How to Achieve the Perfect Crust When Grilling a Steak

October 22, 2012

Jesse Black is a regular contributor to and as a former chef, knows his stuff in the kitchen. Here are his tips to achieve the perfect crust when grilling steaks to take them to the next level.

grilling steak


We’re all familiar with the idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” And rightly so, that’s sound advice if you’re choosing sides in a pick up game of basketball, watching American Idol, or actually looking for a good book. But when it comes to outdoor cooking, you can bet your sweet rub that those steaks are going to be judged on their outward appearance long before anyone has a chance to take a bite. So why not get a leg up on the naysayers and ne’er-do-wells and give ‘em a crust they can write home about.

A crispy crust on a thick steak is almost enough to turn a Select into a Choice and elevate a Choice to a Prime. And creating that thick crust on your favorite cut is easier than you might think. All it takes is a little bit of science and heat to get the job done. Here are three easy tips, but first:

*To achieve great results you’ll need to select a certain kind of cut from your local butcher or grocer. No wimpy thin steaks here! Any steak cut will do, so long as it’s thick. We’re talking at least one inch. That will allow the meat to stay on the heat for longer and ensure that you’re not over cooking the center.

The first thing that’s important to remember about a crispy crust is that it doesn’t start to form until the steak is dry on the outside. Why is that? Any moisture means that the surface of the steak on the grill is not going to get above boiling point of water (212°F). The Miallard Reaction (browning) doesn’t start to happen until 300°F. So unless you get rid of all the moisture, you’re not going to get any crust at all.

Getting rid of all that moisture and creating a great crust starts with a great rub. You’re going to need to get the steak as dry as possible to ensure that a nice crust forms on the surface during cooking. This starts with a steak rub that consists of salt and corn starch (mixed at a ratio of 2:1).

The salt will not only flavor the meat, but it’s also a great way to draw out the moisture from within. The cornstarch will absorb the moisture and form a thin layer over the steak, which will form a great foundation for building your crust.

Once your steaks are sufficiently covered in your rub, it’s time to throw them on the grill, right? Hold your horses! The next step involves introducing them to the freezer. That’s right, I said freezer.

Hold them for about 30 minutes at 0°F; that’s just enough time to sufficiently chill them and complete the drying process. This freezing technique is called, “par freezing,” which is French for “across the surface.”

The cold temperature will allow you to keep the meat on the grill longer, thus ensuring that your crust will be substantial. Skipping this step will have not allowed the cold, salt and corn starch sufficient time to dry out the meat and you risk losing your crust.

Finally, after your steaks have been sufficiently chilled (30 minutes), it’s time to introduce them to the heat. With other cuts the goal is to let them sit out of the fridge for a few minutes before putting them on the grill, in this case you’ll want to introduce them to the heat as they come out of the freezer.

Kick your grill up to 500°F before you land your steaks and don’t forget to add a thin coating of vegetable oil on the grates prior to getting them up to temp to keep the meat from sticking. After you’ve landed the steaks, cover the meat with the lid and let them cook for about 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid, flip – cook for another 2-3 minutes (lid off), flip – cook for another 2 minutes, flip – and finish cooking for another 2 minutes.

Altogether that’s nearly 10 minutes over the heat. Of course you’ll want to spot check the meat with your digital meat thermometer   to make sure the internal temperature is to your liking. Remove from the heat and let them rest for 10 minutes.

What you’re left with is a crust that’s sure to make the neighbors jealous.




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