The Science Of Grilling: How A Grill Gives Steak Its Flavor

The flavor of your steak greatly depends on the type of grill and fuel used to cook it. We’ve already learned why steaks are juicy and how heat transforms them to create a tasty sear. For this video, Popular Science and Saveur teamed up to learn about and detail the science behind flavoring.

While seasonings and sauces can add a punch of flavor to your meat, your grill and fuel play huge parts. When melted fat from the steak drips down into the grill, it catches fire and gives off an aromatic smoke. As the smoke floats up through the grill, it permeates the meat and locks in a rich, umami flavor. While this can happen in all types of grills, the fuel is a major defining factor for added meat flavors.

Each type of grill can bring out some awesome qualities in your steak. Wood smoke contains compounds like guaiacol and syringol, which can give an earthy, smoky flavor as they seep into your meat. Charcoal has similar compounds, like lignin and cellulose, that can also add some definition to a steak. Additionally, charcoal grills can reach higher temperatures, making them great for searing. While gas-powered grills don’t release compounds that flavor your meat, many prefer them for their ability to maintain lower temperatures, sealing in juices.

Bon appétit!