I’ve previously produced my main article on the best methods for how to cook steaks on a pellet grill/smoker. This article is going to be more specific about cooking steaks on a Z Grill pellet grill/smoker and their recommended methods. We’ll discuss searing and reverse searing (smoking then searing). We’ll also discuss why you might not want to follow Z Grill’s methods to get the best sear possible on your steaks. Right, let’s get into this!
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- Cooking Time Searing: Typically 3 to 5 minutes
- Cooking Time Reverse Sear: Typically 30 to 60 minutes
- Z Grill Temp: Reverse sear (225 F), Searing (Max Temp)
- Steak Internal Temp When Done: 130 to 135 F (we’ll discuss this)
- Best Pellets For Steaks: Mesquite, Hickory, Oak, Pecan
I’m no BBQ expert, my expertise is how pellet grills/smokers work and the range of makes/models on the market. When it comes to how to cook on a pellet grill/smoker, I’ll be referring to the professionals.
Below we’re going to look at two methods of cooking steaks on a Z Grill. First, straight searing with direct heat, and then we’ll look at reverse searing steaks.
There are other methods to cook steaks. However, I’ll explain why reverse searing (smoking then searing) your steaks is the best approach for pellet grill/smoker owners.
Searing/Grilling Steaks On A Z Grill
Just like I state in my cooking steaks on a Traeger article, there are some that will claim that its simply not possible to sear a steak properly on a Z Grill pellet grill/smoker.
That is a false statement. However, it comes from the fact that, as standard, the maximum temperature the grates on a Z Grill will get is not sufficient to grill/sear a good steak.
You really want a cooking surface temperature of around 600 degrees in contact with the steak to get a good sear, something that’s not possible on a Z Grill without some modifications/adjustments.
The maximum temperature setting of Z Grill models ranges between 450 and 500 degrees currently. But don’t worry about that, as that is measured by the ambient temperature in the cooking chamber.
It is possible to get a cooking surface of around 600 degrees in a Z Grill via a couple of methods. One is to use the Z Grill Cast Iron BBQ Plate, as seen in the video below.
From watching the video above, you will indeed see that searing a steak is unquestionably possible on a Z Grill. However, I would urge a lot of caution following that method of removing the grease tray.
Grease fires can be very dangerous, and without the grease tray in position, if sufficient grease/fat was in the base of the grill, a grease fire could get out of control pretty quickly.
I could just say to follow the advice in the video above, and it will be fine as long as you frequently clean your pellet grill.
However, my other problem with that method is you cannot reverse sear by removing the grease tray. You are stuck with purely searing your steaks hot ‘n’ fast.
You can still get a good sear by just placing a cast iron pan/GrillGrates on the normal racks, even if you don’t have direct flame access on your Z Grill, which most models don’t.
Check out my article on cooking steaks on a pellet grill. That sear is achieved on a Grilla Grill (very similar to a Z Grill) with a set of GrillGrates.
Let’s now discuss the method which, if you have the time, takes better advantage of your Z Grills capabilities, reverse searing your steaks.
Reverse Searing Steaks On A Z Grill
You have gone to the expense of purchasing a ‘pellet smoker’. If you just wanted to sear steaks, you would have purchased a gas grill, so let’s get some smoke into your steaks.
Some propose searing and then smoking steaks, but this is far less effective at getting smoke flavour than slowing smoking and then searing your steaks, commonly known as the reverse sear.
The objective is to slowly smoke your steaks up to around 110-120 degrees, maybe for around an hour, before you hit them with the high direct heat to sear them and get that lovely crust.
In the video above, Andrew sets his Z Grill to 225 F and slowly cooks his steaks up to 110 degrees F to get some smoke flavour into them before searing. You could also use the Smoke Setting.
He points out that he’s smoking with indirect heat away from the flame broiler and only moving the steaks over for direct heat for searing. This distinction between indirect vs direct heat is important.
Currently, only the Z Grills 600 Series models feature the flame broiler, but no worries if your Z Grills model doesn’t have the feature. You’ll want either want the Cast Iron BBQ plate or GrillGrates for searing.
Now how long you will be smoking your steaks for will depend on two factors, how thick your steaks are and what do you want the final ‘doneness’ to be?
Andrew finishes his steaks to an internal temperature after searing to around 130 degrees (medium rare), and I’ll discuss below why that’s what I would encourage you to consider as well.
1: A Good Cooked Steak Starts With A Smart Purchase
Ok, whether you want to purely sear your steaks or reverse sear them, the starting point of a well-cooked steak is a good quality steak in the first place.
BBQ rubs etc, can add flavour, but really, you want to bring out the flavour of the steak itself by cooking it properly. But what makes a good steak?
There is a huge range of beef steak cuts from Ribeye, Strip, Tenderloin, T-Bone, Porterhouse, Hanger, Skirt, Short Ribs, Flap, Flank, Tri-tip, Rump, Top-Sirloin, Tomahawk to Denver.
But the cut itself is not an indication of quality/grading. You need to pay attention to the USDA Grades of the steak you’re purchasing to understand what you are actually buying.
The lowest grade/cheapest steak will be marked as Select, and the next step up is Choice, with Prime being the highest USDA grade, but what does it actually mean? What’s being measured?
Well, its the intermuscular fat between the muscle fibres of the steak, not to be confused with the fat cap/outer fat around the meat. More intermuscular fat, also known as fat marbling, means more flavour.
In your local store, you will notice the step up in pricing from a Select steak to a Choice steak and an even higher price point for a Prime steak. Higher quality meat unsurprisingly means a higher price.
Well, a step above a Prime steak is a Wagyu steak, as seen in the image above. Wagyu cattle are originally from Japan and are internationally known for their superior flavour from extensive fat marbling.
However, Wagyu steak is expensive for most people, including myself. Therefore, I regard Wagyu as my ‘treat meat’ for special occasions.
My general point is though, to purchase the best grade of steak you can afford. If you are going to the time and effort of learning how to cook the best steak, you need a good starting point.
2: Preparing Your Steaks For The Z Grill & Seasoning
If your steaks do have a thick fat cap around the outer edge, do trim it down. Its easier to trim off the fat at the start than when the steaks have finished cooking.
When it comes to seasoning, if you are dealing with a typical steak cut about one to two inches thick, season it lightly like a burger. You don’t want to overpower the steak with other flavours.
However, if you are working with a thick-cut steak of three inches and above, well, you can go heavier on the seasoning as you would with brisket, as there is more meat to season.
If you’re cooking a high-grade Prime steak or a Wagyu steak, you may just want to keep it simple with a salt and pepper rub. With cheaper/lower quality steak, BBQ rubs can add some needed flavour.
While gas grill owners purely rely on the flavour from the steak or their BBQ rub of choice to add flavour, as a pellet smoker owner, the infusion of smoke is an important part of the flavour profile.
Therefore, beyond seasoning your steaks, you have another important choice to make. What flavour of pellets is going to work best for cooking steaks on your Z Grill?
3. The Best Z Grill Pellets For Cooking Steaks
When it comes to pellet choice, the first place to start is to decide whether you are going to be reverse searing your steaks or simply searing them hot ‘n’ fast?
You see, many people don’t actually know this, but you will get more heat output from Oak pellets compared to, say, Apple blend pellets, and the pure Oak pellets are typically cheaper.
Also, when purely grilling/searing, very little smoke is going to be produced from the pellet grill/smoker. So using a flavoured pellet blend doesn’t really make much sense.
However, if you are going to reverse sear your steaks for a bold smoke flavour, Z Grills sell Hickory blend pellets which can work well. Alternatively, Apple or Cherry will provide a lighter smoke flavour.
Now, if you do purely want to sear your steaks and you want to do it as quickly as possible, you could consider getting some charcoal pellets.
Whatever pellets you are considering, I would encourage you to check out my best value pellets article to find the cheapest pellets per lb of your chosen pellet flavour.
6. Monitoring Your Steaks For The Perfect Result
Above I referenced, I would encourage you to cook your steaks to Medium Rare on your Z Grill. The reason for that is because I believe (and many others do) its the best balance between flavour and texture.
With a Rare steak (120 to 130 F), the fat within the steak hasn’t reached a sufficient temperature to render down properly. Therefore with a Rare steak, you are losing potential flavour.
Above a Medium Rare steak, for instance, Medium Well (145 to 155 F) and above, the steak starts to dry out, and the muscle fibres start to become tough.
Therefore, a Medium Rare steak is the sweet spot where the fat has rendered for flavour, and the meat is tender/juicy. However, each to their own, but you need to be able to monitor your steak.
You can use the meat probe thermometer built into the control panel of your Z Grill. However, I would strongly encourage a secondary means to test the internal temperature of your steak.
What I would also note is, ideally, you’ll rest your steaks after cooking for around 10 minutes, maybe a bit longer for really thick steak cuts. Well, during the resting process, the internal temperature will continue to rise.
Not a lot, but it could go up an additional 5 degrees. Therefore, you should factor that in when you’re making a decision of when to pull your steaks from the heat after they have got a nice sear crust.
Final Thoughts About Cooking Steaks On A Z Grill…
I hope there are a couple of key points you take away with you from reading the above. The first is that it is indeed possible to get a good crust sear on steaks with any Z Grill.
Second, if you have the time, you will get the best results from your Z Grill if you can reverse sear your steaks as opposed to just searing them.
Purely searing steaks on your Z Grill will not achieve a better/tastier result than if you had just cooked your steaks on a gas grill.
However, by reverse searing your steaks, your Z Grill can produce a steak with a flavour profile any gas grill owner will be jealous of.
That’s it! Thanks for reading. As always, please check out my Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide or my Smoking/Grilling guides for more advice. 🙂