How to Get Cool Grill Marks

Maybe grill marks are all in our head; perhaps they don’t make our steak taste better, but they sure do look awesome.

grill marks steak

“School’s out for summer", in the words of Alice, and what better way to kick it off than a day with friends around the grill. Nothing says summertime like a great looking steak. In a way, grilling sums up everything that’s right about summer. Laid back, easy going, family, food and fun; but grilling is serious business.

Laid back, easy going, family, food and fun; but grilling is serious business. We hand out labels as is if they are awards to be won: Best Griller Among People We Know.

I'm not sure what it is about perfect grill marks, but they make for a steak sexy. Let’s take a second to unwrap this elusive art.

best grilling award bbq

Setting the grill

Keep It Clean

I know, I know, “all that leftover stuff adds flavor”, right? But I'm not sure how much flavor you’re getting from last week’s char-burned pork chop bits.  A grill grate covered in left-behinds isn’t ideal for obtaining nice branding on your meat. Make sure they’re clean. Let them heat up, and before you’re ready to throw the steak on give them a nice scrub.


We’re going to be using abnormally high heat, therefore to avoid tearing your meat to shreds when flipping it, you’ll need some oil. Apply oil to a paper towel, then using tongs grip it and brush the towel across the grates. That, or you can brush the meat with a light layer of oil.


You’ll want to make sure you have a hot grill to start with; just like when searing on the stove. Since you will be getting your grill extremely hot from the start, make sure you have an area where the steaks can finish cooking away from the direct heat. Burning a steak because you failed to plan is a #MeatGeek Fail.

Let it Chill

Here’s where most of us go wrong. The tendency to flip the meat before its time is easy to do. But the goal is to let the meat sit until the first phase of cooking is complete. This process not only allows the meat to obtain the grill marks you’re after, but it also helps obtain a nice flavorful sear.

Now You're ready

Lay your meat on the hot side of the preheated grill at a 45 degree angle to the grates, making sure the grates are running diagonally to the surface of the meat. And that’s pretty much it. Leave it for about a minute or two, until you get that mark you’re after – just don’t pick it up every 20 seconds to check. 

cool grill marks

Once you have completed the first side, flip it and do the same for the other side.  Then, move the meat over to the cooler side of your grill to finish cooking.

To get the cool hash style grill marks, you'll follow the same process, but after the first 1-2 minutes on the first side, rotate the meat 90 degrees and let it sit for an additional 1-2 minutes on that first side, then flip and repeat the process on the opposite side. Keep in mind: you are now cooking the meat an extra 2-4 minutes on extremely high heat. You will need to know your meat to decide if achieving hash grill marks will compromise your meat.

cross hash mark grill
Cross Hash Grill Markings

That’s it, now invite some friends over and claim your ‘Best Griller Among People We Know’ award.