Those darn grill marks

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Senior Cook
Feb 22, 2003
the great fly-over
I've been barbecueing/grilling for a couple years now, and (almost) everything i grill tastes great. My only problem is grill marks!

I can get grill marks on chicken, easy. But i still have never grilled a steak yet that i could get grill marks on.
My grills:
a 22 1/2" Weber knock-off
a 26" Charbroil
(of course, all charcoal!)
and i have 3 different grates between the 3 that i use (hinged & non-hinged).

What I've tried:
--Oiling the grate, and not oiling the grate.
--Cooking over high temps (2 second hand count) and low temps (6-7 sec. hand count).
--Covering the grill and not covering the grill.
--thick steaks (1 1/2") and thin steaks (3/4").
--Any doneness from rare to medium well.
--Preheating the grate anywhere from 1 minute to 15 minutes

--I also only turn each steak once (can't even get one set of grill-marks on each side, forget about the crosshatch!)
--I only use Kingsford charcoal--haven't tried lump, yet.

what am i doing wrong?!


Sara Moulton, executive chef of Gourmet magazine, says that when you bring the meat to room temperature before searing you get a better crust on it. You might get better grill marks with room temperature meat, grill over very high heat and do not oil the grill. Maybe this will help.
bringing to room temp

thanks coco,

however, i forgot to mention that i've tried that, too.
people always talk about how easy it is to get grill marks, and while it's a purely presentational thing, i can't seem to get it down.
Aaron, I believe a sort of "branding iron" is available for a substantial fee which will add the grill marks you desire. If it's that important to you....

Granted, all the TV "chefs" who advocate bbq invariably get lovelym, distinct grill marks. I question they add to either the quality or flavor of the steaks, so why bother?

Now, that was absolutely no help at all, was it?

From a just plain physics standpoint, for some reason your grill rods are simply not hot enough. Darned if I know why.
hi oldcoot, if that IS your real name ;)
i've heard about those branding irons...i'm pretty sure they use them on every piece of grilled food that shows up in cookbooks (i've even heard stories about soldering irons....)
but to me, that's just cheating. i'm a little bit of a 'purist' when it comes to grilling, and while i don't kill and butcher my own steers or anything, i think i would definitely hate myself in the morning if i tried that.
it's funny--i get so mad at chefs on the Food channel that seem to care more about presentation than actual taste (or what about a meal that actually fills you up!!). Yet this one thing has been bothering me so much.
I suppose it's because in every grill book i own, they say things like "turn the steak 45 degrees after a few minutes to get an attractive crosshatch pattern".
That really pisses me off. They act like it's the most natural thing in the world. Right now, grill marks are right up there with ghosts or aliens--i don't believe any of them exist.
And i agree with you--it would add absolutely nothing to the food, other than a little eye candy.
oh well...
Aaron, don't give up the quest for authentic grill marks!(off the grill, not the branding iron.) Isn't the "eye candy" part of the dining experience?

Of course, at the end of the day, do you want to be remembered for great food or perfect, 45 deg angled grill marks? :)
As stated in an earlier post, I much prefer pan fried beef to grilled or bbq'd, but I am willing to sacrifice in the interest of science and to aid a fellow food fancier who is in trouble.

As the weather here in L.A. is rapidlly modderating, I shall press my wife to grill some beef on HER barby, with the express intent of obtaining grill marks - the heck with the flavor. I shall moniter this research carefully, and report to you upon completion. (This may take a few days or so - scientific research must be done cautiously.)

I completely agree, Aaron, that the food channel chefs are much mmore impressed by their presentations than quality. On the occasions when I prepare dinner, I try to approach the eye pleasing (candy?) effects, too. The result is that my wife's fare surpasses mine by orders of magnitude

(While not my given name, so many refer to me as "old coot" that I answer to it as easiy. :) ).
mmmmmm....nothing like the sweet smell of science cooking on the open grill....
well, while you're doing that, i'm going to try something new. it occured to me that all in my bbq books, the authors use lump charcoal, which is supposed to burn hotter. so i ran down to the store today and bought a bag. i'm going to cook a steak tonight, so i'll report back on how it went.
just to warn you--it's Saturday night, and if i know me (and i think that i do) i'll have about 6 beers in me by the time i'm done grilling. that's what i love about posting as opposed to talking though--with spell check, you never slur your words! 8)

thanks for the help so far, guys.
For a short time some years back I worked for a major competitor of Kingsford, making charcoal briquettes. From charcoal made on site of oak and kickory. Can't say I ever noticed much difference in temperature from either the briquetts or the lump charcoal. But then, I never really amde a comparison.

I just enjoyed a margarita with my BW at the garden table, and don't have spell check, so bear with me. We're dining Mexican tonite, she tells me. (Which means I must slave to prepare yet another margarita - woe is me!

BW purchased a New York Steak today to test the grill mark bit tomorrow on HER BBQ. Presumably, I'll have a report by tomorrow nite. Patience, please.
funny that you mention margaritas--my girlfriend had a margarita party Thursday, and i was in charge of making the margarita pitcher (made from scratch, of course!). Well, as is my way, i made them really strong, so there was quite a bit leftover. :shock:
So i was thinking this afternoon...hmmmmm.....i bet i could make a barbecue sauce out of this.
So i did, just tasted it 5 minutes ago, and i think it's pretty good. It would go great with chicken. If you want my recipe, let me know. It's a good way to kill what's left from your next margarita party!
Gentlemen, the challenge is on.

My husband is grilling steak tonight and I've no doubt that he will be trying to get perfect grill marks after reading the discussion that we are having on the issue. Will let you know the result. Please note that we are grilling on a gas grill.

Good luck to all!(Especially you, Aaron.) :)
Just out of curiousity.....

A) what cut of steak are you grilling

and B) what other dishes are you serving with it? (as only a true CARNIVORE would do, are you eating just steak and steak alone.) :)
Great idea

I just had a great idea. (at least I think it's a fun idea.) :idea:

Since we are all testing this grill mark thing....what if....

we all took the same ingredients, and cooked dinner on the same night, and compared notes on what we came up with.

Alternately, we could all cook the same recipes and compare notes on the results and how well we chose to follow them. Sounds fun to me, but it would, being a foodnut.
hi Coco,
i'm grilling a 1" thick Ribeye (the best steak ever!)
i've had it marinating for 3 hours or so in a bunch of stuff i threw together....i think there was wine, Worcestershire, garlic, freshly ground coarse black pepper, marjoram, and maybe a couple of other things in there.
I'm serving fries on the side (after all, it's Saturday night!)
I cut them myself from potatoes, fry them, and use my own creation "aaron's fry seasoning" on them. they're yummy.

oh, and i'd be up for your game. just let me know.

well, I've been drinking since five, so time to cook.....
We are grilling striploins tonight, no marinade, but we are using a new BBQ sauce we bought called, "Cattleboys," from our cattle country here in Canada.... Alberta.

We are also grilling zucchini tossed with extra virgin olive oil and garlic, and having sliced roma tomatoes on the side. Those fries sound good, though!

Well, hubby has just gone out to heat up the grill. Let the games begin! I have instructed him to return with perfect, 45 deg, cross-hatch grill marks.

Good luck!

Incidentally....I am enjoying a FINE glass of Sangiovese myself, and my husband is enjoying a local microbrew cream ale.
ahhh, Coco and husband enjoy fine wine and micro-brewed beer, while carnivore drinks cheap bourbon and 'cola'....
carnivore hopes hubby's steaks come out charred to a crisp.

just kidding :LOL: :LOL:
Carnivore, I have bad news for you.(Have another bourbon and cola.)

Not only were the steaks not charred to a crisp, but we had perfect 45 deg grill marks. (seriously) However, I have to confess to a cheat.

Last week my husband bought a grill accessory, something I do not approve of, being a purist. It is a stainless steel grill pan, heavy-duty steel, coated in teflon. I suspect that it holds so much heat, that the grill marks were obtained this way.
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