The irony-it just burns me! My grill is on fire
November 28, 2006 9:47 AM   Subscribe

oooh the irony-How do I get my grill to NOT catch fire?

Whenever I grill steaks(high temperature, lid closed), the grill grates always seem to catch fire and burn my steaks. I can't figure out the cause-sometimes I use a little olive oil on the meat (or the grates), sometimes I dont. Regardless, the grill always catches fire (and sometimes the steak does).

Also, any steak grilling advice would be appreciated.

This doesn't seem to happen when I grill chicken, just meat.
posted by neilkod to Food & Drink (17 answers total)
Are you using gas or charcoal?

Start with a good cleaning. You might have a few hotspots from built up food bits, grease, or whatever. If you're cooking the steaks at a much higher temperature than chicken, it would explain why it's igniting only for your beef.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:54 AM on November 28, 2006

Cleaning is probably a good first step.

You might also try cooking on tinfoil. We do this for my father, who doesn't like char on his meat at all. The only trick is to poke some holes in the foil so the grease/juice can drain, but do it sufficiently far away from the meat so that if causes a flare, it won't be right under the food.

Only problem is that you don't get the nice lines on the steak that you do by cooking it directly on the grill ... it ends up looking more like it's been done in a skillet. But just as tasty.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:04 AM on November 28, 2006

Ditto on the cleaning. That's the only thing I can think of. If there's nothing on the grill gates to catch fire, then, well they won't catch fire. Just make sure and scrape off whatever you can every time you get the chance. Make sure and give the underside a very good cleaning before you start grilling too, since you won't get a chance to clean it til you're done.

On preview, good idea kadin.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 10:08 AM on November 28, 2006

I grill on a big charcoal Weber. I put the coals only on half of the grill. I then sear the steaks on both sides over the direct heat, and then move them to the indirect heat and put the lid on. Even if the coals flare-up while cooking, you don't have the steaks on there long enough to blacken.

The searing usually only takes a few minutes a side, so I keep an eye on it during this phase.

I found that when I used to cook the whole time over direct heat, it was very difficult to get the meat on the inside cooked perfectly without overcooking or burning the outside.
posted by mach at 10:11 AM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks (so far). I've tried cleaning the grill and the plates underneath. Maybe I didn't do such a hot job (ugh). For what its worth, I'm using gas.
posted by neilkod at 10:17 AM on November 28, 2006

Burn it off
posted by banshee at 10:23 AM on November 28, 2006

I think what's happening is the metal of the grill is heating up past the ignition point of the fat melting out of the meat.

There is a grill, the Hydrogrill, which is designed not to reach a temperature which could burn food of any kind, but it's fairly expensive.

I would try a small stainless steel pan of water sitting on the grill next to the meat. This will cool the grill by conduction and reduce the oxygen concentration inside the closed BBQ by replacing it with water vapor, without interfering with radiative cooking of the meat.
posted by jamjam at 10:40 AM on November 28, 2006

A fat laden steak will cause flare-ups. You can trim your meat to help reduce this. A spray bottle of wate puts out the fire.

As for grilling steaks, lid up, not down. You are gilling not baking. High heat, sear the outside. If you like your meat well done I have no advice for you other than you are ruining good meat. If you like it rare to medium then just keep on the heat until it is done. You can tell when it is done by how firm it is, or you can cheat and cut into it but that lets some of the moisture out. It will cook a little after it is done so remove it from the heat a minute or two before it looks completely done.
posted by caddis at 10:56 AM on November 28, 2006

Also, let the meat warm to room temperature before cooking (about an hour or so), this prevents a raw interior with a burnt exterior.
posted by caddis at 11:00 AM on November 28, 2006

This happens to me as well, particularly when grilling ribeyes (which are pretty fatty cuts). I don't think there is any way to avoid it while still having the grill hot enough to properly sear the meat. A little exposure to direct flame won't burn the steaks.

I grill my steaks with the lid DOWN (you lose too much heat with the lid up) for about 3 minutes/side for an average steak cut. If I notice a flare up (my grill has a little hole in the bottom front that you can see the telltale yellow flames through), I just open it up for a second and move the steaks away from the flames. Since you're cooking for such a short period of time, as long as you stay reasonable on top of it there isn't much risk of serious burnage.
posted by GregW at 11:03 AM on November 28, 2006

Fire needs air. Use less air. Like this -

I use charcoal. Not sure this will work with gas, but I imagine there should be a way. I grill my steaks right after I've dumped a couple handfuls of small, water logged hickory chips on the coals. Start with slightly hotter coals than normal, toss the chips on, give it a couple minutes for the temp to get right with God, and put the steaks on. The grill fills with delicious smoke and no fire is possible. When I open the lid the chips will catch fire, but they go out as soon as the lid closes. The air vents are damped down most of the way obviously. The downside that there will be thick smoke billowing out of the grill for 10-15 minutes. But since it's hickory bbq steak smelling smoke...... not so bad.
posted by WoWgmr72 at 1:08 PM on November 28, 2006

The fat is dripping down from the steak and it flames up. You can turn the temperature down (although it still flares up some), or just move the steaks a little further away from the burner so that it doesn't drip over the flame; the steak will still cook, don't worry about moving it a little.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 3:44 PM on November 28, 2006

I heat up the grill with the gas on full, then clean the grill each time. I put the steaks on (slide them slightly on the surface and they won't stick) and immediately turn down the heat to medium or medium/low. This way the grill surface is still VERY hot which sears the steak, but the lower flame prevents flare-ups. Depending on the thickness of the steak, I grill 3-4 minutes per side, per turn, turning each steak 3X so there is a perfect cross-hatch on both sides. This gives a nice MR to M.

Olive oil on the meat is to help it not stick, but if you shift the meat slightly as you lay it on the grill, sliding it lengthwise along the grates, you don't need the oil.

As for tin-foil, EEEEEKK!!! You WANT some flare-ups or you don't get the whole point of grilling, which is to use the burning steak oil to help flavor the meat as it cooks. (also, tin-foil melts at a pretty low temp so I'd fear eating a lot of it, but hey, what do I know?)

PS, used to be a grill chef. Oh, and the KingoftheWhales dude can cook a pretty mean steak, or so I hear.
posted by johngumbo at 4:37 PM on November 28, 2006

The sliding - yes! It works in pans too. The first contact of cold meat and hot metal causes a change in the meat that causes sticking. If you keep it moving during the intial contact, you know two second or so, then much less sticking. This is most important with chicken, but applies to all meats.
posted by caddis at 4:49 PM on November 28, 2006

What on earth are your chickens made of?
posted by mendel at 5:41 PM on November 28, 2006

My chickens are made of protein, what are yours made of?
posted by caddis at 5:46 PM on November 28, 2006

I agree with most. Make sure that you clean it good. I will at least once a season take my grill out in the gravel driveway and open it up and give it a good spray down with oven cleaner all over and then let it set a while and then hose it down. If your grates are really dirty you can stick them in an oven and turn it on self-clean and it will bake all the stuff off. As far as the cooking I usually rub down the grates with olive oil prior to lighting the grill and then turn all burners up on high and get it good and hot. When I am ready to throw my steaks on I turn off the side that I am cooking on and use the already hot grates and indirect heat. Seems to work well. Good luck and happy grilling.
posted by scooters.toad at 5:55 AM on November 29, 2006

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