What temperature do you grill at? What is the max temperature you would grill a steak at?
It really depends on the thickness of the cut, and how you like it done in the middle.
Look at cooking steaks in two parts: the inside and the outside. The outside is cooked at high heat, searing the outside and making a crust. Inside is cooked at a lower temperature to achieve the interior doneness you desire. Each cooking appliance will be different (grill, skillet, smoker) so experiment and have fun!
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I was thinking in terms of an actual temperature. Lets say I'm cooking a 1 1/2" USDA Prime New York strip on the grill. I like my steak medium rare. What temperature would you personally bring your grill up to? I have a searing burner on my grill and can get the temp up to 650-675 degrees. Is that too hot? Thank you very much for your class.
A nice hot burner will give a great char on the outside of the steak, something that is very desirable.
I'm deliberately vague about exact temperatures, since all appliances cook differently and there's many ways to achieve a good finished product. I don't use a temperature gauge when cooking, just a thermometer to check for internal temperature.
If I were cooking your exact steak (1½" thick New York steak), I would sear the outside for about a 30-40 seconds each side, and then hold the steak on the side so the fat cap on the top of the steak is on the pan for the same amount of time to start the fat rendering. 650 is nice and hot, so a sear will form quickly. Use a thermometer to gauge the internal temperature. Finish in the oven to get the temp you like, or turn down the pan heat to low and finish the cooking in the same pan.
I hope that helps. I think you'll find the groove quickly when you start cooking and see when you've got the right amount of sear on each side. Good luck! (you're making me hungry writing this) :)