Whether you believe or don’t believe the statement that searing a steak or other cuts of meat seals in juices, I don’t know of anyone that disagrees that it adds a rich element to the flavors of the seared cuts of meat. Caramelization and the Maillard reaction are key to adding flavor, color and texture that you just won’t find in a bland, gray, spongy piece of boiled meat (of course I’m exaggerating here, as I LOVE corned beef). The key to searing on a grill is heat. Reading between the lines of all the science and chemistry on those Wikipedia pages says the grill needs to be HOT.
And not just any kind of heat. You need conductive or radiant heat, either a pan surface, or heat straight from the flames. Convection won’t cut it. That means just closing the lid to get the internal temps up isn’t enough. Some high end steak restaurants use extremely hot gas broilers to cook their steaks with a good sear. These broilers can reach temperatures of over 1800 degrees. Many even start with a 600 degree sear plate (like a really hot griddle) prior to putting them in a broiler.
Follow one of our steak recipes, like filet mignon. and you’ll wind up with a wonderful crusty, flavorful steak.
For gas grill owners without a sear burner, there are some options, but they are more difficult.
I played around with lowering the grates. Initially I lowered the grate until it was resting on the Weber’s flavor bars. This got the heat up to nearly 500 degrees F. But being so close, made bad hot spots and made it difficult to cook the steaks evenly.
I then tried using some disposable drip pans to prop the grate up a bit more so the heat could circulate under the grate. With the heat up to about 450, I was able to do a pretty good job of searing the steaks. But it isn’t ideal. If you want to cook anything else on the grill, this makes it difficult.
Using these methods where you sear with high temperature can make you panic that you are overcooking the steak. The outside can tend to brown up quickly, but the inside can still be very rare. We recommend you always use an instant read thermometer to ensure you are cooking the meat just perfect. If at any point you feel the steak is getting too brown or burned even, yet the thermometer is indicating rarer than you like, move the steak to a cooler part of the grill to let it finish cooking through.
Regardless of how you manage to sear your steaks, I highly recommend you try it. The flavor and texture searing adds to a steak makes the difference between a good steak and a great steak.
Now if you really want to get crazy on searing steaks, Alton Brown gives you another option. I personally think this is a bit of a gimmick and isn’t a real feasible option unless you are a bachelor, living in a college apartment. But then why would you be eating steak instead of Raman Noodles? Well, it is Alton though, and it is pretty cool. Check it out.