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Can a grill be too hot for steak? (Explained)

Can A Grill Be Too Hot For Steak?

The ideal temperature for grilling a steak tends to be between 400 to 500 degrees. Once you go hotter than 550 to 600 degrees, you run a high risk of burning the exterior of the steak before the thickest interior meat reaches the desired degree of doneness. 

The easiest and most accurate way to determine the temperature of your grill grates is to use an infrared thermometer. You just point and pull the trigger, and the digital display will tell you the surface temperature where the little red dot appears. 

If your charcoal grill is too hot for grilling steak and roaring away over 550 degrees, then you need to partially suffocate the fire. You can do this by closing the lid and sealing all the dampers for 10 to 12 minutes. 

If you have a propane or natural gas grill, you should turn the burners off for 5 to 7 minutes with the lid open. Then test with an infrared thermometer to make sure the grates have cooled down before firing it up again. 

If you do overcook your steak, you might be able to salvage it by turning it into a different dish. A ribeye sandwich can be sliced down for a Philly cheese steak sandwich, or a New York strip might be chopped and seasoned with cumin for some simple street tacos. 

Ideal Temperatures for Grilling Steak

The ideal temperature for grilling a steak with a flavorful exterior crust, and a perfectly done interior tends to be grill grates between 400 to 500 degrees. Hotter than 550 degrees and you risk burning the outside of the steak before the interior cooks all the way through. 

Cooler than 350 degrees, and you often end up overcooking the interior of the steak before you get a flavorful sear on the exterior. 

How to Know If Your Grill Is Too Hot for Steak

An infrared thermometer is the best tool for finding out if your grill is too hot for steak. The digital screen will give you an accurate reading of any surface where the little red dot appears. 

You could also place a surface thermometer on the grill grates, but the temperature reading won’t be as accurate and will get more inaccurate after the first 30 to 60 seconds. 

If you don’t have any sort of thermometer, you can get a decent estimate by holding your hand about 10 to 12 inches above the grill grates and counting “Mississippi’s.” For most people, a temperature of 400 degrees becomes painful at “5-Mississippi’s.” 

If you can’t make it past a two or three count, then the temperature of the grill grates or the fire is likely too hot to safely cook a steak

What to Do If Your Grill Is Too Hot for Steak?

If your grill is 550 degrees or hotter, then you need to extinguish the flames and let some of the heat energy dissipate from the metal of the grates. 

For a charcoal grill, this means sealing the lid and closing the vents for at least 10 minutes. This will snuff the flames to let the heat back off enough to try again. 

For a gas grill, you’ll need to turn off all the burner elements and leave the grill grates exposed to the open air with the lid up. This will let heat energy escape, and you should be able to fire up the grill again in 5 to 7 minutes. 

Wood pellet grills and pellet grills with a broiler plate will need to be dialed down. You can leave the lid open to let some of the heat out for a few minutes, then close it to let the internal thermometer regulate the cooking chamber to the new target temperature. 

Salvaging Possible Overcooked Steak

Just like putting toothpaste back in a tube, there is no way to restore the color and juiciness of an overcooked steak. In these times, your best bet is to transform the meat into something else. 


My personal favorite is to make fajitas, street tacos, or a Philly cheesesteak sandwich. 

I just slice up some green peppers and saute them to go alongside the onions, then I chop the steak up into strips.

For fajita or street tacos, I toss the strips of overcooked steak with a little butter, garlic powder, and cumin before wrapping them in a tortilla with cheese. 

For a Philly cheese steak, I just toss the strips of steak with a little butter, then add the peppers and onions with slices of cheese to a soft hoagie roll. 

Final Thoughts

A trill that is over 550 degrees is generally too hot for grilling a steak. Ideally, you want a temperature at the grates between 400 to 500 degrees. 

Hotter than 550 to 600 degrees you will likely end up burning the exterior of the steak before the interior is cooked through to a perfect medium rare. 

An infrared thermometer is the most accurate tool for determining the temperature of your grill grates. When you pull the trigger, a little red dot appears and the digital display tells you the exact temperature of the target surface within a few degrees. 

If your grill is too hot for steak, you either need to snuff the charcoal flames, or turn the gas burners off. Give the grates a while to cool down and let the fire partially suffocate before relighting the grill. 

An overcooked steak isn’t the end of the world, but sometimes it can feel like it. Thankfully, it only takes a little culinary creativity and a sharp knife to shred that steak up and turn it into something else. 

With just a few minutes, you can transform shredded overcooked steak into fajitas, street tacos, or a steak sandwich. It might not be what you originally intended, but it’s still going to be far from being a waste of money!