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steak: grilled black-and-blue

She Who Must Be Obeyed is out of town for the next few days, so I plan on treating myself to a really superior rib steak.

I plan on grilling it black and blue (it's what we call it here in Toronto- also known as Pittsburgh or Chicago style, though I'm not sure exactly if they're the same), where it's charred on the outside but rare to very rare in the middle.

Never done it before, but I understand (yep, "in theory"), that you get black-and-blue by grilling seasoned meat on very high heat (500+) and putting lots of unsalted butter on top, which melts and makes the flames char the meat, while the radiant heat from the coal does the actual cooking.

I'll be grilling on an Egg, which means temperature won't be a problem. If anyone out there's done this before and can offer some tips, I'd be grateful. Don't want to massacre a good (and expensive) piece of meat.

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  1. Research recipes on how to cook directly on coals.....Steven Raichelen has a pretty good one.


    If you do not want to place directly onto coals, you can set a cast iron pan directly on them. Without knowing the exact size and thickness of your steak, it's really not possible to tell you how long to grill it.

    1. Hey bgm, hows it going?
      I haven't done it before, but FWIW, a few thoughts.
      I had a similar prep in a steakhouse a few years ago - they called it Pittsburgh style and I was really looking forward to it. It arrived looking great; blackened outside and rare inside, but the flavor of the char was too acrid, ruining it for me.
      I had similar results when grilling steaks over live flames of mesquite (wood not charcoal). I thought the flames licking the meat would add a nicely flavored char, but no, too acrid.

      I too love a charred-on-the-outside-rare-on-the-inside steak, so I simply grill over HOT live charcoal and try to avoid too much flame. But thats me....

      On another note, slightly off-topic, have you ever marinated the steak in jalapenos? Put the steak (my favorite is rib) in a ziplock and pour in some canned, sliced jalapenos juice and all. Let it marinate for 3-4-5 hours, flipping once in a while (overnight is too much - the meat gets mushy), then grill. You'd think the steak would be very spicy, but theres only a hint of spiciness with a whole wallop of wang-dang flavor. I like to make a tin-foil plate, pierce with a few holes, oil it up over the coals, and add the sliced jalapenos, charring them a bit. Use this for a condiment.
      Just an idear.

      1 Reply
      1. re: porker

        Steakhouses have salamanders, with temps and conditions nearly impossible to replicate at home, even with a BGE.

      2. I'm not the griller in the family but for what it's worth, we always order our steaks from Fleming's medium rare and charred. That sounds similar to what you are trying to accomplish.

        They always get it perfectly right. We frequent Fleming's downtown. The chef there is more than happy to visit your table and discuss how he plans to cook your steak so feel free to ask for him if you ever check it out.

        I hope your home cooked steak comes out perfectly!

        1. You really don't want the sooty, acrid char that comes from flames instead of carmelization... I get great crust without flame charring by using a 2" thick ribeye (which I dry rub and leave in the fridge for hours to two days) by bringing it to room temp prior to cooking, then giving it 4 minutes per side over high direct heat (gas grill, 450-550 f) then 4 minutes per side indirect high heat, then rest under foil for 10 minutes to bring to med/rare. It's usually around 122-125 when I take it off and goes up about 11-12 degrees during the rest. You can shorten the indirect time for rare, obviously. Flame blackening is a horrible way to treat a steak... really.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mcf

            Agree 100% with you mcf. If the flames are actually touching your beef you are going to get acrid sooty burned char on your steaks. Its not to say that blackened steaks cant be delicious, but causing flare ups on your grill to create them is not the proper way to go about creating them. You either need a really hot broiler or you need to cook your steak in a ridiculously hot black iron skillet for best results.

          2. Or just stick the steak in the freezer an hour or so before grilling.

            12 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              +1 to this. A pittsburgh'd steak is one of those situations where the 'let your meat come to room temp' advice does not apply. A very thick steak also helps.

              You can get a charcoal grill quite hot just by using a lot more charcoal than usual, but a gas grill is pretty hopeless.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                Not hopeless with a Weber, I've found. But cheaper ones, yes. The Weber easily achieves the heat required to do the job. And I always start with room temp meat.

                1. re: mcf

                  "And I always start with room temp meat."

                  Using room temp meat makes sense if you are cooking a steak through at high temp (leads to more even doneness). Not really applicable to the black and blue style of this thread. Or also if you're able to get a Weber so hot that you're only cooking each side for ... maybe ... 30 seconds (makes for an interior that is less cold). But if so, that's gotta be one seriously hot Weber you're tending.

                2. re: cowboyardee

                  I wouldn't say a gas grill is hopeless, when it comes to getting very hot. It depends on the grill. Mine will go up to 800 degrees.

                  1. re: bitchincook

                    Yes, exactly, mine, too. That's why the cooking instructions I follow call for moving a thick steak to indirect high heat for the second half of cooking. It continues to darken/blacken at such high temps.

                    1. re: bitchincook

                      What type of gas grill have you got?

                      Beyond that, is it capable of pittsburgh-ing a steak? 800 degrees is a good temp for a pizza oven, but even that might not do the trick. A measure of air temp in the grill isn't necessarily the best measurement of a grill's charring power - what makes a grill char meats quickly and what makes them hold high air temperatures aren't necessarily the same factors.

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        So it cooks more evenly and gets to done without the exterior portion drying out, since it's less chilled to start with. And because I'm partial to cooking thick steaks and my results have always been more predictable to me this way. I like a true med rare, with a warm, red center, not black and blue.

                        1. re: mcf

                          "I like a true med rare, with a warm, red center, not black and blue."
                          Warming the meat prior to cooking is fine technique if your using high heat and going for medium rare. My above post was talking about making a black and blue steak though.

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            I addressed that in my original response.

                        2. re: cowboyardee

                          Actually, the temp in the grill is an excellent measure of how much heat you're getting below the grate, I've found with mine, and using Anne Burrell's 450-550 has produced a lot of crust for me with a med rare interior. At 800, it's too hot for a good steak if you want red inside and char outside, even on indirect heat. I could very easily produce a black and blue steak (pretty much did by accident on one occasion) at 550, and my grill gets considerably hotter than that.

                          1. re: mcf

                            Air temp in the grill has almost as much to do with the extent to which the grill is insulated as it does with the actual heat generated. And it doesn't tell you much about the power of the radiant heat - grilled foods are typically cooked mainly by radiant heat; mediocre gas grills cook mainly by convection and don't do an especially good job in my experience; decent gas grills and broilers more effectively use gas flames to heat up large metal elements that conduct heat toward the food (and also help juices and drippings to burn, creating flavorful smoke).

                            Think of it this way - you couldn't really make a great black and blue steak by hanging it in a professional pizza oven, even though it's plenty hot (maybe if it was thick enough). It's not just the ambient temperature that matters but how much of the heat source's energy is absorbed by the meat itself.

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              Well, I don't know how much time you've spent experimenting with a well powered gas grill, nor do I think they're well insulated. Some just put out a lot of btus and I've been surprised at how well using the hood thermometer allows me to perfectly calibrate the cooking time of my steak to desired doneness using either the Weber grilling guide or Anne Burrell's non brand specific direct and indirect temp of 450-550. That temp is for a 2" thick steak. I'd go higher if I had a thinner steak I wanted black and blue.

                  2. Thanks for your input, all (and what up, Porker!).

                    Maybe what I'm thinking of black and blue isn't what y'all are thinking of as black and blue (or we just have very different tastes in the matter), because I adore the charred taste I can only get in a decent steak house.

                    That said, I was thinking on the subject and remembered one of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten about cooking: don't try something new for a party. Why? Because you wanna try it before you showcase it, in case it screws up. Same with a hugely expensive chunk of meat. Think imma practice on some Costco shrink-packs first, relying on just my ordinary (yet talented!) grilling skills for tonight.

                    Thanks for your input; I'll let you know how the experiment goes next time I'm at Costco.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: biggreenmatt

                      Yeah but....yeah but She Who Must Be Obeyed is out of town!
                      Howsabout a jumbo, grilled Caribbean lobster tail to go along with your now non-black&blue steak?

                      1. re: porker

                        I have had success in letting my steaks dry out a bit too, I take them out of packaging and place on a wire rack on a plate in the fridge for a few hours. Then I oil my steak and salt fairly heavily, this is the only way to get a sear. I definitely get a better sear in a cast iron rather than my gas grill. For those that say use your cast iron on your bbq, do you still get a 'bbq' flavor? I hate doing the cast iron inside because it smokes so darn much. This is a potentially good solution. I think I will try it tomorrow night with the last of our 1.5" striploins.

                        1. re: cleopatra999

                          For those that say use your cast iron on your bbq, do you still get a 'bbq' flavor?
                          You do get some, but not nearly as much as you would grilling over open charcoal - the burning of the drippings from the steak are what really creates that distinctive grilled flavor.

                          If I were to use cast iron to pittsburgh a steak, I would do it on the stovetop (if you have a moderately powerful burner). Thick steak, very cold - just shy of frozen - cooked in a layer of just-smoking safflower oil for a minute or two per side. I do something similar when searing off meat cooked sous vide, trying not to overcook the interior.

                      2. re: biggreenmatt

                        I think you may've misunderstood; I love the crust on good steak house steaks, too. I achieve that without flaming and soot.

                        1. re: biggreenmatt

                          Nope, it's raining cats and dogs out: grilling's right out of the question. Ordering instead takeaway from Toronto's closest approximation to Pendeli's: Danforth Pizza House. Best medium-thick crust in town, so old school that when they get busy, the 80 year old owner/baker takes the phone off the hook.

                          Gonna hit Costco tomorrow and start experimenting with red meat tomorrow. I think the butter will work. Why? Because I get a great "ordinary" char on the Egg when I get north of 600F. Not the same as black-and-blue. There's a substantive difference between the two. I'll try it once with butter and once on the actual coals. We'll figure 'er out!

                        2. Dry brining it in your fridge uncovered for a few days will help with the sear, immensely. Not too sure I would try that & freezing it to keep the center cold. If its a double rib, it would really only take a minute per side, if your heat is up high enough. Getting the flames to char it is what caused it to soot over, hence the acrid taste. Pan searing it on a super pre heated cast iron pan will also work well, and keep the flames off of it so as not to cause it to soot over.