Let me start out this section by saying that, for me, the perfect steak is medium-rare. To cook a steak to well done is an unforgivable sin. That being said, if you want your steak well done, then don’t use the searing method. If you do, you will end up with a steak that is charred and dry. Now that I have expressed my opinion on the perfect steak let’s get to the method.
Searing is not just for steaks. The best way to grill a great prime rib is to start it out at a high temperature, searing the surface and then lowering the heat to finish cooking it.
Other meats, such as chicken, pork chops, and roast, also benefit from searing. The searing process is essentially “browning” the meat, which gives it a delicious flavor and
a little bit of a crusty surface. If your steak isn’t browned, it just isn’t right.
What you want when you sear is to add that flavor and still end up with a juicy piece of meat. How can you get your meat seared just right? The first thing to know is not to be apprehensive. Just because the meat has started to turn brown doesn’t mean that it’s time to turn it. You want the meat to have a dark brown color before turning, not just a golden color. This browning is what gives the steak the flavor you are looking for.
To get a good sear, some steps need to be taken before lighting the grill. You need to have a good clean grilling surface to have even contact between the metal and the meat. If you are using fatty cuts of meat, you don’t need to oil the grate, but if you do need to oil the grate, you want to use sunflower, canola, or safflower oils because these oils will not break down at high temperatures like olive oil or lard. When oil breaks down, it causes smoke and will leave an unpleasant taste to your meat.
The next thing is to make sure the surface of the meat is dry. If you use a marinade, make sure all the marinade is dripped off the meat before placing it on the grill.
Now that you have a dry piece of meat and a clean grill, you need to preheat the grill. If you are using a gas grill, you need to set both of the main burners to high and close the grill cover. You will want to let the grill get as hot as you can get it. If you know your grill, you will know how long this takes. If you are a beginner, about 10-15 minutes should do it.
If you are using a charcoal grill, you will need to build a two-layer fire. This, as covered in a previous chapter, requires that you build a two-layer fire on one side of the grill and a single layer on the other. You will then sear the meat on one side of the grill and cook it the rest of the way on the other. Charcoal fires are ideal for searing because you get a more intense heat. You can tell when the charcoal fire is hot
enough to sear by the hand test. You will not be able to hold your hand over the searing fire. For the finishing fire, you want it at about medium-high heat (you can hold your hand over it for a count of three).
The grill is now ready for searing. Have everything you need close by because you will have to move fast. This is especially true for the gas grill. The grill has stored up as much heat as it can by now, and you will want to keep as much of that heat inside the grill as possible. You will now need to lift the lid and get the meat on the grate as fast as you can and then re-close the cover.
If you are a beginner, you are going to turn the meat after one minute. As you gain experience, you can adjust this time so that you get the perfect browning. Your aim is to get a nice dark brown color to the meat without lifting the grill’s lid to check it. When turning the meat, you want to act fast, and position the steak as you turn it so that it is on a previously unused part of the grill. Sear this side for 1 minute and then open the grill. On a gas grill, turn the heat down to medium-high and finish cooking, on the charcoal grill you will want to move the meat to the side with the single-layer fire to finish. When you move the meat, turn it the opposite way so that you get a criss-cross grilling pattern on its surface.
If you are searing a roast or prime rib, move the cut to an indirect fire to finish it off.
After your meat has reached the desired doneness, remove it from the grill and let it sit for about five minutes before serving. This will let the juices in the meat return to the surface.
Just as with the other methods of grilling, searing will take some practice. If you find that the meat has been overcooked, you will need to adjust accordingly. If you didn’t get the dark brown sear that we are looking for, you would need to increase the time you sear a little bit. No two grills are the same, and weather can also affect cooking times. Experience and patience is the key to getting the perfect sear and the perfect steak.