By contributing writer Mary Cressler
There’s something bittersweet about Labor Day weekend. Though summer doesn’t technically end until late in September, the three-day weekend symbolizes the end of the summer season (my favorite time of the year). For many families, that means back to school and back indoors for cooking. While there are certainly die-hard fans of year-round grilling (like me!), there are others who consider Labor Day Weekend the last big grilling opportunity of the year.
Whether you are in the year-round grilling camp or you will be firing up your grill for the last time, I say go big this Labor Day! And by big I mean get out there and grill up the granddaddy of steaks – Ribeyes.
Ribeye steaks have incredible marbling and a high fat count, which contributes to their amazing flavor and tenderness when cooked right. This high fat count also makes them prone to flare-ups during grilling, so be careful when cooking over an open flame, which I’m going to tell you how to do here. This quick cooking cut of meat is best prepared by pan searing, broiling, or my favorite, grilling. Making the perfect steak involves very few ingredients. It’s the technique and some simple tips that will elevate your steak from fine to fantastic.
Before we get into the specifics, first a few key grilling secrets that will help extract the best flavor.
Tips for Grilling Perfect Ribeye Steaks
- Look for a thick cut. Whether a ribeye or a filet, a thick cut will allow for more control of the exterior cooking and help keep you from undercooking or overcooking when dealing with a grill.
- Let the steak come to room temperature before cooking. This is especially key for searing the meat; a room temperature cut I find cooks faster and you avoid a grayer and less appealing look.
- Use a simple rub such as salt, freshly ground pepper, and olive oil. And don’t be shy on salt.
- High heat is key, so get that grill rip roaring hot and prepare a charcoal grill for direct/indirect cooking. If you are unsure what this means, click here for a tutorial on direct vs. indirect cooking.
- For optimal crust and added flavor bonus, use a cast iron skillet right on the grill. BUT be sure that skillet is over direct heat and hot before you put the steak in.
- If not using a skillet, then be sure to cook the steak while the coals are hottest. You want to sear both sides of the meat for a couple of minutes and then move to indirect heat, cover, and let it come to your desired doneness.
- An instant-read thermometer is key. Follow USDA guidelines for doneness. I look for medium rare.
- Finish with butter for extra richness and flavor.
Feel free to serve these steaks up with your favorite grilled vegetable or salad, or just enjoy the flavors of this perfect steak alone with a great glass of wine.
- 2 bone-in ribeye steaks (thick cut)
- Olive Oil (about 1 tablespoon per steak, just enough to coat)
- Freshly cracked Pepper
- Room temperature butter (about 1 tablespoon per steak)
- Remove steaks from fridge roughly 20 minutes prior to cooking. Rub each steak with about 1 tablespoon olive oil (just enough to coat both sides), and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper.
- Preheat grill to high heat (for charcoal this is just as they turn white with
- Place the ribeyes over direct heat for about 3 minutes per side. Stay with the meat and watch for flare-ups. (The fat will immediately start to render and large flames can cause uneven searing or burning.)
- Move to indirect heat and then cover, cooking until the thickest part of steak reads 135 degrees on an instant read thermometer (
medium rare) or to desireddoneness.
- Remove from grill and place on serving plate. Top with butter immediately. Let sit for three minutes to let the butter melt into the meat and then eat!
Because of the marbling and fat content on ribeyes, one of the most classic pairings is Cabernet Sauvignon due to its powerful fruit flavors, spice, and high tannin content. Tannins are that drying and astringent sensation in your mouth found in many red wines, Cabernet Sauvignon especially. These often harsh tannins are softened when paired with a food with high fat content, like these delicious steaks. And since we’re going big with such a great cut of meat, we’re going big with our wine choice as well!
Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t the only thing that will pair well with ribeyes, though. Other powerful wines like Syrah or even some Merlots work great too. But if you’re looking for a great value choice, reach for a rich Malbec from Argentina.
Here are the two wines we tried:
2012 Rodney Strong Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley, California) ~ $40
This wine had rich aromas on the nose with intense blackberries and dried cocoa powder. The texture was velvety and filled with more rich berry flavors, cassis, dark cherry, along with some spices and toasty notes. The tannins were pretty pronounced at first, but when paired with the steak, they seamlessly gave way to smoothness. Chocolaty and lush, this was the best pairing with the grilled ribeyes. Juicy, perfectly cooked grilled steak and a delicious rich Cab. What’s not to love?
2014 Septima Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina) ~ $14
Though not as big or powerful as the Cabernet Sauvignon above, this was a solid alternative. Also showing lots of chocolaty flavors along with vanilla, jammy fruit, and plum aromas. Lighter on the body, it did have lots of red and black berry fruit and spice flavors, with much milder tannins. This one was great with the ribeye and would pair well with any cut of grilled meat, even leaner cuts.
What’s your plan for Labor Day weekend? Will you be celebrating by firing up the grill one last time? If so, I hope you go big!
We hope you enjoy our wine pairing choices. If you want to know which wines YOU will like best, download the FREE iPhone app Wine4.Me. Tell it what wines you know you like and get your own personalized rankings of best-selling, widely available wines in the US.
Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners. She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.