slices are so flavorful and tender that you’ll think they came directly from your favorite steakhouse once you grill them up. These delicious steak pieces are perfect on their own but also pair well in soup, stew, or over a bed of rice.
Although there are plenty of ways to cook perfect steak tips – pan-searing, braising, and broiling, to name a few – we particularly love their flavor on the grill. As with most steaks, using a charcoal grill brings out incredible flavors that you can’t replicate with other cooking methods. With steak tips, the grill adds a perfect crust to each piece, leaving a delicious, juicy, and tender inside that practically melts in your mouth.
8 Tips for the Perfect Steak Tips on the Grill
Gather your charcoal briquettes, fire up the heat, put together a flavorful steak seasoning, and get ready to grill! These tips will get you quality steak tips right from your own barbecue.
1. Choosing Quality Steak
How do you choose quality steak tips when you visit the grocery store or butcher? You’ll want to look for meat labeled as flap meat, which is another term for the steak that’s cut from the sirloin bottom. Or ask the butcher to cut you steak tips from the sirloin bottom they have on hand. You can also buy sirloin and cut the meat yourself, which you can do with some advice from a butcher or by following online videos.
As with any steak, you’ll want to look at its appearance to judge whether it’s steak you want to buy. Always look at color, marbling, and fat content. You should also check the package to determine if the meat is USDA Prime grade, which denotes it as a quality steak that adheres to USDA Prime standards.
2. Preparing the Grill
To get your grill ready for your steak tips, add some olive oil to the grates to keep from sticking. Preheat the grill to between 450 and 500-degrees Fahrenheit. You should be able to feel the heat strongly when you hold your hand above the grates for a couple of seconds.
Also, use a grill plate to put the steak tips on if the pieces are too small for your grill grate. They’ll still get the flavor and sear from the metal plate, but they won’t be able to fall through the grate.
3. Preparing and Seasoning
Dab the steak tips with a paper towel to remove any juices that could prevent them from searing correctly on the grill. Leave the steaks at room temperature as your grill heats up. Brush a small amount of olive oil on both sides of the steak tips to prevent sticking on the grill. Then, sprinkle each side with salt, pepper, or your favorite steak seasoning. A small amount of minced garlic is also a tasty option.
4. Consider a Marinade
Steak tips are wonderful with marinades because they’re already so tender that the marinade doesn’t need to do much work to really dig into the meat and give it a flavorful burst. If you want to marinade your steak tips before grilling them, allow them to do so for at least two hours. Better yet, keep them marinating overnight in the fridge. You can make a simple recipe with Italian dressing, brown sugar, garlic, and steak seasoning.
5. Understand Direct and Indirect Heat
For perfect steak tips on the grill, you’ll want some direct and indirect heat. If you’re a grilling beginner, here’s what that means: Direct heat is how you’ll sear the steak, while indirect heat keeps it cooking through without being directly over the flame. When you first put steak tips on the grill, you’ll want them directly over the hottest area of the grill for a crisp sear. Once you’ve seared both sides for 30 seconds to a minute, you can move them from direct heat to indirect heat to keep them cooking.
6. Let It Cook
Now, let those perfect tips of steak cook! If you’re using a charcoal grill, check the charcoal briquettes to make sure they’re still flaming well before you close the lid and let the heat work its magic. Avoid opening the lid to keep checking on your steak. Tips cook quickly, and you’ll only need to flip them once while searing and once while cooking.
7. Time It
After searing, the steak tips will cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side; flip them once to cook the other side through before removing them from the grill. To ensure you’ve got the right time, set a timer after you’ve seared the tips for two minutes. Flip, then reset it for two minutes. You can always keep the tips on a minute or two longer if they don’t look done enough.
8. Let It Rest
After you pull steak tips from the grill, give them about ten minutes of rest time at room temperature. This process lets juices run back through the tips, giving them that flavorful burst of taste you want. Avoid cutting into your steak tips until the rest period is over.
What NOT to Do When Grilling Steak Tips
Avoid these common mistakes that happen when grilling steak tips, and you’ll be on your way to actual chef status!
1. Don’t Choose Cheap Meat
You never want to go with cheap steak if you’re looking for flavor and texture, which are what a good steak is all about! Steak tips are a particular cut of meat that you don’t want to skimp on. They’re sliced thinly, so cheaper cuts labeled as steak tips will likely end up getting tough and chewy, which is precisely the opposite of what real steak tips should be.
So, stick to quality meat using the guidelines we’ve listed above. And make sure you talk to the butcher to make sure you’re getting real steak tips from the sirloin cut.
2. Don’t Grill Wet Steak
Remember how we mentioned to dab your steaks with a paper towel before seasoning them or placing them on the grill? That’s an important step not to forget with any steak cut. Drying off both sides keeps the outer edges nice and dry, which aids the searing process. This step also removes excess fat on all sides of the steak – that’s crucial for grilling because fat can cause dangerous flare-ups when it hits the flames.
As you’re drying off the steak tips, you can also look over each piece for fat to trim.
3. Don’t Keep Flipping It
Flipping steak over and over again is tempting when you’re trying to achieve the perfect crust. But while trying to get that sear, you’re taking it away from the heat that it needs for searing! What usually happens is the steak tips will stick to the grill, or they’ll end up just turning grayish-brown on the outside instead of getting the rich, brown sear you were looking for.
Leave them on one side until they reach seared status, then flip and do the same to the other side. Once that side browns up, you can move the tips over to indirect heat to continue cooking all the way through.
4. Don’t Use Lighter Fluid
If possible, avoid lighter fluid to help you get your charcoal grill going. Lighter fluid can give off an unpleasant odor that also emanates through the steak as it cooks, giving it a different flavor than you were expecting – and not in a good way.
Use a chimney starter instead. This tool helps you light the charcoal faster with a few clumps of rolled-up newspaper in the bottom. Your coals will burn more cleanly, giving you the natural smoky flavor you wanted on your steak.
5. Don’t Cook Steaks Cold
Leaving your steaks at room temperature for 20-30 minutes is best practice. Cold steaks are difficult to cook evenly, even when they’re thinner pieces like steak tips. Leaving them out of the refrigerator brings the meat to an even temperature, ensuring a consistent cook all the way through.
6. Don’t Forget the Thermometer
If you don’t have one yet, consider investing in a digital read thermometer specifically designed for meat. It’s difficult to tell if steak tips are done cooking just by looking at them, so a thermometer can come in handy to tell you if the inner area of the tips is done cooking. Temp the meat before pulling it from the grill and again after it rests. For medium-rare, you’ll want to take the steak off the grill when it reaches around 125 degrees. It should come to 135 degrees after resting.