Reverse Searing Steak: What Is It? How Do You Do It?

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If you’re unfamiliar with reverse-searing steak, you’re in for a treat. While the history of when this technique started is up for debate, there’s no denying that it is an innovative entry in the culinary art of steak preparation.

So, why would you want to reverse-sear your steak, and just what exactly does it mean, anyway? We’re going to answer that and a whole lot more. Plus, you’ll learn what it takes to make this technique work so that you can get the most from your meat.

What Does It Mean to Reverse Sear a Steak?

If you flip through the pages of cookbooks from yesteryear, you’ll find a common theme among them when it comes to preparing your steaks: sear first. For the longest time, it was widely agreed on that going so served to lock in the steaks’ juices, thus ensuring a delectable cut of meat.

Fast-forward to today, and you’ll find a variety of opinions on which method is the best. The truth is, it didn’t take long for steak connoisseurs to figure out that searing actually didn’t lock in juices at all. In fact, all searing really does is help add flavor to the steak.

As such, the technique of reverse-searing was born. At its core, reverse-searing is exactly as it sounds; instead of searing your steak at the start of its preparation, you sear it at the very end. And in doing so, you truly allow your steak’s juices to stay locked in.

Reverse-searing effectively serves to give you better results in the cooking process. This is because your steak enjoys a better temperature gradient from the outside-in. As such, you can look forward to more even heating throughout.

That’s a really big deal in cooking, perhaps especially so when it comes to steaks. You see, whenever you apply a lot of direct heat to your steak (i.e., searing), you are actually causing it to cook unevenly. This effect is due to the rate of speed at which the heat the applied. In short, faster heating means uneven heating.

For everything from a filet to a ribeye to a tomahawk steak, that’s a big no-no. Fortunately, reverse-searing serves to correct this oversight, thereby ensuring that you end up with a steak you’re pleased to have on your plate. Reverse-searing allows you to take your time cooking your steak.

Since the searing comes at the end of the cooking process, by the time you’re ready to sear, your steak is evenly cooked throughout. And when you begin the cooking process at a low temperature, you’re left with virtually no overcooked meat anywhere in your steak.

As such, your steak is juicier than ever, and thus, more delectable than ever.

How to Reverse Sear Your Steak

Now that you know how important it is to ditch the sear-first method of steak preparation, you’re probably chomping at the bit to give the reserve-searing steak technique a try. But be warned; once you’ve eaten a reverse-seared steak, you’re unlikely to look at steak the same way.

This method can spoil you quickly, as you’re about to discover. So with that, let’s proceed to the proceedings and get to searing in reverse. If you’re used to preparing your steaks in a skillet on the stove, that’s all going to change.

Instead, you want to start by heating your steak in the oven. As we’ve already discussed, the searing comes later. The heat from the oven serves a very important role in the preparation of your soon-to-be-reverse-seared steak.

Moisture is a steak’s worst enemy in the reverse-searing technique. That’s why you first need to dry out any unwanted moisture in the oven. In doing so, your steak will sear like a champ when the time comes.

Inside your oven, the relatively low heat is slowly and evenly heating your steak. This is a big deal, too, as it ensures proper heating throughout the steak. And if you recall our talk from a moment ago, even heat makes all the difference in the final product.

You’re not only afforded even heat but more control over your heat, as well. If you’ve ever struggled with unappealing grey edges on your steaks, that problem is about to be a thing of the past. What’s more, you’ll discover a pink consistency throughout the inside of your steak.

All of what’s just been described above is what’s going on inside your oven when you prepare your steak this way. Even if you’re cooking a thick-cut steak, the initial oven heating portion of the process affords you all the time you need without fear of overcooking your steak.

First Things First

It should be noted that choosing thicker cuts of steak will lead to the best reverse-searing results. At the very least, you should be working with a 1 to 1 ½-inch-thick steak. Anything thinner than that will result in your steak getting cooked too soon.

When you have the piece of steak selected that you want to reverse-sear, start by placing your oven rack in the centermost position. Directly below that needs to be another oven rack, preferably in the third-lowest position.

  • Now you’re ready to preheat your oven to 275°F. Then, place a large cast-iron skillet in your oven so that it can preheat. Doing so will help expedite the searing portion of the reverse-searing process later on.
  • Next, grab a baking sheet and line it with foil. On top of the foil needs to be a wire rack.
  • Using paper towels, thoroughly dry the surface of your steak or steaks. The goal here is to remove any and all unwanted moisture. If you remember, this will assist in the searing process when it comes time.
  • When ready, place the steaks on top of the wire rack and season as desired (both sides).
  • Now you’re ready to cook your steak in the oven. It’s a good idea to have an instant-read thermometer handy so that you can periodically check the internal temperature of your steaks.
  • You’ll need to do this about every 5 minutes. Initially, however, you need to allow the steak to cook for 15 minutes at 275°F. Then, you need to check every 5 minutes. When checking the internal temperature, always check the thickest part of the steak.
  • If you want a medium-rare steak, the temperature goal needs to be between 90°F and 95°F.
  • For a medium steak, the temperature goal needs to be between 100°F and 105°F.
  • Once your thermometer displays your desired temperature, you’re ready to head to the stovetop for the searing portion. Remember, you’re not completely cooking your steak in the oven. The remaining cooking takes place on the stove, not in it.

Finish On a Cast Iron Skillet or the Grill

After your steak slow cooks in the oven, it’s time for the sear.  My preferred method is to do this in a cast iron pan, but you can of course do this on the grill too.  If you choose to utilize your grill, just be sure to preheat your grill to a scorching hot temperature for the sear.

  • Take your preheated cast-iron skillet out of the oven and place it on a burner. Crank the heat up to high and wait for the skillet to get completely hot.
  • When ready, add oil to the hot skillet. You want to make sure that you use a brand of oil that has a high smoke point. Vegetable oil works well, but you’re welcome to use whatever suits you best.
  • You are now ready to take your steak off of the wire rack and place it into the hot skillet. Sear each side of your steak in the hot oil for approximately 2 minutes.
  • You may need to adjust this time depending on the internal temperature you’re trying to reach. As such, you’ll need to keep checking your steak’s internal temperature using your instant-read thermometer.
  • An ideal internal temperature for reverse-seared, medium-rare steaks is around 120°F to 125°F. If you’re shooting for medium steaks, heat the internal temperature to 130°F.
  • This next step is completely optional. Add a tablespoon of butter at the end of the searing portion. This is done to give you something to baste your steak with. When the butter is fully melted, use a spoon to scoop it up and pour it over your freshly-seared steak.
  • This will not only help with flavoring but also to enhance the browning of your steak.
  • Finally, you’re ready to sear the sides of your steak. Do so for anywhere between 30 and 60 seconds per side. This step helps to render the fat on your steak.

Final Step

Now that your steak is fully cooked and seared to perfection, it’s time to let it rest. It’s understandable that you want to dig right in, but you need to allow a few minutes for the moisture inside of the steak to redistribute.

Take the steak out of the cast-iron skillet and place it on a clean plate. You might prefer to place it on a wire rack to cool before transferring it to your plate. If you choose to do so, make sure that the wire rack is not the same that you used to cook your steak on (unless you’ve thoroughly washed it, of course).

Wait between 5 and 10 minutes. By doing this, you’re letting the internal temperature rise even further. When finished, you will have a perfectly warm, nicely cooked, and properly-seared steak to enjoy!