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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
Everyone loves a deliciously cooked steak with its sweet brown crust and tender meat. However, when you try to sear a steak in a skillet or on a scorching grill top, you produce a serving with an uneven cook and a slightly disappointing taste.
When it comes to pan-searing or grilling a raw, moist steak, it’s difficult to keep the temperature consistent and know when to remove your meat from the heat.
However, if you’re looking for an easy way to produce an exceptionally tender and evenly cooked steak, try the revolutionary reverse searing method. When you adopt this process, you’ll never have to worry about undercooking or burning your premium-grade steak ever again.
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1. Why Should You Reverse Sear a Steak?
Before learning how to reverse sear a steak, it’s worth looking at why you should try adopting this method in your own kitchen.
The reverse searing process consists of slow-cooking a cut of steak before searing it on a hot grill surface, and this unique way of preparing meat has several notable benefits.
Creates a more tender-tasting steak
When you cook your steak over a longer period, you’re basically aging the meat. As the meat ages and heats up, the cathepsin enzymes break down the connective muscle and tissue. This biological process results in more tender-tasting beef.
If you put a raw steak straight into a hot skillet or onto a scorching grill top, you cook the cut a lot quicker and at far higher temperatures. This process means you’re more likely to overcook the meat and render the cathepsin enzymes’ work obsolete. These proteases stop being effective after you’ve heated the meat to beyond 122°F.
Produces a delicious, thick crust
The reverse sear method produces a steak with a gorgeous browning effect. That’s because the initial slow-cooking process dries out the meat’s surface, which means far less moisture evaporates from the steak when you sear it on the grill.
The less surface moisture a cut has when you pop it in the searing pan, the better this meat will brown. The heat from your burners transfers energy to trigger the Maillard reaction, rather than evaporating all the liquid from the steak. The Maillard reaction occurs when the meat’s amino acids react with its reducing sugars, and it results in beautifully browned beef.
Cooks the meat more evenly
You may love heating your steak quickly on a hot grill top, but this way of cooking can result in uneven heating. If you sear meat for a few minutes at a high heat setting on your grill, you’ll create a large temperature gradient. This means there’s a steep difference between that cut’s surface and its center section’s temperature, resulting in a steak with a burned outer layer and an undercooked middle.
Using the reverse sear method reduces this gradient significantly, creating an evenly cooked and tasty result.
It’s the ideal way to cook thick cuts of meat
If you’ve got a premium-grade steak that’s over 2” thick, you’ll find that the reverse searing method is the ideal, simple way to cook this cut to perfection. Too often, people throw chunky cuts of meat onto the grill top and hope for the best. Sometimes this method works out, and other times you’re left with a burnt surface and a raw center.
Reverse searing the steak allows you to keep this beef at an ideal temperature for a longer period, giving you much more control over the entire cooking process.
2. How Do You Reverse Sear a Steak?
The reverse searing method is simple. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown on how to reverse sear a steak to help you get the best results.
Preheat the oven and season the cut
Preheat the oven to 275°F, or turn on half your burners if you’re using an outdoor grill. While these cooking surfaces are heating up, season your steaks with salt and pepper. You could also put these cuts in the fridge for 8-10 hours if you want to dry them out first. Remember that if your meat contains less surface moisture, it will brown better when cooked.
Slow cook the beef
Place your seasoned steak cuts on a grill or rack and slide it into the oven, setting the timer for 15 minutes. When the timer beeps, remove the rack and use a digital thermometer to read the meat’s internal temperature.
Aim to get the beef to a heat that’s 10-15°F lower than your ideal serving temperature. You may have to put the rack back in the oven and keep checking the internal measurements every five minutes until you reach your target heat level.
Here’s a list of the final oven temperatures to aim for depending on how you like your steak:
For rare and medium-rare results, your steaks will be in the oven for between 20-30 minutes and 30-40 minutes for medium, medium-well, and well-done options.
Pan sear the steak at a high heat
Once you’re satisfied with your beef’s internal temperature, heat your skillet or saucepan. Pour a tablespoon of sunflower or canola oil into your skillet. You can also opt for another option that’s well-suited to higher heats, like peanut or safflower oil.
Only add the meat to the frying pan or skillet after the oil has started sizzling. When you place the beef face down into the pan, add a chunk of butter, and use tongs to move the steaks lightly around in the skillet’s base. Cook one side for 45 seconds to a minute, or until it’s brown, then flip each steak onto its other side. Sear the steak’s sides by holding them sideways against the pan.
Char-grill the steak
Once you’ve seared the steaks, remove them from the heat and tent them in foil to prevent the meat from burning. While the steak is resting, turn on all the burners underneath your grill top, add more charcoal, or turn your stove burner on high. Take the foil off the beef, and cook the steaks over a high heat for a minute or so until it develops a nice, crispy char. Flip the cuts regularly to avoid burning the meat’s surface.
If you want to produce a tender, flavorful, and evenly cooked steak, try the reverse searing method. This process is simple to follow and allows you to grill thick cuts of meat while locking in the moisture and still getting the crispy, sizzling exterior of a delicious and well-prepared steak.