The Real Reason Your Grilled Steak Is Gray

The grill is hot, the beef is juicy, and after a few minutes of charring, your perfectly cooked steaks will be ready to serve. But wait, instead of ruby-red steaks with deep brown grill marks, the meat is pallid and gray. What happened?

Moisture is what happened. Cooks Country asserts that dry steaks brown better than wet steaks, so it's crucial that you blot your steaks dry with paper towels before grilling. Prevention explains that when steaks contain surface moisture, they steam instead of sear, which produces a gray exterior; but when steaks are patted dry, the outside of the meat grills to crisp and caramelized perfection. Serious Eats states that the drier the surface of your steak, the better it will brown on the grill (or in the pan).

Brandt Beef underscores that it's important to pat steaks dry with a clean paper towel or napkin, not tissues or toilet paper because the thinner paper "will become part of your seasoning."

The temperature of your grill and when you season matters too

If you patted your steaks dry, seasoned them flawlessly, and they still turned gray after cooking, it might be the temperature of your grill. Insider explains that properly heated grills sear the outside of the meat and create those much sought-after char marks on your steak. If the grill temperature is too low, the steaks steam instead of sear, which turns the precious meat gray.

Seasoning the meat too far in advance can cause graying too. The executive chef at Prime + Proper steakhouse, Ryan Prentiss, told Food & Wine that salt pulls moisture from the inside of the meat to the surface, something you're trying to avoid. Prentiss suggested seasoning steaks immediately before grilling to ensure "beautiful grill marks and crust."

To ensure impeccably grilled steaks every time, Omaha Steaks' offers tips for grilling a variety of cuts, including filet mignon, New York strip, top sirloin, ribeye, and T-bone. Bon Appétit also shares their recipe for perfectly cooked steaks with a unique twist – the steaks are salted in advance to ensure the cells retain moisture (guaranteeing juicy meat), then patted dry and salted again just before grilling.