seared steak on board

How to Use a Chimney Starter to Char Steak

One of the hallmarks of a steakhouse steak that sets it apart from the usual home-grilled version is a deep brown exterior crust. Achieving that flavorful finish requires a steak thick enough not to overcook while searing and a heat source hot enough to caramelize the surface of the meat. While you could use a ripping hot cast iron pan or a kitchen torch to apply the heat, there’s another tool you might already have that’s not only super hot but also adds a smokey flavor to your steak; your charcoal starting chimney.

Think of the charcoal chimney as a very small grill but one with an intense amount of heat generated in a small space by its shape. The tall walls and airflow underneath draw all the heat of the lit charcoal straight up to the opening of the chimney. All you need is a heat-proof metal mesh or grid on top to rest the steak on, and you’ve got all the heat you need for a good steak crust.

How to achieve a perfect crust with a charcoal starter

charcoal in metal chimney

A slowly cooked reverse sear method steak is perfect for charring on a charcoal chimney, but you could always choose to pat dry your dry-brined, seasoned raw steak and follow the searing process with some time in the oven to finish the interior as well. Either way, time spent cooking on the hot chimney should be brief. Just a few minutes on each side is all that’s needed to achieve the crusty finish.

You should be able to find food-safe metal mesh for this project inexpensively at your local hardware store or online. The same grid can be used many times, and it even comes in handy to prevent smaller items from falling through on a regular grill. Alternatively, a small round cake cooling metal rack would work.

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To prepare your charcoal chimney for searing steaks, fill it about halfway with your preferred charcoal and light it. When the coals are glowing bright red and the flames are no longer shooting out the top, place the grid on the opening, and you’ll be ready to sear. You’ll only be able to fit one steak at a time, so have a pan or plate ready to rest the meat until it’s all done. The hot coals add a touch of smoke as the crust forms, making this the most tasty steak you’ve ever made at home.

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