The Perfect Steak: Fire, Fuel and Steak Cooking Surface

By on January 19, 2016

This post is part of our Fired Up Food series, Flame-Cooking The Perfect Steak, giving you a total guide to one of the best meals imaginable.

Brows the list below to skip to a specific step:

  1. Selecting a Steak
  2. Preparing Steak
  3. Seasoning
  4. Fire, Fuel and Steak Cooking Surface
  5. Cooking Process
  6. Cooking to Temp
  7. Resting
  8. Cutting and Slicing
  9. Saucing and Sides
  10. Alternative Cooking Methods

Fire, Fuel and Steak Cooking Surface


#1 – Two-zone Fire

If you’re going to grill, it’s important to build a two-zone fire for your steak cooking surface. To sear the steak you need a zone that’s really hot—you almost can’t get it hot enough. Then once the outside of the steak is seared, you need a zone at lower temp to bring the internal temp up to desired doneness (actually 10 degrees below final temp, but we’ll get to that later). Hot zone gets a “one count” with your palm toward the fire, cool zone gets a three count.

Fired Up Food tip Lump Vs. Briquettes Charcoal

#2 – Charcoal Briquettes vs. Lump

You spent the money on the good steak, don’t cheap out on the charcoal. Lump charcoal will cost you more, but it’s completely natural with no additives. It provides the ultimate in grilling flavor; that’s why it’s the choice of competitive grillers. Here’s a head-to-head comparison.

Fired Up Food - Hardwood Finger Test Trick

#3 – What Kind of Wood?

If you’re going truly old school and grilling over a wood fire, choose your fuel carefully. Select well-seasoned hardwood like oak. Or consider a blend of hardwoods. Texas is famous for mesquite-grilled steaks, but 100% mesquite can impart overpowering flavor to the meat. Light the wood fire well ahead of when you’ll need it so you’ll be doing your cooking over a very hot bed of coals with no flames.

Word's Most Expensive Grills - Fired Up Food

#4 – Gas/L.P. Grills

If a gas grill is your only option, make the best of it. Get a foil wrapped package of hardwood chips or pellets smoking inside as you heat up the grill. Or try the A-maze-N Tube Smoker. This will add essential smoky flavor. The one advantage of a gas grill is you have supreme and nearly instant temperature control.

The-Perfect-Steak-Fire-Fuel-and-steak Cooking-Surface-Searing

#5 – Searing Surface

To cook a steak with the traditional sear first method, you need a high-heat cooking surface. The best is traditional cast iron that’s well-seasoned. The combination of the seasoned surface and oiling the steak will prevent sticking. Heat the skillet, Dutch Oven, or searing plate in the grill until it just starts to smoke. Then slap down the steak.


#6 – Grill

A clean and seasoned grate is essential to prevent sticking on your steak grilling surface. Heat the grill to high and use a steel or brass brush on a long handle to scrub the grate. Then use tongs to dip folded paper towel in cooking oil and wipe the grate surface thoroughly. Close the grill lid to allow everything come back up to temperature, then start cooking.

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