It is very hard to beat a delicious steak from a quality American prime steakhouse such as Morton's, Ruths' Chris, and Gibsons. These restaurants do not cook their steaks on a grill, but under a 1200 f degree broiler, which quickly seals in the juices and creates an extremely flavorful exterior crust in a matter of minutes.
The reality is that very few homes are equipped with this type of cooker, making duplicating these results for the average person very difficult. There is however a very inexpensive method whereby you can achieve similar results in your backyard, with as little as a $50 investment.
Charcoal 'chimney starters' are a very useful $20 tool that eliminate the need for petroleum and chemical-based charcoal starting fluids, which are expensive, smelly, and can add off-flavors to your food.
A simple Weber Smoky Joe costs about $25 dollars at any home or hardware store, and with these two pieces of equipment, even an amateur griller can achieve steakhouse quality results, and for a fraction of what it would cost in the most popular restaurants.
One needs to start with the best quality meat possible. If you can afford U.S.D.A Prime grade, which at times can be a bit difficult to find, you will get the finest results.
A.J.'s here in the Phoenix area is one place that always carries Prime grade meat, but it can also be found at some Safeway, Frys and Albertsons' grocery stores as well. If you are lucky enough to live near a quality butcher store, which are fast becoming extinct, they are often the best option.
Good results can also be had with U.S.D.A. Choice grade meat but be choosy, searching for the cut with the most marbling (fat) within the meat grain, which cooks out, but keeps the steak juicy and provides major flavor. Avoid using U.S.D.A. Select grade meat.
With your chimney starter, grill with which to place it on, and quality steak at hand, now it is time to talk charcoal. Natural lump charcoal is what you want to use for this application.
Beside being free from chemicals and binders, it burns much hotter than briquettes, of which Kingsford is the most popular. I prefer mesquite hardwood charcoal, but any lump charcoal will be delicious.
Fill the chimney starter about half full with the lump charcoal, put just two pieces of newspaper under it, place it on the bottom grate of your charcoal grill, place the top grate above the charcoal, (this will clean the grate with the intense heat) and give it a light. Within ten minutes you should have a raging hot fire, much like the one in the picture.
At this point, put the seasoned steak (I like just coarse salt and fresh ground pepper) under the fire, where you placed the newspaper to start it, so that the steak is cooked from the top (broiled). You may need to brush away some newspaper ash first.
If you are a fan of grill marks, excellent results can be had by placing it on the grate above the flames as well. The intense heat concentrated in the chimney starter closely replicates that of the broilers in fine steakhouses, and after three or four minutes per side (depending on the thickness of the steak) you should have a beautiful medium rare. Start with room temperature steak, left on the counter for at least an hour under cling film for the best results. There is not an enormous amount of room under the chimney starter, so you may need to cook the steaks one at a time.
Always allow the steak to rest for about ten minutes prior to cutting in, to allow the juices to redistribute in the meat, and not flow all over your plate.
There you have it, easy peasy Prime Steakhouse quality at a fraction of the price, and you don't have to pay $7 for the al a carte baked potato either!