Updated March 2022
Perfect isn’t always possible when it comes to grilling steaks, particularly on a pellet grill, but when you’re cooking on a Grilla, you’re on your way. Sick of eating dried up meat, missing the sear or charring? Get a Grilla Grill and reach (near) perfection.
The secret to cooking the perfect steaks on a pellet grill is a clear-cut technique that’s easy to replicate. Below, we’ll look at two ways to get a steakhouse-quality sear.
Most pitmasters follow a simple formula when grilling steaks the traditional way — a cooking method called searing. The secret to a mouthwatering steak is in this step, which involves cooking a steak on high heat for a short cook time. Below are the steps you’ll want to follow:
What could be more straightforward? Of course, if you want to get fancy, you could also try what’s called a reverse sear.
Once you’re confident with traditional searing, why not move on to reverse searing your next steaks? Reverse searing is exactly like it sounds — you cook the inside of the meat first and sear the outside last.
You’ll still go through all the general steps of searing, although with the reverse sear method, you can get away with a shorter time for the steaks to come to room temperature since they will be exposed to a lower heat before the sear. However, instead of bumping up your pellet grill to 500 degrees at the beginning, you’ll bump it up at the end. In other words, you’ll prepare your steaks, pop them onto the grill, let them get to your desired level of doneness and then give them each a three-minute searing job.
Here’s the lowdown on the general rules to follow:
Which type of searing will net you the best results? Honestly, there’s no clear-cut winner between traditional and reverse searing — except for you and your hungry guests.
Now that you know how to cook steak on a pellet grill, you have no excuse not to pick up some ribeyes, T-bones, New York Strips or sirloins for dinner tonight. Perfect isn’t always possible when it comes to grilling steaks. But when you’re cooking on a Grilla, you’re well on your way.
Many people believe searing a steak is done to seal juices inside a piece of meat. This makes sense in theory, but this belief is actually a myth when grilling. Searing dries out the outer surface of a steak, and this method takes some of your juices with it.
However, what you get in return is worth it! The delicious brown crust that searing creates happens thanks to the Maillard reaction, a process that’s similar to caramelization but involves amino acids rather than sugars. Searing sends the Maillard reaction into overdrive, so even if you lose some moisture, most grillmasters find that the flavor you gain is a worthy trade-off!
Searing is a popular cooking method within backyard grilling, but it is to be performed with proper instruction and guidance. That’s why it’s so important to go in equipped with tools that will help you sear the best steak you’ve ever had.
Before we get too far down the how-to path, let’s cover some basic gear you need to sear a juicy and tender steak on a pellet grill. You’ll need a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. I use the Grilla Grills Meat Thermometer, which is fantastic in reading the meat’s internal temperature.
You should also invest in a set of Grill Grates. They make searing on pellet grills much easier and help achieve pro results. Don’t worry — there is a set that is made specifically for whichever Grilla Grill you have. The grate is able to amplify 500 degrees to about 700 degrees on average, which is a great temp for searing steaks.
Other tools you’ll need include a good set of tongs and/or a grill spatula to get your steak on and off the grill, and to flip it when necessary. You’ll also want to grab some kitchen essentials like a cutting board and paper towels to pat the steak dry.
Now that you have the gear, you need the meat. It’s important to get high quality meat. There are eight primal cuts of beef. Most folks think of steak in a nice marbled ribeye, T-bone, filet mignon or perhaps sirloin or New York strip steak. Personally, ribeye is king and that is usually what I opt for.
No matter which cut of meat you choose, take a minute to consider how rare or well done you like your steaks. If you like ’em rare, you’ll want to find a steak that is at least 1 inch thick. Opting for steaks that are thinner than an inch makes it very hard to get that nice red center and exterior crust. I look for steaks that are about 1.5 to 2 inches thick and go for medium rare center. This is another factor that makes thick steaks like ribeye and New York strip great choices. And, of course, if you want to grill with the big boys, there’s always the porterhouse, the true king of thick steaks.
Next, take the time to touch the steak through the packaging. You just want to see if there is some give to the meat and to look for solid marbling.
You can marinate or just throw salt and pepper on. There are merits to both, but if you want the proper sear, you have to have a steak with a dry surface. About two hours before your cook, lightly salt both sides of your steaks with kosher salt and place them back in the refrigerator. Then, use equal parts kosher salt and black pepper and make a great crust for the steak. If you’re looking to do it the Grilla way, combine 2 tbsp. kosher salt, 2 tbsp. fresh cracked black pepper, 2 tsp. ground dark roast coffee and 1 tsp. granulated garlic for a great steak rub.
When it comes to flavor or pellets, use a stronger flavored pellet such as mesquite, hickory or oak. Check out Grilla Grills’ amazing collection of pitmaster-approved steak recipes to find tons of cool ideas for your next meat masterpiece.
When you are preheating your pellet grill, make sure you set your grill to Pro mode.
A cast iron skillet is an incredibly useful tool for searing, and we recommend getting one if you love a good seared steak. A hot skillet made from cast iron sears like nothing else, and you’ll love the even and consistent results that it gives you when cooking steak.
It’s not just for the stovetop, either. You can use your cast iron pan to make pan seared steak on your Grilla Grill! Just remember two things: One, you’ll need to make sure your frying pan fits your model of Grilla Grill, so check its dimensions before buying; and two, make sure you clean your cast iron skillet the right way and season it with a thin coat of canola oil or another vegetable oil with a high smoke point. Whatever you do, don’t put it in the dishwasher!
Depending on your preference, adding sea salt or cracked black pepper can help with the searing process. When you rub seasoning on a steak prior to searing, an outer brown crust is formed when the meat hits the grill. This is ideal for capturing flavor from the outside in.
You should only have to flip a steak once. Flipping the steak too often can run the risk of leaving the center raw or letting the juice run out. It’s easy to grow impatient with grilling, but patience leads to great taste.
When it is time to pull the steaks off the grill, you can simply move them to the indirect heating side of your grill first. In the world of grilling, temperature and thermometers are your best friends. Do yourself a favor if you are new to the grilling and searing game and get a set of thermometers.
No one wants to eat a steak that is too raw, so this is an excellent way to ensure proper taste. Even with searing at high heat, it is a crucial step in the process to let your steaks sit for a few minutes before cutting and serving. You want the juices to settle properly throughout each strip, so cover a plate with foil to keep the heat inside.
Technique is often the focus when you’re cooking steak, but that doesn’t mean that the recipe you use doesn’t matter! Using different rubs, marinades and other recipe elements can make a big difference in the final flavor of your steak. Make sure to browse all of our steak recipes for inspiration!
Once you hit the desired doneness, pull the steaks and serve, enjoying the fruits of your labor. Cooking a proper steak isn’t hard, but there are some tricks of the trade. With a little gear, some know-how and some practice, you will be the king of your backyard grilling jungle.