Can a BGE cook a great steak?

Today — well, yesterday — is (was) Steak Day!

Coincidentally, Amie (old friend. makes cool art.) asked:

Ok, here’s a big question. You’ve touted the BGE as being fabulous for slow cooking. How is it for obviously faster fare like burgers and steak? It is overkill or perfection?

All of this drove me to drop a few grass fed filet mignons on the BGE.

To answer the question: Yes, the BGE can do a damned fine steak. However, it is different than a traditional grill. You can certainly get the BGE to any high temperature necessary to put a char on the outside of the steak, but I typically find that char doesn’t really add flavor to steak.

It is important to keep in mind that searing a steak at the beginning of grilling does nothing to actually keep the juices in. No, really. An excerpt from Alton Brown’s Good Eats (thanks to Ben for finding the quote!):

Most reliable roast recipes suggest a two-tiered cooking approach. First you sear the meat over high heat in order to create a golden brown and delicious crust. Then you drop the temperature so that the roast can finish low and slow. Now this is a fine philosophy and yet fatally flawed because the higher the heat involved the more proteins in the meat are damaged therefore the more juices lost. So if we give it all this high heat at the very beginning, we’re going to have more juice lost through the cooking process. So I say flip it. We’re going to start the roast at a balmy 200 degrees until it reaches a certain internal temp then we’ll put the spurs to it. In the meantime we’ll take a little time to prep and maybe check on the fire extinguisher.

With the Egg, grill at a low temp until the internal temperature of the meat hits 110 or 120. Then crank open all the vents and let the egg heat up — way up — for the finishing few minutes of the steak. The internal temperature should hit about 125 to 130 at removal time. Let it sit for a few minutes under a foil tent.

End result will be a steak that is succulent/juicy, yet with a bit of crisp on the outside. Rare to medium-rare.

If you really want distinguished grill marks, I would suggest grilling at a lower temperature, then pulling the steaks to rest in foil for 10 minutes while you crank the temperature in the BGE by opening all the vents. Pull the steaks from the foil and very briefly slap ’em on the grill, flipping ’em once to char each side. Not for me, but I fully acknowledge the religion surrounding charred meats.

The filets I grilled were delectable. Juicy, Tender, and Inundated with a rich hickory smoke without a lick of black crispy crap. I did pull them for a moment, crank up the egg heat, and throw the steaks back on to have a bit of crisp, but no char, on the outside.

Yup. The BGE does a mean steak. It is just different than a kettle grill. Given that the BGE can easily maintain internal temperatures above 1,000 degrees, you could turn a steak into a carbon brick, if so desired…

Update: Amie responded with one of my favorite non-grill steak cooking methods.

… heat a cast iron skillet for ten minutes on very high heat, marinate your steak in olive oil, garlic, pepper, etc, then go with the sear method for roughly 4-5 minutes on each side, then letting the steak rest a few minutes once removed from the heat. This results in a VERY juicy medium rare steak that is nicely carmelized without the black bits of a true “Pittsburgh Rare.”

Totally agree. I can’t cook without my cast iron and am going to start experimenting with cast iron on the BGE. I follow Alton Brown’s pan seared rib-eye steak recipe when I don’t feel like firing up a grill. Makes for an amazing london broil, too!

As per whether or not the BGE is overkill compared to a metal kettle. It isn’t a matter of overkill or not — it is just different. You can achieve much better temperature control with a BGE and the ceramic offers a heat mass that makes the temperature much more stable. As well, the air flow control is much better. It is also vastly more efficient. I can typically make a 20 lbs bag of chunk mesquite charcoal last months, grilling at least once a week.

And, yes, they are significantly more expensive than a kettle grill. Whereas you can find a Weber for under $75, the large BGE with grilling table will fall somewhere between $600 and $850, depending on the discount you can talk out of the dealer.

The BGE is tough as nails. Whereas a metal kettle grill will generally wear out over the course of 3 to 5 years, the egg simply does not wear in any significant way. The felt liner between the top and bottom halves needs to be replaced every now and then (especially if you screw up like I did and let the thing run up to 1,500 degrees). The only other “wear” is the grilling grid will gradually lose its ceramic finish if you use a wire brush to clean it.

Replacement parts are available and reasonably price in case you do manage to break something.



2 Responses to “Can a BGE cook a great steak?”

  1. Amie says:

    Interesting technique! And I’m glad you shared it, since it’s the antithesis of my fillet mignon methods. I use the technique recommended by Jeff Smith, where you heat a cast iron skillet for ten minutes on very high heat, marinate your steak in olive oil, garlic, pepper, etc, then go with the sear method for roughly 4-5 minutes on each side, then letting the steak rest a few minutes once removed from the heat. This results in a VERY juicy medium rare steak that is nicely carmelized without the black bits of a true “Pittsburgh Rare.”

  2. David Driscoll says:

    Check out the ‘In Search of Perfection’ television series by Heston Bluementhal – he has an episode an cooking the best steak – and he says that sealing a steak is a pile of crap (he weighs it before and after to show you it hasn’t sealed anything in! This is in direct contrast to the likes of Gordon Ramsay who stills says you should seal a steak!

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