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Ranking of steak cooking methods?

I know this is a bit subjective, but what is your ranking for the best way to cook a steak (say a 2 inch ribeye or porterhouse) using just salt/pepper

Steakhouse (salamander)
Charcoal Grill
Gas Grill
Infrared Grill
Pan Sear+Oven
Home Broiler
etc.

What is the key difference between these methods? Is it just how hot the cooking equipment can get?

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  1. Totally depends on the steak cut for me. Sirloin, I'd put on a white hot charcoal grill. Filet, I'd do in a cast iron frying pan with butter and olive oil. Funny, growing up, all my steaks were pan steaks except during the summer when the hibachi was out. Grilling indoors was unheard of :)

    1. so depends on the cut (even how a specific cut looks . . .) that said -

      Pan sear + Oven is my go to method. I think it does a great job with most cuts.

      1. At home, pan sear+oven wins out over the grill, except for skirt steak, but that exception is only for charcoal, not gas.

        1. Salt grilled in cast iron or charcoal grill. Gas grill is okay if it's especialy hot out and nobody wants to mess with charcoal.

          1. I have to have charcoal and wood and an outdoor grill with char, smoke, and red center. I can't fathom "cooking" a good steak indoors. I would pan fry a fish, instead.

            14 Replies
            1. re: Veggo

              Agreed, Veggo. Gotta have that smoke and char. It makes the steak.

                1. re: Josh

                  The char adds complexity by creating new flavor compounds (maillard and carmelization are both at work). However the nuances of smoke from hardwoods adds yet another whole level of flavor and even more complexity to the meat.

                  To use a burger analogy:
                  Pan searing a steak is like serving burger on a bun
                  Grilling it over gas is like adding the special dressing to the bun
                  Grilling it over hardwood is like adding lettuce, tomato, onions, etc.

                  Is smoke required - ask my neighbors who have only eaten steaks cooked over hardwoods at my house - about 80% have gone out and bought their own grills and wood chips and refuse to eat steak any other way.

                  1. re: RetiredChef

                    I hear you. I only began grilling steaks over hard wood (usually pecan) within the last year or so, and I'll never go back.

                    1. re: RetiredChef

                      I'm familiar with cooking over charcoal and hardwood, both. I agree it adds a pleasant flavor, but I also don't always want a smoky flavor. It really depends on the dish.

                      Surely you aren't suggesting that smoky flavor is always desirable in a steak.

                      1. re: Josh

                        Actually, I'm hard-pressed to think of one of my go-to steak recipes that is not improved by a kiss of smoke.

                  2. re: Perilagu Khan

                    You do realize that the maillard process can happen on any hot surface. Pans work just as well as grills. In fact, I'd put one of my pan seared ribeyes against a ribeye anyone cooked on their home grill any day.

                    1. re: jameshig

                      i think the maillard junkies sometimes mistakenly believe that the whole discussion is about crust. it's not. People who prefer the grill do so because it creates flavors you just can't get from a pan or a broiler (to be fair, some restaurant broilers heat from above and below, and create some of the same flavors from meat juices dripping and burning), and settle for a lesser crust to get that flavor.

                      Also, and at the risk of losing chowhound cred, if you like to marinate steaks often as I do, pan searing is less than ideal, while a grill uses the extra drippings from the marinade to create even more flavorful smoke. People here tend to hate on marinated steak, but then they claim to love carne asada and galbi and such. Go figure.

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        There are steaks I marinate and steaks I would never do that to! I love marinated skirt and flank steaks, but not super flavorful ribeye or even sirloin, which just sit out with a nice healthy s and p sprinkle before grilling. I agree that marinated steak must be blotted dry and grilled, not pan seared, which I only do in very limiting weather conditions.

                        1. re: mcf

                          Skirt steak usually has more beefy flavor than ribeye or sirloin. What it doesn't have is as much fat. Still, can't think of any reason it should be sacrilege to marinate some ribeye - it takes a marinade just fine and comes out delicious. Sirloin even more so.

                          I'm not even convinced that a marinated steak should be blotted dry before grilling. Depends on the marinade.

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            Flank, too, is relatively lean (makes great burgers home ground, though), but flavorful anyway. I don't consider anyone's choosing how to prepare his own steak sacrilege, but I prefer those other steaks (and NY strip) unmarinated. I would also never marinate tenderloin (nor eat it, mostly; too lean), but I'll sauce it to give it more richness and flavor, in ways I'm not likely to adorn ribeye or sirloin.

                            I blot marinade because I don't want all the flare up from the oil, and I don't want my steak to steam, either.

                        2. re: cowboyardee

                          >>>People who prefer the grill do so because it creates flavors you just can't get from a pan or a broiler

                          Exactly - you can take 4 ribeyes from the same loin and cook them 4 different ways

                          Pan sear
                          Restaurant broiler
                          Gas Grill
                          Grill over hardwood

                          and they all will taste distinctive. IMHO there will be more complex flavors and more nuances added as you go down the list.

                          If a person just wants to taste the meat without any other flavors then Pan searing is the best method. But to others we want a more complex (this does not mean better) flavor profile and we like the added nuances.

                          1. re: RetiredChef

                            More isn't always better. Sometimes it is. A nicely pan-seared steak can be indescribably delicious when done well.

                            1. re: Josh

                              Agreed. A nice brown crust from a well pan-seared steak (especially when basted with browning butter, garlic, and a little thyme) brings its own flavor to the table. Quite different from the flavor of a grilled steak, but distinct and worthwhile in its own right.

                              Preferring one method doesn't mean you can't appreciate another.