How to Get a Perfect Steak Sear on a Pellet Grill

The Searing Question Gets Answered.

Updated July 2021

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 Grills and reach (near) perfection.

How To Cook The Perfect Steak

When it comes to steaks and pellet grills you have two options for cooking:

  • Option 1: start with the hottest grill possible, sear the outside, and serve. This allows for the best opportunity to create a very red center and a crusty seared outside.
  • Option 2: the reverse sear. This gets smoke in your steak beyond just the seared crust.

How To: Option 1

Allow the steaks to rest for an hour. Make certain there is no moisture on the surface of the meat before starting your sear. This will avoid any steaming and ensure the best texture in your seared crust.

If you are looking to sear following Option 1, understand that searing occurs when you place meat in a grill under extremely hot temperatures. When searing on a pellet grill, you want to hear that sizzle of the steak making contact with the heat of the grill. Make sure that your pellet grill is preheated to a temperature over 350 degrees.

When searing, be sure you are placing your steak on the hottest part of the pellet. This is typically toward the back of Grilla Grills.

How To: The Reverse Sear

What is the reverse sear method and how do you do it? Just before firing up your grill, pull the steaks out of the refrigerator and pat them dry with a towel to remove surface moisture. Leave them out on the counter for 20 min-1 hr. 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.

Once your grill is idling at 180 degrees you can place your steaks on the grill. Place them in the path of the most smoke flow and away from the direct heat. The top racks work great for this purpose.

Depending on the thickness of your steaks you will smoke them for 15-30min. Be sure to check the internal temperature starting at 15min and every 5-10min thereafter. Flip your steaks at the 15min mark to ensure even heating.

When your steaks hit 100-110 degrees pull them off the grill and increase the temperature of the grill to 500 degrees. This is when you can use a grill grate but be sure they have plenty of time to get really hot. Coat both sides of your steak with your searing rub.

From here forward everything moves pretty quickly, so have everything standing by. Place your steaks on the Grill Grates at a slight angle, cook for 1 minute, and then rotate the steak 45 degrees and cook for 1 min. Now flip and repeat.

This is where the thickness of your steak plays a huge role. A solid medium rare will register between 130-135 degrees, medium 145 degrees, medium well 155 degrees. Anything above 160 degrees is considered well done and considered punishable by law in some states. We won’t tell though if you do prefer your steaks a bit more on the well done side.

Removing any excess fat helps with reverse searing along the outside of the steak. This practice also prevents burning parts of your steak as fat covers outer skin. Luckily, fat is easier to eliminate prior to grilling and searing, so this is a good initial step in the process.

Myths About Searing Steaks

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.

Searing is a popular practice within backyard grilling, but it is to be performed with proper instruction and guidance.

What Gear Do I Need to Sear a Steak on a Pellet Grill?

Before we get too far down the how-to path, let’s cover some basic gear you need to sear a steak on a pellet grill. You’ll need a fast and accurate thermometer. I use the Thermoworks Thermapen, which is fantastic in reading the meat’s internal temperature.

Pick Up A Meat Probe

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.

Grab A Grill Grate

Getting the Meat

Now that you have the gear, you need the meat. It’s important to get high quality meat. There are 8 primal cuts of beef. Most folks think of steak in a nice marbled ribeye, t-bone, or perhaps sirloin or strip steak. Personally, ribeye is king and that is usually what I opt for.

No matter which cut 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 in thick. Opting for steaks that are thinner than an inch makes it very hard to that nice red center and exterior crust. I look for steaks that are about 1.5-2in thick and go for medium rare center.

Next take the time to touch the steak though the packaging. You just want to see if there is some give to the meat and to look for solid marbling.

All About the Flavor

You can marinate to 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 Shane 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.

Grab Some Grill Fuel

Tips and Tricks for Heat Searing on a Pellet Grill

When you are preheating your pellet grill, make sure you set your grill to the smoke setting. Keep the lid open and monitor the flame. Once smoke forms, you can shut the lid, wait about 10 minutes and you are ready for searing.

Under this method, it is recommended that cast iron is used against steak for even cooking and searing. Poke into your steak to see the center. This method results in rare centers, but make sure the meat is cooked the entire way through.

Seasoning and Searing

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 crust is formed when the meat hits the grill. This is ideal for capturing flavor from the outside in.

Never Rush the Searing Process

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 temperatures, 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.

Mission Complete

Once you hit the desired level of done, 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.

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