Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dirty Steak

I heard of this grilling method a few years ago and held my reservations for a long time. Throwing meat directly onto ashy coals seemed like the epitome of bad decisions, especially when grilling on a grate over charcoal produces a good result. I mean why go out on a limb when you are fine with what you already do? Well I am proud to say I defied all steak-o-logical reasoning today and tried the "dirty steak" method, and dare I say it, this may be how I cook the rest of my steaks this summer... but don't hold me to that.

Here they are before they hit the coals.
Since I never made this recipe before I used some basic principles from the dirty steak recipe on Epicurious. (Found here.) Honestly I would recommend using the epicurious version first, and then branching out into thicker cuts. (The cooking times vary quite a bit based on coal temperature, distribution of heat, and what cut of steak you use.) Just as in the epicurious recipe, there are certain rules you must follow or you will fail at this prehistoric grilling method:
  • Do not use anything other than all natural hardwood charcoal. Briquettes and the like will ruin your food by leaving behind that unnatural smoke flavor that you would never want to taste in a million years. This also applies to lighter fluid, just don't use it.
  • Once the steaks are cooked to your desired temperature LET THEM REST!!! I can't stress this enough. Liquids will redistribute into the meat and wont end up pouring out onto your plate. More liquids means more flavor and a higher quality texture.
  • Depending on how well you cooked your steak, always be sure to scrape off any excessive amount of black char on the outside. There is no need to remove all of it, but be sure scrape off most of the smoky char with a knife before serving.
Dirty Steak:
1-2 2 inch thick strip steaks
Fresh coarsely ground black pepper
Large grain salt (Preferably a sea salt like Maldon)

1. Leave steaks at room temperature while you prepare the coals. (If you really believe tempering makes a difference like me, leave them out for a full three hours to get them to room temperature.)
2. Light coals in a chimney and let them burn until they are completely white. Drop the coals into your grill and waft away as much ash as possible.
3. Just before grilling liberally cover the steaks with salt and pepper. Quickly throw these on the coals with the fat cap down first. After a minute of cooking the fat cap cook the other two sides for 3 minutes a piece. This will give you a rare steak in the middle like the first picture below.
4. If you would like a more medium cut of steak (second picture below) leave them on for another 1 to 2 minutes per side.
5. When cooked, remove the steaks from the coals and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes. When they are ready to serve scrape off most of the outside char and any ashes left from cooking.
The rare.
The not-so-rare.


  1. Did you have to reseason the steak? Seems like the salt and peeper would get scraped off. I saw someone (maybe Alton Brown?) do this with a skirt steak. Never tried it though.

    1. I made this a second time this weekend and I've decided there is no need for more seasoning if you liberally salt and pepper it beforehand. Scraping off the char removes some of the salt and pepper, but there is plenty of flavor on the outside of the steak when it gets to the table. (I really dig the smokey flavor of the blackened beef myself.) Adding some seasoning after it is cooked wouldn't hurt it at all though.

  2. A hair dryer on low is excellent to remove the ash without restarting the flame.


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