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Let’s have a steak, mate: Five grilling tips from the Longhorn Steakhouse hotline

Addie Broyles

Janet Dickey, who is a manager at the Longhorn Steakhouse in Round Rock, knows that Texans grill year-round, but for many Americans, the summer holidays are when folks first break out the grill.

Dickey is one of a handful of Longhorn staffers who answer calls on the restaurant’s holiday grilling hotline, and she shared tips so you don’t end up with a charred or underseasoned steak on July Fourth or any day. If you have grilling questions next week, you can call the Longhorn Steakhouse hotline at 855-544-7455. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 4.

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Fire up the coals or turn on the propane early, and don’t skimp on the heat. Dickey says the ideal time of the grill for a steak is 550 degrees, so don’t skimp on the charcoal. Use a charcoal starter and put the charcoal in the grill once they are blazing red and start to turn white on the edges. If using propane, turn on at least 10 minutes before you plan on cooking.

Clean your grill, every time. Buy a cheap plastic spray bottle and put canola oil in it. Spray on your hot grill. Roll up a kitchen towel and dip it (or spray it) with oil. Use tongs to rub the towel on the grate to clean it.

Marinade thin steaks; season the thicker ones. Dickey recommends using a marinade for thin steaks, such as flank or London broil, which benefit from a wet marinade. (Italian dressing is a quick marinade that many cooks already have in their fridge, Dickey often will tell callers.) The marinade itself will tenderize the steak, so no need to use powdered meat tenderizer. But for  thicker cuts of steak, skip the marinade and using a hearty seasoning of salt, pepper and garlic powder — not garlic salt, which will make it too salty. “When you’re seasoning your steak, you want to create a crust. You should see enough seasoning to think that’s it’s too much,” she says. Some of the seasoning will fall off when you cook the steak.

Know and love the five-finger test. This is the touch test to determine if a steak is done by pushing on your palm. Here’s how to do it: With one hand open, use your other hand’s index finger to press the pad at the base of your thumb. That’s what a raw steak feels like. When you bring your thumb and index finger together on the open hand, the pad firms up a little, which is what a rare steak feels like. When you touch your middle finger and your thumb, that’s a medium-rare steak, and the ring finger and thumb feels medium-well. When your pinkie and thumb touch, the base of your thumb is much more firm, just like a well-done steak.

Flip the steak every 3 to 4 minutes to ensure even cooking and then let it rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. Keep an eye out for hot spots on the grill where some of the meat might be cooking faster than the rest. Cutting into the steak too early will cause the juices to flow out. If you’re really trying to re-create the Longhorn experience at home, top each steak with a splash of lemon sauce and a pat of butter and serve immediately.