Grill Marks Are Sexy
There’s no denying that, they just make food look fantastic.
You can make grill marks easily by following some specific patterns and positioning, and ensuring the heat is in the proper range.
It comes down to heat, timing, and positioning, all of which can be learned in the time it takes you to read this post.
When you dress up your meats with grill marks, it tells everyone “This is going to be freakin’ excellent.”
It allows you to put that thought into someone’s head before they’re even served.
Now let’s learn the different types, then how to make them on every grill variant out there.
Different Grill Mark Patterns
Diamond Grill Marks
Steakhouses always advertise their steaks with diamond grill marks, as they branded them on there—there’s laser precision accuracy to make absolutely glorious diamonds on the exterior of the meat.
This is done by positioning your meat at ten and four, just like on a clock.
The meat goes across the grates this way, and then it goes across the grates at two and eight, pressed firmly to a hot 500° F grate for about 1-2 minutes at a time.
Line Sear Marks
This seems like you just have to ignore the meat on the grill, but there’s actually more to it than that.
Just like with diamond grill marks, you need a seriously hot grate around 500° F or more, so you can hold it down for 1-2 minutes.
This imprints the sear mark across it pretty well. Just take it off now if you’re not going for a diamond mark pattern.
These are a little broader, and not quite as dark as line sear marks.
With a griddle that you would find on an electric grill, crank the heat up to its maximum.
This is usually around 400° F, rarely exceeding 450° F.
Once it’s screaming hot, press the meat to the peaks on the grooves and hold it there.
Because this heat is lower than most other grill types, you might have to sustain this for 2-3 minutes.
Once it’s done, you can choose to go for the diamond marks or keep it as is.
Griddles are larger than the grates on charcoal grills, so your marks will appear more spaced, and without that contrasting black streak that charcoal and gas grills give.
How to Make Grill Marks on a Plancha Grill
- Plancha grills are wonderful, but they’re totally flat pieces of metal. Even if you’re using a plancha plate on top of a charcoal grill, there’s no angle you can manipulate to imprint grill marks with ease. You’re going to be left at a disadvantage, which is why you need an iron grill mark press.
- Your iron grill mark press might have an attached handle, meaning it will also heat up. Place it, press down, on a burner of your plancha grill or at the hottest charcoal zone of your plancha plate. Let it heat up for five to ten minutes. When your meat is nearly done cooking on the plancha (about 2-3 minutes away from being complete), grab your press.
- Hold the press to the top side of the meat for 60-90 seconds. The weight of the press alone should be enough to keep strong contact, so you won’t have to press down too hard and risk dehydrating the meat.
- Remove the press and check the mark. If it’s good and covers the whole thing, then it’s okay to flip the meat over and apply the press to the other side. It should still be hot enough to leave a good imprint on the other side. Hold for 60-90 seconds.
- Leave to rest, and serve when done. Keep in mind that there are different sized grill mark presses, but that these are usually a one-time purchase and set to last a lifetime.
How to Make Grill Marks on an Electric Grill
- If your electric grill has a griddle-style plate on top, which has peaks and valleys, then you’re going to have slightly wider grill marks. Since electric grill temperatures don’t climb as high as charcoal, pellet or gas, get the cooktop heated up to the max temperature. This usually rests somewhere between 400° F and 450° F.
- Place your cooked meat along the peaks of the griddle. Do your best to gently place it, so the only heat contact is with the peaks of the griddle plate. Since it requires a long time on each side, you don’t want to overcook the remaining exterior.
- Hold a spatula on the top of the meat and press it firmly to the griddle peaks. Leave for 3-5 minutes, or until the grill marks reach a desirable color.
- Flip over and do the same on the other side. Don’t press on the spatula so hard that moisture begins to sap from the meat and drip down the griddle plate. We want marks, not dried out food. Leave it to rest on a plate before serving.
How to Make Grill Marks on a Gas Grill
- Heat up your gas grill to about 500° F. Keep in mind that closing your grill until the built-in thermometer gauge reads 500° F isn’t good enough; the grates need to be your focus. Use a powerful thermometer to test the grate temperature.
- Take your cooked meat and firmly press it to the grate. Do not move it around or slide it down the grate at any point, whether you’re going for a diamond mark or simple sear marks. This will basically just leave burn marks; you just want the heat from the one section of the grate that your food fits on.
- Wait between 1-2 minutes for ¼” thick meats. 1.5-2.5 minutes for ½” thick meats. Flip over to the other side, but on a different section of the grate so you can utilize all that heat for similar marks on the other side. Repeat the steps for that side, then set to rest until serving.
How to Make Grill Marks on a Charcoal Grill
- Cover your charcoal grill so the heat can build. The grates don’t hold onto as much heat as you think; it tends to ventilate between them, and we need a hot grate to do this.
- Remove the lid after about ten minutes and place your meat down on the grate. Use your spatula to press the meat to the grate.
- If you’re going for a diamond mark texture, hold your meat to the grate for 45 seconds. Turn the meat 45° (see the section above for clock analogy) and press for another 45 seconds.
- Flip over and repeat step 3. Your meat will have spent a total of 3 minutes getting marks.
- Leave to rest, serve, and enjoy.
How to Make Grill Marks on a Pellet Grill
- Pellet grills utilize an electric ignition and auger motor, which is good news when it comes time to get those sear marks going. Let your meat cook in the pellet grill until it’s done, the grill marks will be an afterthought in this instance.
- Remove meat from the grate and then close your pellet grill. Turn up the auger speed to raise the temperature. You want as close to 500° F as your specific pellet grill is able to get. This process can take about ten minutes if your grill was previously at 225° F or somewhere around that mark. Be sure to check that your pellets are full.
- Once your pellet grill hits 500° F or the closest possible temperature, you’re going to open it and get to work. Put the meat back on the grate, and get ready to work quickly.
- Since pellet grills lose most of their heat when they’re opened up, you have about 60 seconds per side to get really good sear marks. Normally, we would wait until the grates were at a higher temperature, but pellet grills can take a while to achieve that when rising from a lower temperature. Firmly press your meats to the grate on one side, and after 60 seconds, flip it over.
- Allow to rest for 2-3 minutes and serve.
Tip: If you’re trying to get sear marks on multiple pieces of meat, count out loud from sixty when you place the first piece down. Once you hit zero, begin to pull the first piece off, and just move ahead at the same speed at which you placed them down.
Aesthetic Food Mastery
If the food looks good, chances are it’s going to be good.
Build anticipation for your smoked and grilled meats right away, by giving your audience the perfect aesthetic component to run off of.
Their mouths will be watering before the food even hits the plate, so long as you can make it look as aesthetic as possible.