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Flare-Ups Are the Key to Steaks with Great Grill Flavor

By Elizabeth Bomze Published

Exposed to big, long-lasting flames, your steak will burn. But quick, controlled bursts will imbue the meat with that elusive savory, smoky essence.

Flames shooting up from the coals when you’re grilling might seem like a reason to run for the squirt bottle. But if you handle them right, flare-ups are actually a perk. They’re the result of fatty juices dripping onto the fire and igniting, which causes their proteins and sugars to transform into the smoky, savory, deeply browned compounds that we associate with grill flavor. At the same time, their water turns to steam that carries the flames and these flavors to the meat. 

Capturing that flavor can be tricky, though. Larger, prolonged flames will burn the food and deposit a layer of soot, while conservative exposure to the fire won’t net you an appreciable flavor boost. The key is to encourage small, quick flare-ups while avoiding larger ones. Trimming fat from the steak before cooking will help; and if you’re marinating or basting with a fat-laden liquid, be sure to let excess liquid drip off before cooking. If big flare-ups do occur, move the steaks away from the flames. Eventually, the fat will burn off and the fire will die down.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.