cook steak directly on coals?
Check out a cookbook called "Charred and Scruffed" by Adam Perry Lang. He has some interesting techniques for grilling, including cooking directly on the coals themselves, which he calls "clinching" As travelerjjm said, you need to use lump charcoal. The author does say that if you are squeamish about setting meat directly on the coals you can use a thin rack, such as a cooling rack.
It's an interesting book and he also talks about planking your fish and meat, which is a technique I like to use.
I understand this is the way the Italians in Tuscany do it (just as described above) with about a 3-4" thick porterhouse. then a fine drizzle of EVOO and fresh cracked pepper before serving, Sure like to try that, have to get a co-signer for the steak. Actually, I've had spatchcocked cottontails done that way out in the wild, not bad at all.
After cooking countless rib eyes directly on coals through the years, here's what I've learned and do:
1. Build a large fire using hardwood only or lump charcoal. You will need enough coals that your meat will fit on only half of the coals (more on this later). While it burns down to coals season the meat.
2. Season both sides of the meat with kosher salt. Use meat no thicker than 1-inch thick - no thicker, it will not cook. I use about 3/4-inch thick rib eyes. (If you like bleu meat, you can go thicker than 1-inch thick.)
3. Spread the coals out to an even layer a few inches thick.
4. Blow the ash off the coals with your mouth, a large flat object such as a sheet pan, or a powered blower.
5. Mentally draw a line down the middle of the coals and, using the longest tongs you can find (this will probably be the hottest anything you've ever experienced - long tongs will help you get through it), lay the meat on only one half of the coals. You will want this second, currently unused side, to flip the meat over onto. The reason for this is by the time the first side is done searing and cooking, the coals underneath will be far too cool (from oxygen starvation and heat extinction from moisture) to sear and cook the second side properly. This is why you want that second half of coals to be fresh and ready to sear and cook the second side of the meat.
6. Flip the meat over onto the second, unused side of coals. You'll know when to flip it when the meat lifts away from the coals easily with either no coals or maybe one coal sticking to it. Once flipped, use tongs to remove any stuck coals or ash. Surprisingly, there probably won't be any ash stuck to the meat.
7. Cook the meat on the second side until it's done then remove to a platter to rest for a few minutes before serving.
Here is an earlier discussion of this http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/523932
Alton brown did this on his show some time ago. It is important to use lump charcoal, not the kind made from compressed sawdust I think it is on youtube, but it won't play for me :(
Here is a link from ehow http://www.ehow.com/how_5997558_grill...
It's how Eisenhower used to eat them and here's the lowdown on how to do it from Esquire: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/food-for...
From experience, you need a thick cut steak. Don't do this with the skinny-mini prepackaged ones you buy at your supermarket. Go to your butcher and get a good thick cut of steak.
I attended a meeting at Southern Illinois University at their field camp and one dinner featured what they called a buffalo throw which turned out to be
build a huge mound of wood, fire it,
work the coals to a flat mass
toss on meat, about two inches thick
Surely someone from that part of the country has more details than I remember.