Should You Poke Holes in Steak Before Grilling

You might have heard people talking about poking holes in their steak before grilling it. 

There are many common misconceptions about cooking steak, each with a million reasons why (or why not) they make for a better result.

So if your wondering if you should you start poking holes in your piece of meat with a fork? Probably not and you’ll find out below why…

Should You Poke Holes in Steak Before Grilling

You don’t need to poke holes in a steak before you grill it. Now I admit, we can’t just brush over a topic without poking holes in it…

So there will be some exceptions for poking holes in cuts of beef which are covered later. But as a general rule of thumb, your steak shouldn’t need this!

Why You Shouldn’t Be Poking Holes in Steak Before Cooking

Below I have gone into the reasons why you don’t need to start poking! In most cases it becomes counter-productive and you waste precious time!

The Steaks Muscle Fibers Are Already Soft

The term ‘steak’ is very loose as there are loads of specific cuts.

Each of these beef cuts will have certain characteristics… The main one is a fat-to-protein percentage.

A reason you might think poking holes in a steak is for tenderization. But let’s say you already have a tender steak where the proteins haven’t been worked by the animal.

A fillet steak does not need help loosening up tough muscle fibers or protein structures. Most premium and prime cuts of steak have been selected because of soft muscle fibers.

It Will Be Wasted on the Cooking Method

A great steak should be grilled with direct heat until your desired internal temperature.

Some people think that poking holes will help the steak cook even and quickly – this is not the case!

An average-sized steak will take roughly 10 minutes to cook on very high heat. So you already have the makings for an even and quick meal!

Note: We have covered better ways to get even cooking on your meats. Be sure to check out our steak recipes for more information!

Your Juicy Steak Is Now Dry From Moisture Loss

Poking holes will have the opposite for keeping your steak juicy. However, If you poke holes in smaller cuts of meat like a steak, it can turn the texture mushy.

The mushy proteins won’t hold on to any flavorful liquids!

Moisture retention is key when cooking, especially in direct heat where it can evaporate quickly.

The natural meat juices will baste the proteins and spread that tasty beefy flavor. Poking holes in the protein fibers will cause the juices to flow out and evaporate when cooking.

Leaving you with a dry steak… Even after you let the meat rest.

It Doesn’t Create Better Absorbsion of a Marinade

Our final reason for not poking holes in your steak is for a marinade. Marinating is a great way to incorporate extra flavor into your meat.

Think of an acidic component like lemon juice and delicious aromatics with salt.

While it is good for larger cuts of beef or other types, you don’t need it for a steak.

It is wrong to think that poking holes is vital for marinade absorption! So if you’re worried about flavor infusion, you should just marinade for longer…

Steak with salt, acid, and aromatics will develop flavor from around 6 hours to overnight.

I guarantee you couldn’t tell the difference between them. Therefore, leaving it pointless to think it helps with marinade absorption!

Why Might You Want to Poke Holes in Your Steak?

Now you understand some of the disadvantages of poking holes in your meat. However, there are some expectations.

See below for the reasons you may wish to poke holes in your steak

Tenderizing a Larger Steak by Poking Holes

A little tenderization for large cuts like the tomahawk or prime rib isn’t always a bad idea.  These gigantic cuts tend to be bone-in which will retain more moisture and heat.

Poking holes in large bone-in steaks won’t have the negative effects and come out more tender.

Poking Holes Can Be Good for Cheaper Cuts of Steak

There are cheaper cuts like the skirt steak or flank steak with connective tissue.  I reccomend you use cheap cuts for slow cooking with indirect heat.

But if you decide to fry these cuts then poking holes can be a good method. Just make sure you let the steak rest for longer to help retain moisture.

Poking Holes in Cuts With a Large Fat Cap

A steak should have the fat cap properly trimmed down to around 1/2 an inch. If you have a fattier steak with a thicker cap, poking holes can be beneficial!

Fat takes a longer amount of time to break down and cook than proteins. So poking holes into the fat will help with heat dispersion and cook time.

Ensuring even cooking the fat with your meat.

An Alternative to Poking Holes in Steak

Okay okay, you just want to poke holes, I get it! Consider ‘crisscrossing’ the surface of the steak with a knife instead of poking holes.

Why don’t we meet in the middle for the best of both worlds? Gently slicing into the steak (not too deep) will have a similar effect to poking holes.

– Helps with absorption from your steak marinade recipe.

– Helps you secure a delicious crust and patter like a professional grill master.

– Helps with fat rendering and tenderizes.

– Won’t lose as much precious juice from the steak.

Smoke On!

Charlie

Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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