Extreme Steak: Wild And Crazy Ways To Get A Killer Sear

In my article on how to make great steakhouse steaks I discuss the importance of getting a good sear on the exterior and how to do it best. Here are some offbeat methods that work amazingly well: The Afterburner Method, the Vigneron Method, the Caveman Method, and the Stripsteak Method.

The afterburner method

So I was doing some 3/4" ribeyes the other night. I started some charcoal in a chimney to toss on my trusty Weber Kettle because I wanted max heat for that great dark whiskey colored exterior.


When I looked at the chimney and noticed it looked like the afterburner of a fighter jet. Big blue and red flames, hardly visible. So I put a cast iron frying pan on top and read the temp in the pan with an infrared laser thermometer. Almost 800°F! So I took the pan off, put a wire rack right on top of the chimney, and tossed the meat on.

Perfect dead on sear, deep mahogany brown, in less than three minutes per side and cooked perfectly to medium rare in the center!

Above you can see me cooking some 3/4" ribeyes on the afterburner. Thanks to Rob Lusk for the great photo, taken on steak night on the Pitmaster Club Meat-Up in the Bahamas in 2017.

Recently America's Test Kitchen posted this improvement on the concept, they skewer the steaks so the practically levitate over the flame, solving a problem with my method: The hot grates often burn the surface of the meat.


Now keep in mind that cooking at Warp 10 is not right for all steaks. It works best only on steaks 1/2 to 3/4" thick. It is ideal for skirt steaks for fajitas. Anything thicker and it will burn them before they cook the center. The secret is that it puts massive amounts of heat on one surface at a time and cooks it so quickly that the interior doesn't get too hot. At lower temps the heat progresses through the surface to the interior, and by the time you have a good dark sear on the outside, the inside is overcooked. That's the problem with fajitas. You have such a tasty piece of meat in the skirt steak, but the center is almost always grey. Nevermore.

A few tricks: You will need only half a chimney of charcoal. Make sure to salt the meat but don't pepper it. The heat will carbonize the pepper and make it bitter. Make sure you pat the meat dry first otherwise it will steam the surface. In fact, if you want to paint the surface with a little oil, that will help crisp it even more. When the meat is on, move it around a bit because the wire grate can brand the meat with some serious black grill marks, too black. Just make sure you have all the side dishes cooked before you put on the meat because it cooks in about 2 to 3 minutes per side. For slightly thicker steaks, you can cover them with a metal bowl so the meat will cook from the top by convection.

Postscript: I'm a huge fan of the Food Network's Alton Brown, and readers have pointed out that in a 2010 episode titled "Porterhouse Rules" he attempted to duplicate the extreme heat that steakhouses use to broil steaks with heat from above. He took a chimney, fired it up, lifted it, dusted off the grate, placed the steak on the grate, placed the chimney above the steak, cooked for 1 minute, flipped the steak and repeated. Well I tried this and, as AB warned, the steak got a light dusting of ash and a coal fell onto it. Sorry, AB, my method is better. I can flip the steaks often on top, and there is no ash.

The vigneron method

Then there is a method I call the vigneron method. I learned it when visiting wineries in Bordeaux, the French region that makes wine perfectly designed for steaks.


In the winter vineyard owners prune away most of the branches, called canes. They then have huge piles of grapevine wood, much about the thickness of a pencil. During the fall harvest season vignerons, grape growers, will take a big stack of dried canes, and set them on fire. They quickly burn down to a glowing mound, and the workers grill meats over the scorching hot embers. The flavor is exquisite. My hosts called this method sarment (pronounced sar-MOHN).

In many states in the US, grapevines abound wild in the woods and grow on fences along the roadside. You can harvest grape cuttings there. To insure a steady flow of grape wood, I planted five Himrod vines (the best green table grapes I have ever tasted). I get enough fruit for a few snacks and enough wood for about three cooks. I've also done this with twigs from my neighbor's cherry tree. Of course he expects to be fed in exchange.

To start, I take out the bottom grate from my Weber Kettle and open the lower vents. I crumple two sheets of newspaper and put them in the bowl. Then I stuff as many dried vine prunings as I can fit on top of the paper, all the way to the level of the upper grate. On goes the top grate. I light the paper through the bottom vent holes, and the whole thing goes poof in about two minutes with very impressive 5' flames. I once came close to melting the television cable running overhead.

Within a few minutes I have glowing white hot embers. But the embers are gone in a hurry because the canes are about the size of kindling. I've got a window of about 15 minutes between the time the flames disappear and the embers go cold. I wait until I can no longer see yellow flame. Then I scrub the grate and on goes the meat. Here's how I cooked a flank steak over grapevines for Bloomberg Business. To read the excellent article they did about us, click here.


In France I had small butterflied quail over grape wood, but at home I completely blackened Cornish game hens when I tried it. The skin is too fatty. Even though they're smaller than standard broiler chickens, they're still too thick, so steer away from poultry. I now use this method primarily for flank steaks because they are about the right thickness, under 1", and beef loves heat and smoke. I pat the surfaces dry so they don't steam, and use only salt. Pepper just scorches. Never any marinades. They just steam the meat.

I leave the lid off, turn the meat every minute or less, and it's usually done in less than 10 minutes. The burning fruitwood creates temps in the 800 to 1,000°F range and gives beef a fine flavor. That's Warp 10, Mr. Spock.

Caveman steaks

Here's a showstopper. A bit of a parlor trick, but I know you will want to try it. Once you get your fire down to glowing embers, take a magazine and fan he coals so any loose ash is blown away.

Take a steak about 1" thick, pat it really dry, salt it, and lay the meat right on the coals. You heard me. Right on the coals.

Surprisingly, when you turn it in about three minutes, there will be very little ash stuck to the meat, and it produces a very dark all-over sear in a hurry. But the operative words are very little ash. Every time I've tried it, small amounts of ash and even whole coals have stuck to the surface and there have been scorched dry spots. The ashes are easily brushed off, but I still can't recommend this method. It is much better to place a wire rack on top of the coals or very close to them. Then you can check the meat, and there is less scorching and no ash. Live in the stone age if you wish, but know things are better in the iron age.

The Stripsteak method

In the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Chef Michael Mina's Stripsteak has a unique technique for reaching perfection on thick steaks.


Stripsteak begins by immersing the meat in baths of clarified butter at about 120°F. This is a technique called sous vide. Clarified butter is unsalted butter that has had the water and milk solids removed. It is also called ghee. Click the link for info on how to make it.


After about an hour the meat is an even 120°F throughout, and when an order comes in he lifts it gently from the butter, shakes a bit off, turns around, and lays it it on a screaming hot topless Santa Maria style grill burning mesquite logs.

After a few minutes and several turns, the meat comes off the grill a deep dark almost black, but never burned, and the center, as you can see, is perfect medium rare, about 130 to 135°F, with almost no color variation.

Interestingly, the butter does not penetrate much so the butter flavor is minimal. It does contribute to a deep brown nutty crust, however. The steaks are among the finest I've ever tasted.

Afterburner Rob Lusk

Meathead Goldwyn

Meathead is the founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, and is also known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", a New York Times Best Seller and named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.

What people say about us

"The world’s leading outdoor cooking resource." Larry Olmsted, Forbes.com

"An amazing compendium of barbecue knowledge." Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue, Austin

"I was crowned World Brisket Champion at the Jack Daniels World Championships using your Big Bad Beef Rub. Your site has played a pivotal role in my development." John Lattuca, WeekendWarriorBBQ, Montreal, Canada

"This meal was as memorable as my first sex, only better." Marie Overholt, San Francisco, CA

"The BBQ community is so extremely fortunate to have someone as passionate and articulate as you." Frank Ostini, Chef Winemaker, Hitching Post II Restaurant & Winery, Buellton, CA

"I adapted your brisket rub recipe this summer and my customers love it (8,000 pounds served in 6 months)! My brisket even won 'best beef' in the Sonoma County Harvest Fair." Chef Larry Vito, BBQ Smokehouse, Sebastapol, CA

"Meathead is the best writer covering this part of the culinary world." John Markus, Producer, BBQ Pitmasters TV show

"The Rosetta Stone of BBQ." Bill Lamb

"I got laid last night because of your pastrami" Name withheld for obvious reasons

"Knowledgeable, smart, hilarious, and self-effacing." Laurel Stone

"I have worked as a professional cook in high end French restaurants for several years, so when I hit the internet looking for some BBQ info, I was really pleased to find an in depth and expansive site that had all the tips I was looking for." Aaron Ettlin, Portland, OR

"A Famous Dave's commercial came on claiming the best ribs in the world, and my honey shook his head and said, 'nope, it's right here.' Many, many thanks!" Red Taylor, San Francisco, CA

"We had a fantastic season winning two Grand Championships and five Reserve Grand Championships. I always appreciate referring to your site. Thanks." Steve, Grills Gone Wild, IA

"I have always loved cooking ribs but with our new gas grill they were never as good as charcoal. Well that all changed last night when I made the greatest ribs I have ever tasted. My wife wanted to know if I bought them somewhere and then claimed I cooked them myself." Allen Nicley, Mont Alto, PA

"The Memphis Dust and the pulled pork are excellent! I had to dang near run people out of my house!" Aswad Johnson

"I was about to buy a new smoker. After reading your article about setting up a horizontal smoker, I decided to try rehabilitating something the previous owner of my house left in the backyard. Total investment: $100. I figure I saved at least $500!" Coleman Shelton, Calvert City, KY

"Amazingribs.com is the most information packed barbecue site known to man." Pitmaster and BBQ Columnist George Hensler

"AmazingRibs.com is the world's go-to place for a barbecue treasure house of reliable information." Ardie "Remus Powers" Davis, author of numerous barbecue books

"This is my new go-to method for prime rib." Candy Weaver, President, Kansas City Barbeque Society

"We've won five Grand Championships and two Reserve Championships in the past three months. Learned much about BBQ from you and wanted to give you credit." Harry Soo, SlapYoDaddyBBQ.com

"The Alton Brown of Que." Joe Mizrahi, Smokin' Joe's, NYC

"I have always loved to travel and eat. Life became boring when I had to give up my worldly adventures. Thanks to you I now love to cook. I am now having adventures at home in my kitchen and my back yard. I am no longer bored, and my large family is grateful too. Thank you so much." Dugan Hoeflinger, Tucson, AZ

"I am in the process of opening a cafe and thought your simple sweet sour slaw is an amazing winner." James Murray, Toronto

"I had two ribs and my boyfriend ate the other 3 1/2 pounds. He couldn't stop to talk. He had to bring a box of tissues to the table because these ribs are so good they make him weep. He tells me that my ribs have deepened his love for me. Well, fine, but I know that just means he wants more ribs." Nancy J. Mostad, Minnesota


Watch 5 minutes of Meathead on WGN-TV cook a skinny steak on the Afterburner and thick steaks with reverse sear. And they were perfect! Whew!

Related articles



Many merchants pay us a small referral fee when you click our links and purchase from them. On Amazon it works on everything from grills to diapers, they never tell us what you bought, and it has zero impact on the price you pay, but has a major impact on our ability to improve this site! And remember, we only recommend products we love. If you like AmazingRibs.com, please save this link and use it every time you go to Amazonhttps://tinyurl.com/amazingribs

...some HTML for the first variant...



Get Smoke Signals, our free e-letter. No spam. Guaranteed

Enter your email:

If you love barbecue and grilling, get a FREE 30-day membership in our Pitmaster Club. We can up your game.

  • FREE 30 day trial membership.
  • Sneak previews of Meathead’s new book.
  • We block ads from members.
  • Real community. No politics. No flame wars.
  • Monthly newsletter.
  • Video seminars with famous pitmasters.
  • Weekly podcasts with Greg Rempe.
  • Weekly BBQ cartoons by Jerry King.
  • Comprehensive Temperature Guide Magnet ($10 retail).
  • Monthly giveaways of Gold Medal grills and smokers worth up to $2000.
  • Discounts on products we love.
  • Support for AmazingRibs.com!

Lookit what our members are cooking:

Post comments and questions below


1) Please try the table of contents or the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can't help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.


Click to ask questions and make comments