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Grilling vs. Broiling Steaks


thdad
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Could anybody explain why steakhouses will either choose to grill or broil

their steaks? Does broiling allow for a closer contact with direct heat that

allows charring (as it seems to be the case with Peter Luger) while maintaining

a rare center?

In my mind, if your grill or broiler has sufficient BTUs, then heat from above

should not be different from heat from below in forming a good crust.

Steak gurus and grill/broiler masters, what are your thoughts on this subject?

Edited by thdad (log)
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Could anybody explain why steakhouses will either choose to grill or broil their steaks?  Does broiling allow for a closer contact with direct heat that allows charring (as it seems to be the case with Peter Luger) while maintaining a rare center?

In my mind, if your grill or broiler has sufficient BTUs, then heat from above should not be different from heat from below in forming a good crust.  Steak gurus and grill/broiler masters, what are your thoughts on this subject?

For me grilling tastes and looks better, but I don't know why.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

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I think they broil to prevent flare ups

T

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

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In my mind, if your grill or broiler has sufficient BTUs, then heat from above

should not be different from heat from below in forming a good crust.

Heat from below means that, short of skewering, whatever you have supporting the meat will be heated too. Broiling involves only radiated heat; isn't grilling a combination of broiling and branding ? :smile:

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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When you broil, the melted fat just runs off the meat into the platter on which the steak is resting. When you grill, the melted fat runs off the meat into the flames and burns.

If I'm paying 35 bucks for a dry-aged prime-of-the-prime porterhouse, I want a deeply maillardized, crusted steak -- I don't want any burnt, carbonized flavors. This would tend to favor broiling. Broiling also has the advantage of retaining the melted steak fat, which can then be spooned over the steak and sopped up with bread. A trip to Peter Luger really demonstrates, among other things, how much of beef's flavor comes from the fat.

If I'm going to be eating a cheapo strip steak or something like a marinated flank steak or garlic-rubbed skirt steak, then grilling might be my choice. The char and burnt flavors in this context are adding to the overall flavor profile and aren't muddying expensively dry aged flavors. I have a theory that many people who think paying extra for expensive dry aged prime beef is silly are largely taking their steaks off the grill (often with the addition of a spice rub or seasoned salt). I'm not surprised it's difficult to tell the difference in this context.

There are, of course, methods that split the difference. Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a thick porterhouse of chianina beef grilled over vine cuttings, is somehow done in a way that the exterior is not burned -- and although the beef fat is lost to the fire, this is more than compensated by a generous drizzle of top quality Tuscan extra virgin olive oil.

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I recently had a four-pack of small but fresh lamb loin chops which needed to be frozen or eaten. Since it was just me for dinner and just for fun I did each one differently:

1. toaster oven (set on broil, electric heat from above)

2. barbecue (actually a Weber gas grill)

3. pan fry (copper pan, bit of olive oil)

4. deep fry (peanut oil, used once for potatoes)

The cuts were all very similar - probably neighbors in the beast's torso - some bone, fat, sinew and tender red meat.

From best to worst, the results were:

2. barbecue: the Weber was best for all the senses

1. toaster oven: good browning and flavour

3. pan fry: ok taste, dry brown "rind" not so good

4. deep fry: a distant forth - all the moisture was vaporized on submersion in oil leaving a gray chewy meat lacking that distinctive lamb flavor.

I don't imagine these finding are much of a surprise. I tend to go for flavor over texture when buying lamb, when I don't want to pay a fortune to get both. A crown rack has very little over a properly prepared shank or shoulder roast.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Broilers are superior to grills for the reasons cited above: fewer flareups, better temperature control, and you get to keep the juices. Certainly, a gas or electric broiler is superior to a gas or electric grill. If we're talking about grills fueled by wood or wood coals, however, those are sort of in a different category. But in the time it takes to cook a steak you're not going to get very much wood-smoke penetration. I should add, if you're talking about restaurant equipment, gas grills (which, technically, are broilers too -- that's what you'll see them called in restaurant-equipment catalogs) are much cheaper than professional upright broilers. Like, for good quality you're talking $2,000 for a grill-style broiler versus $8,000 for an upright steakhouse-style overhead broiler.

I remain utterly unconvinced that either of these tools is best for cooking a steak, however. Pan-searing followed by oven-roasting is the way to go. This is how a lot of the most accomplished chefs, from Alain Ducasse to Tom Colicchio, prefer to cook steaks.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Some of you may be interested in some of the work (!) that's been going on in the PA forum discussing steaks. There's a lot of info to digest (sorry) but if you've got the time, it's an interesting read:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...dpost&p=1357197

In the first test, they were simply comparing various brands of meat. More recently, there was a second test where they compared cooking methods... pan sear, sous vide, and grilled on a konro with bincho-tan charcoal. These guys take their meat very seriously! :-)

__Jason

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I remain utterly unconvinced that either of these tools is best for cooking a steak, however. Pan-searing followed by oven-roasting is the way to go. This is how a lot of the most accomplished chefs, from Alain Ducasse to Tom Colicchio, prefer to cook steaks.

Until I recently purchased my infrared gas grill, this was the method I used, and I still use it when cooking steaks indoors. I preheat a small stainless steel skillet (with a clad bottom) on medium high heat for five minutes, sear the steak in the dry skillet for two minutes on each side, and then put in a 450 degree oven until the interior temperature reaches 125 degrees. This generally takes about 5-7 minutes in the oven. I remove the steak from the skillet and let sit for five minutes. The final interior temperature reaches approximately 130 degrees, my preferred degree of doneness. I have found that this method gives me a good crust and a juicy rare interior.

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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Thanks for the link, guzzirider. It would seem that, unless you want to add the smokey flavor from charcoal grilling (and also, unless you have a konro with bincho-tan charcoal), sous vide followed by searing for crust would be the best technique. Interestingly, that's more or less idea of Fat Guy's "French method" (sear with butter to create a crust and then gently cook to temperature) only in reverse (gently cook to temperature and then sear with butter to create a crust)..

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I remain utterly unconvinced that either of these tools is best for cooking a steak, however. Pan-searing followed by oven-roasting is the way to go. This is how a lot of the most accomplished chefs, from Alain Ducasse to Tom Colicchio, prefer to cook steaks.

PRECISELY. Sorry for yelling.

-Chef Johnny

P.S. - After the sear, add lots of butter, thyme, and crushed garlic cloves and baaaaaaste away!

Edited by ChefJohnny (log)

John Maher
Executive Chef/Owner
The Rogue Gentlemen

Richmond, VA

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I imagine the sous-vide approach would yield slightly different, and possibly better, results. If the idea is that the whole steak gets brought up to 130 degrees or whatever, you're going to have uniform color and texture throughout, save for the bit of the surface that you pan-sear (or broil, or torch) at the end. Whereas, when you sear then roast, you get more gradations of doneness from center to exterior. The reason the sous-vide approach may be better is that, in my experience at least, most other methods of cooking steak result in an overcooked, dried-out layer just under the exterior char. Also, if you use the water bath or steam oven to hold the meat at temperature for several hours, it may change its texture. I wonder if this would be particularly beneficial for lower-quality steaks.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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While we're talking about such things, it should be noted that most home broiling apparatus is a very pale shadow of restaurant equipment. Broiling with an electric oven seems almost a waste of time, though toaster ovens seem a bit more capable sometimes. You just don't get the concentrated heat that a proper broil requires.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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P.S. - After the sear, add lots of butter, thyme, and crushed garlic cloves and baaaaaaste away!

Hmm. If I'm laying out substantial coin for a great steak, the last thing I want to do is obscure the beef flavor with garlic or herbs.

I imagine the sous-vide approach would yield slightly different, and possibly better, results. If the idea is that the whole steak gets brought up to 130 degrees or whatever, you're going to have uniform color and texture throughout, save for the bit of the surface that you pan-sear (or broil, or torch) at the end. Whereas, when you sear then roast, you get more gradations of doneness from center to exterior. The reason the sous-vide approach may be better is that, in my experience at least, most other methods of cooking steak result in an overcooked, dried-out layer just under the exterior char.

Another way to do it would be to bring the steak up to, say, 54C (medium-rare is 52–55C, aka 125–130F) for a few hours and then let it go back down to around 50C and hold there until it's ready to be seared and served. Then, when the meat is quickly seared in a very hot pan to form a crust, the interior will heat back up to 54C but the searing time will be long enough for there to be a desirable degree of gradation of doneness without going so far as to get the overcooked layer you describe.

Also, if you use the water bath or steam oven to hold the meat at temperature for several hours, it may change its texture. I wonder if this would be particularly beneficial for lower-quality steaks.

This did seem to be the case in Vadouvan's experiments, if I'm reading correctly. Collagen converts to gelatin at 55C, so in order to have any tenderizing effect on a less-than-perfect porterhouse or strip steak, I think you'd need to take it up to that temperature. The good news is that these are naturally tender cuts of meat with little collagen, so even a not-so-good porterhouse or strip steak should be somewhat tenderized by spending a couple of hours at 55C. I'd hesitate to keep it at that temperature much longer, though, or I think the texture would become insipid and mealy.

While we're talking about such things, it should be noted that most home broiling apparatus is a very pale shadow of restaurant equipment.

I think this is also often true with respect to a home grill: Either the grill isn't that good to begin with, or it's not loaded/fired/preheated/managed properly, or the fuel isn't very good, etc. It's possible, I know, to get a great grilled steak on a Webber grill with Kingsford charcoal, just like it's possible to get a great omelet out of a thin stainless steel pan on an electric stove -- but both of those things take a good bit of knowledge, experience and expertise. This is another reason I think a lot of home steak grillers reach for the seasoned salt, garlic rub, etc.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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I have the pleasure of a home broiler that can reproduce steakhouse-like conditions (DCS infrared in-oven gas broiler). It's not as versatile as a steakhouse broiler, and it covers only enough surface area to do a couple of steaks, but the option to hit a steak with an alarmingly powerful blast of infrared is there. I never use it for steaks, though. The pan-sear-and-roast method is just better.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Pan-searing followed by oven-roasting is the way to go. This is how a lot of the most accomplished chefs, from Alain Ducasse to Tom Colicchio, prefer to cook steaks.

I absolutely positively agree with you! Ever since I inherited some 100 year-old thick castiron skillets, heating them dry on a gas stove top, dropping the lightly olive-oiled steak, wait 3 minutes, shake the pan to see if the steak breaks free on its own, then flipping it over for 3 more minutes and then pan and steak both into a pre-heated 425-450 oven to finish it off, has consistently given me the best tasting best cooked steaks regardless of type of steak!

doc

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P.S. - After the sear, add lots of butter, thyme, and crushed garlic cloves and baaaaaaste away!

Hmm. If I'm laying out substantial coin for a great steak, the last thing I want to do is obscure the beef flavor with garlic or herbs.

It doesnt really obscure the flavor. I personally think it adds more of the "umami" to the beef. But, I can also almost 100% guarantee that when you go out and order that Prime or Kobe sirloin from any great restaurant, (TFL, Per Se, Ducasse,ect) thats how they do it.

John Maher
Executive Chef/Owner
The Rogue Gentlemen

Richmond, VA

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Broilers are superior to grills for the reasons cited above: fewer flareups, better temperature control, and you get to keep the juices. Certainly, a gas or electric broiler is superior to a gas or electric grill. If we're talking about grills fueled by wood or wood coals, however, those are sort of in a different category. But in the time it takes to cook a steak you're not going to get very much wood-smoke penetration. I should add, if you're talking about restaurant equipment, gas grills (which, technically, are broilers too -- that's what you'll see them called in restaurant-equipment catalogs) are much cheaper than professional upright broilers. Like, for good quality you're talking $2,000 for a grill-style broiler versus $8,000 for an upright steakhouse-style overhead broiler.

I remain utterly unconvinced that either of these tools is best for cooking a steak, however. Pan-searing followed by oven-roasting is the way to go. This is how a lot of the most accomplished chefs, from Alain Ducasse to Tom Colicchio, prefer to cook steaks.

Bravo, sir.

Very well said.

It should be pointed out that commercial quality broilers are preferred also for their efficiency.

The heating elements are directed from above which heats the iron grates as well as the product, reducing the cooking time since the product will absorb heat from both sources.

I'm so awesome I don't even need a sig...Oh wait...SON OF A...

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How about this; a quick grilling at nuclear temps on the Weber for browning and grill marks, followed by indirect heat over a drip pan till done. You get the best of grilling, baking to doneness and a pan to deglaze.

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What about blowtorches? It seems that would deliver even more concentrated heat than the mightiest broiler.

Actually Dave Barry tried out something along those lines a few years ago for one of his columns.

He started by questioning whether or not more lighter fluid would decrease the time needed to begin cooking and the logical chain naturally lead to a scientist friend of his using liquid oxygen as the starting fluid.

As I recall the steak went from raw to cinders in literal nanoseconds.

I'm so awesome I don't even need a sig...Oh wait...SON OF A...

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