Published May 1, 1996.
A month's worth of testing shows that a truly great grilled steak involves lots of charcoal, an open grill, and a fire built with two levels of heat.
The reality of a grilled steak is often quite different from the ideal. You can end up with a small bonfire fueled by steak fat, and the expensive steaks come off the grill charred and tasting of resinous smoke. Or you may let the coals burn down so much that the fire's not hot enough, and the steaks end up with pale, wimpy grill marks and lackluster flavor.
We wanted to find a technique for grilling steak in which the meat seared evenly on both sides so that the juices are concentrated into a powerfully flavored, dark brown, brittle coating of crust; the juicy inside cooked a little past rare; and the outside strip of rich, soft fat crisped and browned slightly on the edges.
By building a fire with a lot of coals on one side and just a fewon the other, we found we could sear the steak properly at the beginning on the hot side of the grill, , then pull it onto the cooler side to cook through without burning the exterior. We could also use the dual heat levels to cook both thick and thin steaks properly, and the system insured against bonfires--if a steak flared up, we simply moved it off the high heat. We found that we did not like covering the grill while the steaks cooked; over time the lid can build up unpleasant smoky and resinous flavors that it passes back to the meat.list of recipes