The Perfect Temperature for Searing Meat on Pellet Grills

The Perfect Temperature for Searing Meat on Pellet Grills

Pellet grills are versatile machines that can not only smoke a rack of ribs but also sear a steak.

The temperature setting is the most important setting when smoking or grilling food on a pellet grill. The temperature setting is what controls whether your grill will slowly cook a rack of ribs with smoke versus quickly sear a steak.

So what is the best temperature for searing meat on pellet grills?

The best temperature for searing meat on pellet grills is 450°F, which is usually the “High” setting. To create sear marks, preheat the pellet grill for 10 minutes and brush the grill grates clean before placing the meat on the grill. Allow the meat to sear for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

So searing meat is a great way to give your meat that finishing touch before taking it off the grill.

Temperature Range For Searing Meat

Although 450°F is the best temperature for searing meat, there is a temperature range of 300°F to 500°F that will still create grill marks from searing.

Depending on the recipe or your preferred cooking temperature, you may want grill your food at a different temperature from 450°F.

Below is explains why you can sear meat anywhere from 300°F to 500°F.

The searing process (also known as the Maillard reaction and caramelization) begins at temperatures as low as 300°F, and the effective searing range is about 300°F to 500°F. Searing at temperatures beyond 500°F can dry out food excessively fast, and usually result in disappointing, burnt food.

(source: Weber Grills)

Thankfully pellet grills can reach a variety of temperatures in the 300°F to 500°F range.

In fact, pellet grills such as Traegers have a few temperature settings above 300°F including the “High” setting which reaches 450°F on a Traeger. All of these temperatures are great for searing meat.

Grilling on a Pellet Smoker

Before searing your meat – it’s best to grill or smoke your food so it’s cooked. The sear is a finishing touch that provides beautiful grill marks and a crust like texture to the outside of your meat.

In order to grill on a pellet smoker, make sure to preheat the smoker to the desired cooking temperature with the lid closed.

Pellet grills take time to come up to temperature and having the lid open will make it nearly impossible for the grill to reach your desired cooking temp.

Unlike grilling on a charcoal or propane grill, the lid should be closed when grilling food on a pellet smoker. Keeping the lid closed will allow the meat to cook from all angles instead of just the bottom.

Best Temperatures for Grilling Steaks on Pellet Grills

Below are the recommended cooking temperatures and times for cooking steaks on a pellet grill.

Depending on your preferred steak doneness, the cooking time will change from having a Medium Rare steak to a Well Done steak.

Keep in mind that using a pellet grill with higher temperatures will cause the food to cook faster and not absorb as much of the smoke. So do not expect smoky flavors or smoke rings to develop when cooking food at a higher temperature.

Steak DonenessInternal TemperatureGrill Time Per Side at 400°FCenter Color
Rare120°F-130°F2:30 minRed
Medium Rare130°F-135°F3:30 minPink
Medium135°F-145°F4:30 minSome Pink
Medium Well145°F-155°F5:30 minSlightly Pink
Well Done155°F-165°F6:30 minLittle to No Pink
Very Well Done165°F+8+ minCompletely Brown
(source: Traeger Grills)

Smoking Steaks Before Searing on Pellet Grills

The best method for developing the smoky flavor in a steak while still getting the grill marks is to “reverse sear” the steak.

This method will work for other cuts of steak and other types of meat if you want to:

  1. Get a smoky flavor
  2. Create grill marks on the outside

Follow these steps in order to reverse sear steak:

  1. Smoke the steak at 225°F for an hour or until internal temperature is 110°F
  2. Remove steaks from grill
  3. Crank cooking temperature to 450°F or “High”
  4. Preheat pellet grill for 10 minutes with lid closed
  5. Place steaks back onto grill for 2 to 3 minutes each side

Personally I use the reverse sear method the most when grilling on a pellet smoker since I love smoky BBQ food with a firm texture on the outside.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do pellet grills get hot enough to sear?

A: Pellet grills can get hot enough to sear meat. Pellet grills can sear meat since meat can sear at any temperature above 300°F. Most pellet grills can reach temperatures of 450°F which is the best temperature for searing meat.

Searing on a pellet grill may take a few more seconds or minutes based on the cooking temperature. However, sear marks will develop when cooking meat at a high temperature on a pellet grill.

Q: Do pellet grills leave grill marks?

A: Pellet grills can leave sear and grill marks when the cooking temperature is set to a higher temperature such as 450°F. Generally, food smoked on a pellet grill at lower temperatures such as 225°F will not develop grill marks.

However, cooking food at a higher temperature on a pellet grill will leave grill marks. Allow the pellet grill to preheat for 10 to 15 minutes so that the grill grate becomes hot and can create the grill marks.

Q: Can you grill on a pellet smoker without pellets?

A: Pellet smokers need pellets in order to create heat so it is not possible to grill on a pellet smoker without pellets. This article shows how pellet grills work and why the grill must have pellets in order to create heat.

Q: Can you grill on a Traeger with the lid open?

A: It is possible to grill food on a Traeger with the lid open. However, it is much more efficient to grill on a Traeger with the food closed. Keeping the lid open will cause the Traeger to continue to burn pellets which will cause the bottom of the food to cook whereas all sides of the food can cook at the same time with the lid closed.


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