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How To Cook A Competition-Winning Steak.

Posted by Dustin Sanders on 27th Jul 2015

Grilling competition-level ribeye steaks is an art form. Like any art form it takes years of practice, patience and precision.  My friend Joe Stump and I cook in steak competitions across the U.S. as a team called the Smoke House Rats.  In just 4 years of competition cooking we have won many awards including the Steak Cook-off Association's 2014 U.S. Steak Champion (me) and the 2014 and 2015 World Champion (Joe).

In SCA competitions, we cook ribeyes.  The ribeye is one of the richest cuts of meat, well proportioned with fat, making it a great cut for steak lovers. When choosing a steak, you want the meat to be bright red in color with marbling throughout.  The white marbling is fat which will break down during the cooking process and enhance the flavors of the meat, so it's important that the fat is evenly distributed throughout the steak.  After selecting the best cut of meat you can find, you may need to trim some fat from the outer edges. We recommend leaving a thin border of fat along the edge of the steak.  Once you’ve trimmed your steaks, return them to the cooler and get your fire going.

Next, fire up your grill. Both Joe and I cook on PK Grills.  We like them because the thick cast aluminum will hold an even temperature for a long time.  Our PKs give us a great deal of control, which equals consistency, an important aspect in competition cooking.  We each fill two large chimneys with regular charcoal, place them down on the bottom grate and light them.  When the top layer of coals begins to turn white, empty the hot coals into the grill and spread them out evenly across the bottom grate. We place a few chunks of wood on top of the charcoal for extra flavor.  Return the top grate to the grill.  Both Joe and I use Grill Grates designed specifically for the PK Grill.  These Grill Grates sit right on top of the regular cooking surface and create stunning grill marks.  One of the judging categories for competition steak is appearance, and evenly spaced, well defined grill marks definitely help with the appearance score.

While the grills are heating up, about 30 minutes before the steaks need to go on the grill, is the time to season and bring your steaks up to room temperature.  Both Joe and I put a heavy coat of our own secret, multiple award-winning seasoning mixture on both sides.  I cannot reveal our winning recipe here, but you certainly won't go wrong with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Season your steak liberally, cover it with a towel or aluminum foil and let the seasoning work its magic on the steak while the meat comes up to room temp.

When the steaks are near room temperature, apply a coat of non-stick spray or oil to your cooking grate.  The surface of your grill should be very hot.  So hot that you cannot hold your hand over it for more than a second. Between 550° - 700°.  Place your steak on the hot grill and close the lid.  All four vents should be wide open. Let the steak grill for about 2 to 2.5 minutes and then rotate (don't flip yet!) it 70°.  This rotation is what makes those cool diamond shaped grill marks.  Let it grill for another 2 to 2.5 minutes.

In competition, we clean the grate after every turn to remove particles that could cause the steak to stick to the grate and apply more non-stick spray or oil.  Around the 5 minute mark, flip the steak and repeat the process for the second side, rotating it 70° at around 7 to 7.5 minutes.  Once you rotate the steak on the second side, probe the steak using an instant read digital thermometer to check the temperature.  When the steak has reached an internal temperature of 140°, somewhere around the 10 minute mark, it is a medium steak and is ready to be taken off the grill.  Allow the steak to rest a few minutes before cutting.

This simple method has won over the tastebuds of judges across the U.S.  We are certain it will win big at your next backyard cookout.  Be sure to keep up with the Smoke House Rats and their PK Grill experiences at