There are two schools when it comes to cooking steak; the ‘low and slow’ method and the super-heated sear tactic.
Low and slow is less harsh and leaves the meat tender and juicy as long as you don’t go too slowly. Time can range from 20-40 minutes depending on the size of the steak, temperature of the grill, and your preference. This method also allows you to add some smoke to the meat – I always use mesquite for steaks.
Searing is the complete opposite. The goal is to get your grill as hot as possible. A Big Green Egg will usually get up to 600 degrees on it’s own (see video below). Adding some additional air via a hair dryer can jack it up to 700-800 degrees and potentially higher. This intense heat is used to sear the outside of the steak locking in all of the juices. A few minutes on each side and the steaks are ready. You can even take this method to the next level and toss the meat right on the grill like Mad Meat Genius.
Most grillers I talk to swear by one of the methods above. They can talk for hours about how well their methods works while calling the opposing camp crazy…even though they’ve never tried it. This leads me to believe that both methods work great.
A quick note – no matter which method you use ALWAYS let your steak sit for 5-15 minutes after you take it off the grill. This gives the juices time to migrate though out the steak so it’s equally juicy and tender all around.
I typically sear my steaks. However, I’ve always been disappointed that I can’t add some smoke. Since a large volume of oxygen is required to get the high temperature, any smoke that’s generated quickly goes out the top. To get around this I’ve been using a hybrid method. I sear my steaks for 2-3 minutes a side then drop the temperature and let them soak for another 5-15 depending on this size. During this soaking period I can smoke the hell out of them. I typically add mesquite chunks (not chips) to the coals before adding the meat. Because of their large size they can survive the sear period and still throw up some smoke during the soaking period.
The problem I run into is my smoke absorption theory. This theory is backed by absolutely no scientific data or any experience whatsoever. The theory is this; raw meat will absolve smoke flavor better than cooked meat. This means my hybrid approach of smoking the meat after it’s been seared is not going to be as effective as I’d like. I’ve lived with it and enjoyed some great steaks but I’ve always wished there was a way around this. Well, now there is…
On a recent trip to Canadian Tire (or as I like to call it ‘the black hole where my bank account goes to die) I came across natural mesquite charcoal. I immediately filled my cart and proceeded to the checkout. This brilliant idea allows me to impart a fantastic mesquite flavor on my steaks while I sear the raw meat. Excellent!
The downside is this particular brand, Nature’s Grilling, is not cheap since it’s all-natural and doesn’t contain all the toxic additives found in some other brands. The good news is that, at the time of posting this, it’s on sale!
A quick Google search revealed an endless list of mesquite charcoal brands which tells me this is an old idea that is new to me because of a recent mesquite distribution expansion. Either way I’m pumped.
If you’re a fan of cooking steak over charcoal I highly recommend grabbing a bag and giving it a shot.