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The Ideal Temperature for Searing Meat on Pellet Smokers

Finding the perfect temperature to sear meat on a pellet smoker can be tricky. Like many, I had my fair share of failure in getting the temperature right. So I began my research on the best temperature for searing meat on pellet smokers.

The best temperature to sear meat is around 230°C. To obtain sear lines on the meat, a high enough temperature is needed. Preheat the pellet smoker to 230°C after coating the grill grates with enough oil. Then proceed to sear the meat for about 1 minute 45 seconds on each side.

Even though 230°C is the perfect temperature to sear meat, depending on how well done you want the meat to be, the cooking temperature can vary.

Why is this the Perfect Temperature for Searing Meat?

Searing marks can essentially appear when the temperature reaches 148° C and above (suggest not to go over 260°C to avoid charring) but why is 230°C the perfect one?

Going for an extremely high temperature can cause the meat to dry out fairly quickly. For the majority who are not pit masters, it is probably better to stick to the lower temperatures.

There is a scientific reason to why meat tastes better when seared.

The rich meat flavour that you are after comes from the caramelisation process (also known as the Maillard Reaction) that begins at around 230°C of searing. Natural sugars and protein fibres from the meat caramelise in this process, creating a golden brown crust.

Moreover, if the insides of a pellet smoker is 230°C, the grill grates (where you place the meat) is already reaching between 260°C to 288°C.

Here is an explanation of the Maillard Reaction:

The Maillard reaction is a number of small, simultaneous chemical reactions that occur when proteins and sugars in your food are transformed by heat, producing new flavours, aromas and colours.

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What to Look Out for When Grilling Meat on a Pellet Smoker

1.      Use a meat thermometer

Using a digital thermometer is great to keep the internal temperature in check so you don’t undercook or overcook the meat. You can buy a similar one that I use, which is the Lavatools Javelin PRO Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer at Amazon AU if your pellet smoker does not come with an integrated thermometer.

2.      Use a timer (You can use your phone)

When you sear meat, it is important not to leave the meat for too long to avoid being charred. Setting a timer is a good practice so you won’t forget to flip the meat. A simple digital kitchen timer like this one can be purchased from Amazon AU.

3.      Keep the lid close when cooking

Closing the pellet smoker’s lid can help the meat to cook more evenly. It also helps the meat to absorb the smoke flavour better. When the lid is closed, you can get a more controlled cooking temperature within the pellet smoker.

4.      Keeping the grill grates clean

Having grease buildup or dried up charred meats sticking on the grill grates will not enhance the flavour of meat. It is best to clean up after every use and do a deep cleanse once every few months.

A quick step-by-step tip for cleaning the grill grates:

• Use a grill and grate cleaner – Spray and let sit on the grill grates to melt away the grease and grime build-up
• Use a grill brush to scrub – Scrub away any charred remainder that the cleaner couldn’t remove
• Wash the grill grates with water – Make sure the grill grates are completely cleaned after rinsing

5.      Add enough pellets

It is more of a nuisance than a big problem to have a dip in temperature if you run out of pellets in the middle of cooking. To avoid having a pause while cooking, it is better to start with enough pellets or a bit more of what you think you need.

The amount of pellets you need depends on: –

  • Size of pellet smoker – More pellets are needed for a bigger pellet smoker
  • Weather condition – More pellets will be used up on a cold, windy day

Generally, around 220 grams of pellets per hour will be used up by the pellet smoker on the smoking setting. On a high setting, the pellet smoker will use around 1.1kg of pellets per hour.

Steak Doneness Temperature Chart for Grilling on Pellet Smoker

When grilling steak on a pellet smoker, it is best to refer to a temperature and time guide as steak gets overcooked easily.

Here is the cooking temperature guide for grilling steak on a pellet smoker:

Steak DonenessInternal TemperatureGrill Time Per Side at Around 204°CCentre Colour of Meat
Rare49°C – 54°C2:30 minRed
Medium Rare54°C  – 57°C3:30 minPink
Medium57°C  – 62°C4:30 minSome Pink
Medium Well62°C  – 68°C5:30 minSlightly Pink
Well Done68°C  – 74°C6:30 minLittle to No Pink
Very Well Done74°C +8+ minCompletely Brown
Adapted from Traeger Grills. Temperatures converted to Celcius from Farenheit as Australians use metric units instead of imperial units.

Traditional Sear vs Reverse Sear

Traditional sear is when the meat is seared first before cooking meanwhile reverse sear is to cook the meat to your liking of doneness before searing.

Reverse sear is the preferred method for most because the meat gets cooked more evenly. When a sear is made first on uncooked meat, a charred crust (also known as the Grey Band) tend to form around the meat.

Applying the reverse sear method also produces a more tender steak than the traditional searing.

Related Questions

At what temperature do pellet smokers start smoking?

Smoke begins when it reaches between 107°C and 121°C. Smoke produced by wood pellets in a pellet smoker tend to be more long lasting and more even as compared to using wood chips. Note, you can only use wood pellets on a pellet smoker.

Why is my pellet smoker not producing enough smoke?

A common answer to why a pellet smoker is not producing enough smoke is because the temperature set is too high. Pellet smokers are designed to smoke at a lower temperature, providing the distinct smoky flavour that food cooked on high heat have less of.