Reverse Sear is simply THE BEST way to cook a steak, both low and slow and hot and fast to get the perfect balance of tenderness and flavor crust. This detailed guide walks through the various styles of reverse sear techniques for a smoker and grill.
- Definition of Reverse Sear
- Reverse Searing in a Smoker – Our Favorite!!!
- Reverse Searing in an Oven
- Best Recipes for Reverse Sear
What is Reverse Sear?
Reverse Sear is a method of cooking meat at a low temperature first, followed by finishing the meat at a high sear until desired finishing temperature. The method is adapted from restaurants where a chef will start a steak in a pan over high heat, to get the initial sear, and then finish in the oven until the meat is done. Hence why the method is called “reverse sear,” as it’s essentially the opposite way they are cooked in a typical restaurant.
How to Reverse Sear on a Grill (or Smoker)
This is the best way to cook a steak. We don’t say that lightly and we know that simply grilling a steak is great. But when you add the smoke element it truly elevates the flavor. The steps to get the best steak in the reverse sear method are as follows:
- Season – Season the meat first.
- Smoke – Cooking between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit (F) until the internal temperature of the meat slowly comes close to the desired finishing temperature. We target 10 degrees cooler than our desired target. So if we want a steak rare, we pull the meat off the smoker when the internal temperature of the meat ranges between 110 and 115 F so that we can finish to 125 F during final searing.
- Sear – Remove the steak from the smoker, and use a high heat source to finish the meat. This can be either a grill or a cast iron pan. It’s OK to let the steak rest while the pan or grill comes up to the high heat temperature. The key is using a source (either the hot grill or hot pan) to sear the meat to lock in that flavor and get a nice sear on the outside of the steak.
- Rest – Very important component is to remove the meat from the sear step and let the meat rest for 10 – 15 minutes to allow the meat to go through carry over cooking and let the cells pull the moisture back into the meat for a juicy and flavorful steak.
How to Reverse Sear in an Oven
The same principal applies to the oven as the grill and smoker. Start by seasoning the meat and place in an oven at lower heat, 225 degrees F. Add the meat to the oven until the internal temperature reaches 10 degrees less than your desired finishing temperature. Remove from the oven and then finish the steak over high heat in a pan on the stove top.
Then let it rest 10 minutes, slice and serve.
Best Thermometers for this Method
When reverse searing a steak or chop, pulling the steak when it reaches the correct internal temperature is critical. To best do this, leverage two important tools to monitor both the ambient temperature of your smoker, as well as the internal temperature of the meat.
Thermoworks Smoke Unit – This unit is designed to monitor two zones while cooking. One probe will monitor the ambient temperature of your smoker, the other probe will go into your meat. This is the best way to know exactly when to pull the meat off the smoker and is best suited to use during the smoking phase of reverse sear.
Thermoworks MK4 Thermapen – We have used this instant read thermometer for years. It is hands down the fastest and most precise thermometer in the market. When reverse searing or grilling, this is the important tool to use when finishing over high heat to make sure the meat is pulled at precisely the right time when it is done.
Our Recommended Temperatures for Cooking a Steak
- Rare: 120-130 degrees F
- Medium Rare: 130-140 degrees F
- Medium: 140-150 degrees F
- Medium Well: 150-160 degrees F
- Well Done: 160 degrees F AND not recommended for a good quality steak
Reverse Seared Recipes
Reverse Seared Steaks
- 4 2-inch thick steaks Ribeye and NY Strip work great
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup steak seasoning
- Preheat Smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit with your favorite wood. While smoker warms up, coat the steaks with olive oil and a generous amount of steak seasoning.
- Place steak in smoker for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 115 – 120 degrees F for a rare steak. Then increase the temperature to 500 degrees Fahrenheit on your grill or smoker. Alternatively you can finish over cast iron on the stove top if using an offset smoker.
- Place steaks over direct heat and grill each side for 3 – 4 minutes or until you get nice char marks. Pull the steaks when the internal temperature of the steak is between 125 and 130 degrees F.
- Let rest for 10 minutes and then slice against the grains. Serve with your favorite sides.
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