Science and Temperature: Three steps to creating a tantalizing crust | Grilling with Rich Science and Temperature: Three steps to creating a tantalizing crust

Science and Temperature: Three steps to creating a tantalizing crust

Posted By: flywheel
Published: February 17, 2012

Sponsored Content By: Thermoworks

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Few things are more impressive than a crispy crust on a thick steak. It’s almost enough to turn a Select into a Choice and elevate a Choice to a Prime. Creating that thick crust on your favorite cut is easier than you think. All you need is a little science and a whole lot of temperature.

*To achieve great results you’ll need to select a certain kind of cut from your local butcher or grocer. No wimpy thin steaks here! Any steak cut will do, so long as it’s thick. We’re talking at least one inch. That will allow the meat to stay on the heat for longer and ensure that you’re not over cooking the center.

The Science: It starts with the rub

One thing that’s important to remember about crust is that it doesn’t start to form until the steak is dry on the outside. Why is that? Any moisture means that the surface of the steak on the grill is not going to get above the boiling point of water (212°F). The Maillard Reaction doesn’t start to happen until 300°F. So unless you get rid of all the moisture, you’re not going to get any crust at all.

Getting rid of all that moisture and creating a great crust starts with a great rub. You’re going to need to get the steak as dry as possible to ensure that a nice crust forms on the surface during cooking. This starts with a rub that consists of salt and corn starch (mixed at a ratio of 2:1).

The salt will not only flavor the meat, but it’s also a great way to draw out the moisture from within the steak. The corn starch will absorb the moisture and form a thin layer over the steak, which will – in turn – develop a great foundation for building your crust.

Temperature Extreme Number One

Once your steaks are sufficiently covered in your rub, it’s time to throw them on the grill, right? Wrong! It’s time to introduce them to temperature extreme number one.

Hold them for about 30 minutes at 0°F; that’s just enough time to sufficiently chill them and complete the drying process. This freezing technique is called, “par freezing,” which is French for “across the surface.”

The cold temperature will allow you to keep the meat on the grill longer, thus ensuring that your crust will be substantial. Skipping this step will have not allowed the cold, salt and corn starch sufficient time to dry out the meat and you risk losing your crust.

Temperature Extreme Number Two

After your steaks have been sufficiently cooled (30 minutes), it’s time to introduce them to temperature extreme number two. With other cuts the goal is to let them sit out of the fridge for a few minutes before putting them on the grill, in this case you’ll want to introduce them to the heat as they come out of the freezer.

Get your grill up to 500°F before you land your steaks and add a thin coating of vegetable oil on the hot grates to keep the meat from sticking. Cover the meat with the lid and let them cook for about 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid, flip, and cook for another 2-3 minutes (lid off), flip – cook for another 2 minutes, flip – finish cooking for another 2 minutes.

Altogether that’s nearly 10 minutes over the heat. Of course you’ll want to spot check the meat with your Super-Fast Thermapen to make sure the internal temperature is to your liking. Remove from the heat and let them rest for 10 minutes.

Thanks to a little bit of science and temperature, you’re left with a juicy, tender steak with a crispy, flavorful crust.


  • The Science of a good rub (salt and corn starch)
  • Extreme Cold (0°F)
  • Extreme Heat (500°F)


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