Let’s talk about grill marks.

How do you get them, and are grill marks better than a seared brown crust on your steak?

For years and years, the crosshatch grill marks seared into a nice cut of steak have been the pride of grillmasters all over the world. The cook who mindfully turned and placed the meat on the grill grate creating those attractive dark crosshatches has been revered.

In recent years there has been some debate on whether you should work to achieve those perfect grill marks or go for an all over-brown.  More on this in a minute, but first let’s look at what is a grill mark.

What is a grill mark?

A grill mark is created by a chemical reaction known as the Maillard reaction. This process takes place between an amino acid and a reducing sugar when heat is applied.

In this chemical reaction, hundreds of different flavors are created on a very small scale. While this technique has been used since the beginning of live-fire cooking, it was studied by French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard in the early 1900s.

In kitchen terms, we call the process “browning”.  The Maillard reaction is sometimes confused with caramelization, but that is a different reaction.

So where was I?  Oh yes.

Grill marks.

I mentioned above there are two schools of thought on grill marks. One school says “perfect cross-hatched.” One school says “brown all over”.

I bring you great news. No matter your school of thought, Grill Grates cooking surface can deliver both brown all over or perfect crosshatches.

What are Grill Grates?

Grill Grates are a two-sided hard aluminum interlocking panels that can either replace your existing grill cooking grates, or sit on top of them. Grill Grates collect the heat from your grill and distribute it evenly across the surface.

The A Side. One side of the Grill Grate is constructed of raised rails and shallow valleys. This side collects the heat and focuses it upwards to your food to give you those perfect grill makes.  As your food drips into the valleys of the Grill Grates those dripping are vaporized, bringing additional flavor to your meat that would normally have been lost or at least minimized and they dripped into the bottom of the grill.

There are holes formed in the valleys which allow excessive dripping to escape. This prevents a buildup of these juices and eliminates the dreaded “flair up”. The A side brings you those perfect cross hatches.

The B Side. The other side of the Grill Grates is flat and smooth.  This side brings you that all over brown that what you’re looking for on your steak.  While this was not the original intention of the B side it certainly is a great bonus. Not only will this side give you want brown all over, it gives you an amazing surface to griddle up some onions for that wonderful brown all over steak.

how to achieve perfect char marks

The “How To”:

Grill Grates will be hotter than what the built in thermometer of your grill says. I found that the Grill Grates on the Big Green egg where consistently 50°f higher than the lid thermometer.  This was checked with the ThermoWorks IR.

While having a non-contact infrared thermometer is a bonus you can certainly manage a great steak cook without one.  I started with the Grill grates at 450°f for both the cross hatches as well as the all over brown.  Competitive steak cooks like to see the temperature of the Grill Grate to be upwards of 650°f.  I’m only mentioning this to demonstrate that great results can be achieved with a wide range of temperatures.

For the sake of this conversation we are going to be using an untrimmed Ribeye steak about an inch thick seasoned with salt and pepper.  No oil was applied to the steak or the Grill Grate. The steak has plenty of fatty lubricating goodness built in.

Cross hatch Grill marks with Grill Grates on the Big Green Egg

The cross hatch.

Achieving the perfect cross – hatch is easy with grill grates.

Set the timer on your phone for two minutes. Lay your steak on the heated Grill Grates with the ends of the steal at the 4:00 and 10:00 o’clock positions.  When the timer goes off lift the steak with the “Grate Tool” four finger spatula.  Move the steak to a new spot on the grill grate if possible. Rotate it clockwise until the ends are at the 2:00 and 8:00 o’clock positions. Start that timer again.  At the two min mark its time to flip your steak and repeat the process with only one twist.  On the last turn on the second side start checking the internal temperature of the steak at about 1 min in..

You know we love are Thermapen here at Grill Girl. It’s a great instant read thermometer.  Here’s where you can check this out.  What temperature should the steak be? That’s your call. I like my steaks to be a bit on the rare side so I tend to take them off the grill at about 125°f. The temperature of the teak will continue to rise up 5°f or so as it rest.

All over brown.

Brown crust on a steak using the flat side of the Grill Grate.

That all over brown achieved on the B side.

Start with the Grill Grate smooth side up. I still go with a two min lift and turn just to keep my method consistent but there’s no need to worry about the position on the last turn. Once again start checking the steak temp about 1 min in.  Pull your steak off the grill about 5° under the temp you want it.

Bring it all together:

For all over brown or perfect cross hatch , the Grill Grate do not disappoint.  A few practice runs and you’ll have this.

Don’t forget Grill Grates have a ton of other uses. They are an extremely useful tool that deserve a home in your grill tool box.  It you already have a set let me know what you do with yours in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you today!

Till next time Happy grilling

Jon

If you are looking to up your grilling game, we’re here for you! Check out, How to Grill The Perfect Steak Using the Reverse Sear Method, Sous Vide + Grilled Steaks, Chili Lime Skirt Steak Fajitas, or attend my newly launched GRILL SCHOOL to take you through the fundamentals of grilling! I even have a video on how to grill the perfect steak using the reverse sear.

If you love to grill, give us a follow! @grillgirlrobyn, @js00

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