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Last Updated on October 8, 2021
Grilling a steak directly over a charcoal fire is a unique mouth-watering experience. A chimney starter helps concentrate heat and gives the meat a fantastic sear without overcooking the inside.
All you need is a few pieces of juicy steak, some charcoal, a chimney starter, and a grate. It’s a fun way of surprising friends and family with a slightly different grilling method, and it works great on steaks.
You can grill the steak directly on the chimney, but you can also do a bit of extra preparation by cooking the steak at a low temperature in the oven and then giving it the perfect sear on the chimney.
Things You Will Need
The three basic things you’ll need are one or two steaks, a charcoal starter, and some charcoal. When purchasing steaks, select your preferred cut, but make sure it’s at least 1” thick. When dealing with very intense heat, steaks that are too thin will burn.
A charcoal starter or chimney starter is easy to find online or at most big supermarkets. It’s one of the most helpful equipment pieces for grilling, and it’s very affordable. Models made of aluminized steel are durable and effective.
Use a Digital Thermometer
You will also need a stick lighter and a thermometer. A simple digital thermometer is an excellent tool for grilling. The best products have a probe to stick in the food and read the temperature in less than 15 seconds.
The difference between rare and medium is just a few degrees, so a thermometer allows you to cook foods accurately to get the results you want. In this case, the heat from the charcoal starter is highly concentrated, so it’s helpful to have a thermometer to avoid overcooking the steak.
Somewhere to Place the Charcoal Starter
Placing the charcoal starter directly on the ground is a bad idea, whether it’s on an outdoor patio or a terrace. The spot for a charcoal starter is on the grill. You won’t have to use the grill itself, but it will work as a safe and stable support for the chimney. You can also place the charcoal chimney on any kind of heat-proof surface.
How to Use a Charcoal Starter
Using a charcoal starter to grill steak isn’t that different from using it to start a grill. Usually, the main difference is that you toss the hot charcoal on the lower grate inside the grill or firebox. However, for this method of cooking steaks, keep the starter on the grill and cook the steaks directly on top of it.
The shape of the grill disperses heat, but with a charcoal chimney, the heat concentrates in a small area. Since the heat coming out of the chimney will be intense, it’s a good idea to wear welder gloves for protection.
Prepare the Charcoal Starter
To start the charcoal chimney, use some wax cubes or a bit of newspaper. Place the wax cubes in the middle of your grill grate and cover them with the chimney halfway full. This is an important detail because a full chimney will generate too much heat. Place a grate on the chimney and wait about 20 minutes until the charcoal is hot.
Don’t use self-lighting charcoal. This type of charcoal has a chemical that will ruin the taste of your food. Simply use briquettes or lump charcoal, whichever you prefer.
Cook the Steak
While you wait for the chimney to get hot, you can season your steaks. When you come back, there will be very intense heat coming out of the chimney. Place the steak on the grate and let it cook for about 60 to 90 seconds on each side.
Have the thermometer ready to calculate the temperature, which should be 125°F when it’s ready. The steak cooks very quickly on the charcoal starter, so prepare to turn the steak and check the temperature. Leaving the steak for 20 seconds too long might result in it burning.
How to Do a Reverse Sear
There’s a second method of grilling steaks on a charcoal grill that takes a bit more time but delivers steaks cooked to perfection. It’s similar to what’s called a reverse sear. It involves cooking the steak in the oven first and then searing it on the charcoal starter.
This method is excellent for thick and expensive steaks since it delivers outstanding results every time. Your steak will come out at a perfect medium finish from side to side, with a tasty crunch on the outside. Traditionally, chefs sear steaks on a pan and then finish cooking them in the oven. The reverse searing method flips the process.
Step 1: Cook the steak in the oven
You’ll need to place the steak on a rack covered with aluminum foil and put it in an oven preheated to 275°F. Using a thermometer, cook the steak until it reaches 125°F.
Step 2: Light the coals in the chimney
Once your steak is ready, let it sit for a bit under some aluminum foil. While it’s resting, start the charcoal chimney, which should take about 20 minutes. Don’t fill the chimney all the way up since this will create too much heat. Place a grate on top of the chimney and let it warm.
Step 3: Sear the steak on the chimney
When the charcoal is nice and hot, you can sear your steak on the grate. In this case, cook the meat for no more than a minute on each side. Don’t worry; you won’t have to wait much longer to start eating. Since the steak already sat when it came out of the oven, it’s ready to dig into after searing.
Up Your Streak Grilling Game With a Charcoal Starter
Using a charcoal starter to cook steaks is an excellent way to achieve the perfect sear you often see in restaurants. It’s not difficult, and it’s a fun way of experimenting with new and creative grilling methods. Remember to use a thermometer to get the proper temperature, so your steak is done exactly as you like it. Now you won’t have to dine out to get the perfect steak dinner.