The Safest Way To Tell If Your Grill Is Hot Enough For Steak

Nothing's worse than dropping a beautiful cut of steak onto the grill grates and hearing ... crickets. That searing sizzle is the sound every grill master waits for, but if you don't let your grill heat up enough then you'll get nothing but silence.  

Many newer gas grills come with a built-in thermometer, but if yours does not, there's a simple trick you can use to gauge the heat level — no fancy tools are required, it uses nothing more than your hand. Just outstretch your hand and hold it about five inches above the grill grates, then start counting. How long you're able to keep it above the hot grill before you instinctually wince and pull it away will let you know roughly how hot it is.

If you can keep your hand there for 8 to 10 seconds, the heat is pretty low (between 250 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit) and you definitely won't get that sizzle. If you pull away around the 5 to 7 second mark, the grill is at about a medium level of heat and around 350 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. If you only make it 2 to 4 seconds, those grill grates are at a high heat, upwards of 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and ready for grilling and will give you that sizzle. Note, this trick also works by holding your hand over a pan on the stovetop.

If you are using a charcoal grill, you can keep your hand cool and use your eyes to help you discern the temperature.

How to tell when a charcoal grill is hot enough

The color of the coal briquettes can be your guide when using a charcoal grill. They will go from black to fiery orange to a whitish gray. After you light them, it should take around 5 to 10 minutes for this transition to occur and for the grill to be at a high heat. If you want medium heat, wait around 25 to 30 minutes.

Grilling expert and executive chef Brad Wise of Trust Restaurant Group and Rare Society, a California-based steakhouse chain, advises to keep your food off the grill until the charcoal is ready, "You'll know when the charcoal is ready when it's glowing orange or turning white." That white is just ash and signifies that the coals have thoroughly heated through. Wise also recommends closing the grill to help bring the internal chamber to temperature before you throw your steak on – temperature-wise you're shoot for at least 450 degrees.

So there you have it. No fancy gadgets required for this tip. All you'll need is yourself.