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How to Sear a Steak Using the "Cold Grate" Method

Posted by Jake Eller on

How to Sear a Steak Using the "Cold Grate" Method


We all love nice, dark grill marks, right? Those dark brown crosshatches, they seem to suggest an undeniable perfection in the way our steak was cooked. When we go to restaurants, that’s often what we expect from grilled items. When we cook steaks in our backyard, that’s what we aspire to achieve.


What if we told you those grill-marks aren’t everything they’re cracked up to be?

What if we told you those grill-marks are the sign of a grill that just doesn’t get hot enough, and perhaps of an uneven cook?

Well, hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, because that’s exactly what we’re saying.


Think of it this way -- where the grill grates actually touch the steak, that’s perfection, sure! Those small sear marks are delicious, but of the entire steak’s surface area, how much is really covered by them? 10%? Less? The vast majority of the steak is occupied by the cooked, grey-brown area in between the grill marks. This happens because only the grates themselves are hot enough to create these dark, charred markings. The air surrounding and flowing through the grates, however, does not reach this temperature. Today, we’re gonna give you a little grill hack called the “Cold Grate Method” that can solve this issue.


Disclaimer: this works best with charcoal grills.


The first step here is to use the reverse-sear method to cook the inside of your steak. You can learn in depth about how to reverse sear in the link above, but basically with the reverse sear method, your steak is slowly warmed to an internal temperature of 110 degrees (or thereabouts) and then seared over a hot fire, as opposed to the inverse. Remember: searing meat to lock in the juices is an old wives’ tale.


Once the inside of your steak is done, we can move on to the cold-grate method.


So, you’ll need a really, really hot fire over a small portion of the grill. There are a few accessories on the market that can help you achieve this, but a good ol’ chimney ought to do the trick. Set this up on one side of your grill, but don’t put your grate on yet!


You’ll want to put your grate on the grill immediately before your steak is ready to go on. Do not preheat the grate! By using a cold grate, you are going to achieve an even, all-over sear. Place the grate on the grill, and then immediately put your steaks over the small, hot section. Sear for one minute, and then rotate your grate 180 degrees. This will ensure your steaks are always searing over a cold grate and a scorching hot fire. Repeat this rotating method until both sides of your steak(s) are perfectly seared.


It’s a little more work, yes -- but the results are inarguable.


By using a cold grate, you’ll be searing your steaks with an actual flame, and not just with the metal rods. The result is a perfectly even, dark sear that may just change everything.

Happy Grilling!