Your Steakhouse Steak May Not Have Been Made On A Grill

You've dry-aged. You've wet-aged. You've slathered it with butter. But you still aren't getting that steakhouse-perfect meat. It's probably because of your cooking method, and this one's tough to replicate at home.

The not-so-secret cooking method of some of the top steakhouses in the country — like The Palm Restaurants, Bobby Van's, and Morton's, according to The Daily Meal – is an infrared broiler. Best American Steakhouses explains that commercial infrared broilers can heat up to 1,650 degrees F in less than two minutes. That high temperature cooks a steak faster — not to mention more of them — than a standard restaurant grill, making it not only more efficient but also cost-effective. Because it heats evenly, this type of broiling turns out a more consistent steak.

An infrared broiler isn't the same as the one found in your home oven. Instead, infrared heat is blown through a line of ceramic tiles punctured with evenly spaced holes, explains Yale Appliance. This directs the heat from the element straight to the food, rather than simply warming the air around it. A traditional electric broiler has a snaking element while a gas broiler shoots out fire like a flamethrower, explains Eater, but both have spottier coverage.

Why some steakhouses use infrared broiling

The Maillard reaction occurs when meat meets heat, explains The Spruce Eats, so the high heat that results from the infrared method not only cooks steak faster and more evenly, it also imparts that delicious, crusty sear. This form of non-enzymatic browning transforms the molecules in the protein to give off that irresistible scent and delicious umami flavor. Little Figgy Food explains that for this reaction to start, the food needs to be cooked at a high temperature. Moisture can impinge the reaction, which is why it's good to pat the meat dry before cooking.

Of course, not all steakhouses use the infrared broiling method. For example, Outback Steakhouse prefers the fire-grilled method, according to Delish. USA Today has a handy list of restaurants from across the country that use an open flame. New York-trained chef Steve Doucakis swears by wood-fired cooking at his Bangkok restaurant Quince, praising the method as "primal" to the Bangkok Post. There's even a restaurant in Connecticut that wears its cast-iron method with pride right in its name: Cast Iron Chef New Haven.

The next time you're envious of that perfect steakhouse steak, remember it's not always about the grill — but the broiler.