This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of Cottage Life magazine.
The commandment that steaks must only be flipped once is one of those funny “rules” that have been around for ages and are never questioned. It certainly worries novice grillers, as if more than one turn will somehow cause bad juju with the space-time continuum. To be fair, the single-flip method works just fine and has produced billions of delicious steaks over the decades. But, according to many grilling experts, multiple flips create better-tasting, more evenly cooked steaks.
The single flip
Traditional technique says leave a steak alone on the grill. (One 45° to 90° rotation for a cross-hatched effect is permissible.) Once you’ve developed some good browning, a nice char, and some pretty grill marks, flip the meat, and grill until the steak is done to your taste and the second side is browned and marked.
With this method, the meat gets flipped every 30 to 60 seconds, building up a tasty brown crust, without any grill marks whatsoever.
When you use multiple flips, each surface of the steak makes multiple contacts with the hot grate, cooking through conduction. And because the top of the meat stays warm until the next turn, it’s as if it were being heated from the top and the bottom at the same time. The upshot? Multi-flipping can cook meat faster.
With the single-flip method, one side of the meat, then the other, gets extremely hot for a relatively long period. This can create an overcooked outer layer as you wait for the centre to reach the desired doneness. And if you mistime the flip, the steak will be overdone before the second side is browned. By keeping each instance of grill contact relatively short, multi-flipping does away with the superheated and overcooked layer, achieving a more consistent level of doneness from top to bottom.