Premium steaks from the loin and rib, such as T-bones and New York strips, are truly superior for grilling. Unfortunately, they command a superior price as well, and won't always fit a steak-lover's grocery budget. Top sirloin is an attractive alternative, a tender and flavorful cut that's usually more affordable. It's not as lavishly marbled as rib eyes or strip steaks, or as buttery-tender as the filet, but its bold, beefy flavor and pleasant chew make it deeply pleasurable in its own right.
Location, Location, Location
Most of the premium grilling steaks are cut from a roughly cylindrical group of muscles that run the length of the animal's spine. They're tender because those muscles serve to anchor the spine rather than actually flexing and working. You'll find the sirloin at the end of this strip, between the premier cuts of the loin and the relatively tough rump and round. The muscles of the sirloin vary, with top sirloin being the most tender.
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Dry the surface of your steak by blotting it with a clean paper towel, then sprinkle it liberally with kosher salt or coarse sea salt. Let the beef rest for at least 45 minutes, giving the salt time to absorb into the muscle tissues and season them from within.
Preheat your grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit while the steak is resting.
Blot your steak again with clean paper towels if there's any moisture visible on its surface, as moisture inhibits browning, then brush or spray it lightly with cooking oil.
Transfer the steak to your grill, leaving the lid up. Turn the steak frequently to ensure even cooking. You won't get restaurant-style grill marks that way, but you also won't see a charred, overcooked exterior and undercooked interior.
Test the steak for doneness by sliding an instant-read thermometer horizontally into a thick portion of the steak. A ¾-inch steak can be rare to medium-rare in as little as 12 to 13 minutes, while inch-thick top sirloin can take 17 or 18 minutes. The temperature should read 120 to 125 F for rare, and 125 to 130 F for medium-rare.
Remove the steaks to a preheated serving platter and whisk them to the table immediately. They benefit from 2 to 5 minutes' rest, but it usually takes that long just to serve the beef and its side dishes.
Tips & Tricks
• The muscles of the sirloin are worked whenever the animal stands or walks, so they're both denser and more flavorful than those in premium grilling steaks. Good top sirloin really needs nothing more than salt and pepper to be memorable, but feel free to use a marinade or a spice rub if you wish to add brighter or more pungent flavors.
• You can use a marinade even at the last minute, if you wish. Brush on your favorite seasoned oil-and-vinegar mixture, or something as simple as Worcestershire sauce. It will infiltrate the millions of microscopic crevices on your steak's surface within moments, imparting additional flavor and savory "umami" compounds. No overnight soaking required!
• Apply a spice rub to your steak either the night before cooking, or at any time until your top sirloin goes onto the grill. Commercial rubs are often salt-heavy, so skip the coarse-salt step unless you've made your own. Remember, whether the salt is part of your rub or added separately, it will draw moisture from the beef. It'll need at least 45 minutes to reabsorb the brine. If you don't have that much time, apply your salt or spice rub at the very last minute. That way, there's no time for the juices to start moving before your steak cooks.
• Turning steaks repeatedly is contrarian advice and runs counter to much of what you'll see in cookbooks and on the Internet. After all, runs the reasoning, steakhouses only turn a steak once and they're the gold standard. In truth, the turn-once rule has more to do with creating pretty grill marks -- and keeping life simple for the sweating, overworked line cooks -- than food science. Turning the meat regularly, and giving both sides equal exposure to the heat, is why rotisserie cooking works so well. The same principle holds true when you're grilling a steak.
• Top sirloin isn't as well-marbled with fat as premium grilling steaks, but brushing it with melted butter when it