This is a foolproof method for cooking thick steaks, with an ultimate searing hack too!
Often the biggest challenge to getting that phenomenal steakhouse crust of your dreams is having a surface hot enough to create a blistering sear without overcooking the inside of your steak. Cooking over a chimney full of coals is a great, cheap and easy way to concentrate the heat and get those crusty results.
This cooking method is still technically a reverse sear, where the meat is first cooked slowly at low temperatures before being quickly seared. As you can see from the results, it’s pretty foolproof. The only thing to watch out for is leaving the steak on too long and risking a burn, but this is avoided by simply being diligent. Some folks say the flare ups taint the meat, I didn’t have that experience. And if you control your fire and pay attention, I promise you’ll be thrilled with the results.
Reverse searing in this manner is particularly excellent for huge and expensive steaks, because you’ll nail the result every time. The low and slow cook means the meat will be perfectly pink ‘coast to coast’ without risking a blue-raw centre. This is also a fantastic method for people with limited space, like folks who live in apartments with small patios. As long as you’re working over a heat-proof surface, you really only need a foot or so of room to make this work.
Note: it’s REALLY important not to use self-lighting coals. The igniting fuel in the charcoal will impart an acrid taste to your food. If you use a fire lighter at the beginning, as I have, any residual chemicals will burn off well before the coals are ashed over. Here’s how you chimney sear:
Step 1: select your steak
When you’re working with super hot heat, you’re going to need a serious piece of meat to not end up in a burnt crisp. So, you want to work with a steak or roast that is at least one inch thick. The one in the pictures was over two inches!
Step 2: the low cook
Place your steak on a rack over a foil-lined pan (to catch any drips) and place it in an 275f oven until you reach an internal temperature of 125f. Depending on the thickness of your steak, this could take anywhere from 1-2 hours, so it’s important to cook to temperature, not time. I use and recommend Thermapen instant read thermometers. You could also smoke or sous vide the steak at this stage, instead of oven cooking.
Step 3: light the coals in the chimney
Once the steak is cooked to temperature, remove it from the oven and rest it under foil. This is the perfect time to light your coals, as the rest will take about as long as the coals will take to heat up.
Fill a chimney half way with coals (a full chimney will generate too much heat) and place a fire lighter underneath to ignite them. The chemicals in the fire lighter will burn off before the cook, but if you prefer you can use the natural straw versions.
Lay a grill rack or grate over the top of the chimney to heat at the same time, and wait until the coals at the very top are ashed over (grey instead of black). This will take about 20 minutes.
Step 4: sear the steak
Place the steak onto the grate, cooking no more than one minute per side. If you want cross-hatch marks, turn the steak once at 90 degrees (a quarter turn) at the thirty second mark. Flip over and repeat on the other side.
Be aware that the heat off the top of the chimney is going to be exceptionally hot. You may want to wear welders gloves or something to protect from the heat as you place and turn your steak.
Most importantly, do not let your steak burn. It’s easy to do, and I have been guilty of leaving it 20 seconds longer than I should have. To me, it didn’t taste burned, but it won’t have the best appearance.
Step 5: eat and enjoy!
One of the greatest parts of reverse sear is that because you’ve already rested your steak, it’s ready to eat as soon as it comes off the grill! No more lukewarm steaks *high five*.
As you can see, a quick hot sear after a low controlled cook results in steak perfection. If you really want to get luxurious, try topping your steak with one of these flavorful compound butters.
Now, let’s all enjoy the visual splendor…