Pan seared steak can be a challenge for most of us if you don’t have a fancy sear burner built in to your gas grill. Even on charcoal, you have to go to extra lengths to get a good sear. And by a good sear, I mean a dark, crusty brown. But, there is an option. You can first pan sear your steak. On a typical gas grill, the direct radiant heat doesn’t get much about 350°F. Sure you can close the lid and get the internal temp of the air to rise, but that won’t get you a good sear. Pan searing will and it works nicely on both gas grills and charcoal. The flavor this adds to a steak makes a huge difference. Searing can turn a ho-hum steak into a steak your friends will post about on Facebook. The difference in flavor is astounding. And the texture, and appearance improve as well.
First, you’ll need the right steak. You can do this with thin steaks, but the times will vary and the results won’t be as good. It is best use a steak that is 1 inch or, even better, thicker. A filet or a ribeye works well. Take the steak out of the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to let it come up in temperature.
Second, you’ll need a good cast iron skillet. If you don’t have one of these, get one. The corn bread alone is worth the price of admission. Put the skillet on the grill. If using gas, turn the heat all the way up. If using charcoal, open all the vents to get it heated up good. Close the lid. Wait 5 minutes after the grill hits about 500 or 550. If you can get it up to 600 with out damaging the side of your house, that is ok too.
While the pan is warming up, brush some olive oil on the steak and sprinkle liberally with Kosher salt.
Place the steak to one side of the pan and let it cook, grill lid open, for about 1 ½ minutes, until the steak is no longer sticking to the pan. Try not to move it around while it is cooking, except at the end to check if it is loose. If you are cooking more than one steak, make sure they don’t crowd each other. Unless you have a big pan, I recommend one at a time. That way when you turn the steak, the other side of the pan will still be very hot.
Flip the steak over to a different part of the pan and cook for another 1 ½ minutes.
Remove the steak from the pan and finish on the grill, medium high direct heat with the lid closed (we’re trying to cook the inside of the steak now). Use a thermometer to check for proper doneness. Remember, with a steak this big, the temp will continue to rise while letting the steak rest, so pull it off when it hits 5 degrees below the temp you want.
The color that pan searing brings to the meat can be misleading about how the inside of the steak is cooked, so I highly recommend using a good thermometer when you are cooking a nice cut of meat.