Questions about searing on a charcoal grill...

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by worktogthr, Apr 8, 2014.

  1. worktogthr

    worktogthr Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Hi all,

    Just had a question about searing steak or any meat for that matter on a charcoal grill. Tried a flat iron steak tonight on the weber performer. This was my first time using direct cooking on the grill or any charcoal grill for that matter. Steak was cooked to my liking and tasted good, but lacked the crusty texture i was looking for. This is what I did.

    1) lit a full weber chimney of Stubbs
    2) when the coals were ready I dumped them on the charcoal grate and pushed them to cover 2/3 of the grill. That equalled about a double layer of coals.
    3). Put the grill grate on, covered the grill, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
    4). Dome thermometer was at 600 and I could barely hold my hand over the grill for a second .
    5) threw the steaks in and had a nice sizzling sound.
    6) covered the grill.

    I think covering the grill made achieving a sear difficult? Does that make sense. More oxygen means stronger fire and the most oxygen possible is when the lid is completely
    open. Thanks in advance for any tips!
    - Chris

    Here are some pics to illustrate the lack of sear haha

    Last edited: Apr 8, 2014
  2. maple sticks

    maple sticks Smoking Fanatic

    Hi Chris, Its easier to say how I do a steak. I start with good amount of hot lump charcoal and I do not spread it out much. Having the heat concentrated in the center makes a hot grill. Keep in mind its usually just two steaks. Both dampers wide open. Reading heat temp at the top of the dome even if it was accurate doesn't give you grate temp. You need a vary hot fire to get what you want. Every chunk of coal needs to be going. There are people on this site who can give you a heat range I can't and don't know if it would matter anyway. I just get it as hot as I can. If its not a thick cut steak start with them frozen. They will cook fast.

    Buy the way your steaks good but I know what your trying to get. Good Luck
  3. d-train

    d-train Fire Starter

    If you want a REALLY charred/seared steak, you could place it directly on the coals, as in with no cooking grates. Then you could place the steak on the indirect heat side to achieve the desired doneness.

    Another option is once the coals are completely orange/glowing in the chimney, place your cooking grate on the top of the chimney and sear it like that. Again, you could then dump the coals in the weber and cook indirectly until it's the way you like it. This method will likely only be able to sear one steak at a time.

    I have never done the steak right on the hot coals thing, but pretty close. I can crank the bed of coals all the way up to where they are literally touching the grates. Also, there's a steak seasoning called char crust that provides a nice bark/crust, although the flavor isn't my overall favorite. Makes for a really nice looking steak tho!
  4. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have used this trick for decades to get a nice "char," crust, or sear on steaks and tri tips.  Learned it watching my dad.  I do my wife's steak a little different but here's what I do for mine, which I like not quite at a "charred" state, which is almost blackened with a very rare middle. Works nicely for less of a char too.       

        1.  I fire up about a chimney with the amount of charcoal I need and get it REAL hot.

        2.  My steak I leave in the refrigerator until the last possible moment. I rinse it off, dry it, then coat it with EVOO and the amount of salt/pepper, SPOG, or Montreal Steak Seasoning I desire. 

        3.  I dump the charcoal in the kettle, flatten the pile but keep it compact as possible using long tongs.  Put on the grill.     

        4.  I throw the steak on the grill right over the coals, then here's the secret.  I take any hardened fat I have in the refrigerator, either bacon or drippings from a previous smoke, then quickly put a couple spoonfuls around the outside of the steak.  It melts through the grill and drips on the fire, giving a real nice and controlled charring flare!  I usually only leave the steak on for about 2-3 minutes, then flip it and do the same for the other side, adding more fat if necessary.  Hardened fat drippings from previously smoked chuckies and butts works best IMO.

    If you have solid pieces of fat trimmed from the steak or tri tip that works too but is a little trickier getting it through the grill unless you slice it thin.

    Whatever you do, DO NOT throw EVOO or any liquid fat on the hot charcoal.  It acts like gasoline. Been there, done that.  Felt real STOOOOPID after I did it.  Doh!
  5. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Cave man style. Smoke until close to the IT you want the blow the ash off and put in the coals. I use lump for this.
  6. worktogthr

    worktogthr Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Thanks for all the feedback! You gave me a lot to think about but I love experimenting so I will try all of your methods. Except maybe right on the coals... That scares me haha. Question about getting the charcoal really hot in the chimney. Ball park, how long would you heat your charcoal in a full chimney? Thanks again!
  7. d-train

    d-train Fire Starter

    I would certainly only use hardwood lump for this method. I have had really good success with the reverse sear like you mentioned. It allows you to get that smokey/campfire taste too! Leaves more of the desired doneness too, rather than just the very middle part.
  8. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I didn't want to try right on the coals either. I lost a bet and had to do it. It has a different flavor but is very good. I don't do it everytime.
  9. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    To answer your question yes having the lid on took the oxygen away from the fire...always sear with the lid off.
  10. d-train

    d-train Fire Starter

    If you want some of the convection heat to help cook the steak and also want good oxygen supply to the coals, stick you tongs sideways between the lid and cook chamber. It will prop the hood a couple inches keeping some of the heat in the hood and plenty of oxygen to the coals.
  11. maple sticks

    maple sticks Smoking Fanatic

    O I would say a twelve inch flame shooting out of you charcoal starter should be hot enough to start with. Then dump in the weber and let it get real hot. Serious I wait till I have flames out the top and can see glowing charcoal. Lump lights fairly easy. Just guessing as I have never timed it 15-20 min.

    One thing I have never tried but do think it would work is place a cast iron grate off an old grill directly on the coals. Should keep the charcoal off the steak with max heat especially if you give the grate time to get hot. If you try it let me know how it worked.
  12. maple sticks

    maple sticks Smoking Fanatic

    Hey Chris, Did some steaks on the weber grill today. Can say for sure lid off. Fire burns much hotter without lid.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2014
  13. worktogthr

    worktogthr Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Thanks Maple! I will have to try some again this week. Got a bag of lump I am going to experiment with. Seems to make sense that the lid off would give the most oxygen to the fire.
  14. worktogthr

    worktogthr Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Thank you all for the advice... I bought a couple of ribeyes today. They were a little thinner than I would have liked but I coated them with olive oil and seasoned them with SPOG while the coals were heating.

    Got the coals really hot and since they were thin steaks I decided to just cook them with the lid off for a couple of minutes on each side. Lid open is definitely the way to go for that crusty texture I was craving.

    Cooked it a little more than I would have liked but the flavor and texture was just what I wanted. Thanks again for all your help.

    I think if I had thicker steaks, I would sear each side for a couple of minutes with the old opened and then finish on a cooler part of the grill, maybe indirect.
  15. maple sticks

    maple sticks Smoking Fanatic

    Excellent !

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