Hot and fast is the traditional, tried and true method for grilling the perfect steak. When it comes to grilling the perfect hot and fast steak, charcoal rules over gas in the backyard. The opposite is true in the commercial steak house world, most use gas fired chargrillers. The common ingredient is high heat. With steaks especially, the hotter the grill the better. Charcoal burns hotter than gas and the other thing charcoal does better than gas is it generates much more radiant heat compared to gas.
The infrared image below shows glowing charcoal that is putting out a lot of infrared (radiant energy) heat. Notice how consistent the heat is as well (shown in red)with briquettes.
GrillGrates show overall even heat on the Kettle
Charcoal, specifically briquettes, has several key advantages when it comes to grilling the perfect steak.
- Higher heat up to 600-700F or more
- More radiant heat (much more)
- More consistent heat compared to lump charcoal and gas grills with hot and cold spots
Lump charcoal delivers high heat and radiant energy but at grilling temps (450+) lump charcoal equates to lumpy heat. Lump charcoal is ideal at low and slow temps but as lump runs hotter, the temperatures get wider and wider apart. Infrared images showed lump charcoal like a volcano- hot zones and flares among cooler spots. Hence the analogy of lumpy heat.
Now that we’ve established charcoal briquettes are our fuel of choice, it’s easy to follow suit with two charcoal grills that sparked the backyard grilling revolution- the Weber Kettle and the Portable Kitchen grill. Both were born in 1952 and these iconic grills are still relevant today- especially when grilling a steak. With GrillGrates charcoal grills are elevated to a steak grilling machine, and the choice of steak champions. The 2016 winner of the World Championship Steak Cook-Off® grilled on a Weber Kettle and GrillGrates. They also grilled their winning steak hot and fast. At steak competitions you’ll see lines of PK’s and Kettles- its like the Crips and the Bloods- their grills are all tricked out with after-market add-ons, elaborate tables even names for their grills.
2016 World Championship Steak Cookoff Winner: Brian Lewis
The PK Grill has made a stunning comeback and is now a fixture in steak cookoffs
Preparing Steak for Hot and Fast Grilling: Many people suggest leaving steaks out of the refrigerator to allow them to come to room temperature. This helps avoid cool red center, as well as allows juices to be more free moving. Meathead will tell you not to do it for safety reasons- as the raw meat is too long in the danger zone for explosive bacterial growth. I use a modified process, sometimes the steaks sit out and sometimes they go right back in the fridge:
- Dry Brine with coarse kosher salt in open air for 15-20 minutes
- Using the back side of a butter knife, scrape all the salt off and pat the steaks dry
- Lightly oil the steak- this helps hold the seasoning and for additional browning
- Lightly season with your favorite steak rub, or just black pepper
- Into the refrigerator until its time to grill. Usually only 30 minutes. If we’re soon ready to grill, the steaks will stay on the counter. If its more than 30 minutes it goes into the fridge.
Grilling Steaks Hot and Fast- Two Choices for Grill Set-up:
Direct Grilling with GrillGrates (suggested): Place GrillGrates on the grill once charcoal chimney has been dumped and allow 10 minutes to reach maximum grill temperature. An infrared laser thermometer is very helpful to see exactly what the temperature is at the GrillGrate cooking surface. GrillGrates allow you to grill steaks directly over a very hot fire without moving the steaks to a safe zone to avoid over searing and burning the exterior of the steak. GrillGrates enable protected high heat grilling with GrillGrate temps of 600F-700F.
An infrared laser thermometer tells you exactly the temperature of the GrillGrate
Based on 1” thick steak: it only takes 8-10 minutes approximate total cook time, with 125F target internal temperature.
- Place steak at a slight diagonal to the GrillGrate and do not leave your post. Hot and fast means no bathroom break or beverage refills!
- At the 2 minute mark- use GrateTool to ‘lift and twist’ the steak. Lift, rotate 90 degrees and slightly move the steak to a “fresh” part of the GrillGrate for max heat.
- At around the 4 minute mark flip the steak again onto a fresh area of the GrillGrates
- Grill to finish by using an instant read thermometer. Grill to an internal temp of 125F for medium rare. Expect a 5 degree climb (carryover) to 130F after removing from the grill.
- Allow to rest 4-5 minutes so the juices can re-distribute through the steak.
A digital instant read thermometer is a must to grill perfect steaks
Extra Searing Tip: Flip and turn the steak several times during the last 2-3 minutes – to further brown and blacken the steak. Dial in your sear!
Set up a 2-zone fire: Place coals on one side of the grill. Most people sear directly over the coals and then move the steak to the safe zone to allow it to slowly rise to your desired internal temperature.
- Place steak over hottest part of the grill and turn and flip based on your desired level of searing, 2-3 minutes total.
- Move steak to indirect side of grill- to come up to temp away from hot coals (10-15 minutes)
- Monitor internal temps and grill to desired internal temperature, 125F and expect carryover to 130F when off the grill.
- Rest for 5 minutes before serving
Extra Searing Tip: Sear at the end as well as the beginning for harder darker sear.
Grilling steaks hot and fast is precision grilling and requires proper tools and attention to timing. An instant read thermometer is a must. Once you get the feeling for time and temperature you can use those 8-15 minutes of grilling time to determine the amount of searing that you and your family like. Some people like black crunchy sear marks with literally a taste of char, while others prefer overall browning with little to no char. For more on dialing in the sear – see sear marks, its a matter of taste and style.
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