Learn how to Reverse Sear Ribeye Steak for the greatest steak you’ll ever have!
Reverse sear is an incredible way to cook a steak. Smoke at a low temperature for that unique wood smoke flavor, and then finish your steak hot and fast on your grill for the perfect crust at the perfect temperature every single time. Check out this guide as well, it can be applied to any meat.
There are so many ways to cook a steak. On the grill, the stovetop, in a stew, in the oven, to name a few. But have you tried something referred to as the reverse sear method? It’s a pretty popular thing right now, and for darn good reason.
What is Reverse Sear Cooking?
Let me explain. When you google “perfectly cooked steak,” what you will typically see is the more traditional restaurant method, which is where the meat is seared hot and then finished in the oven to finish cooking. But what I want to share is something that adds incredible flavor and allows you to finish with that beautiful crusted texture. The reverse sear. And better yet, the SMOKED reverse sear.
And here you thought you couldn’t achieve a perfectly cooked steak on a smoker?!
The idea is, instead of sear first then finish in the oven, you smoke it first at a low temperature to get the smoky flavor, and then finish it by searing (either on a grill or hot stovetop skillet) for the beautiful and flavorful crust. But first, let’s talk about…
The Best Cut for Reverse Sear: Ribeye Steaks
While the reverse sear works for any cut of meat, in this case I find it best with steak. And the thicker the cut of steak — like filet, ribeye steak, porterhouse, cowboy cut, or New York strip – the better. These thicker cuts can take on more smoke, which equates to more flavor without the meat cooking to finished temperature too soon, which could result in an overcooked steak.
For a ribeye look for at least 1 ½ inches thick. Ask your butcher if they can cut it for you. We love Snake River Farms American Wagyu Ribeyes or their Double R Ranch Prime Ribeyes. Amazing flavor!
How To Season a Steak
Season simply with salt and pepper. That’s it. Nothing more is needed for a good cut of beef (OK, maybe a little granulated garlic too). And if you’re going to invest your money in a quality cut of meat (which is what we always recommend), why drown out those natural flavors with noise (aka too much seasoning). Good meat doesn’t need it. S&P is all you need.
You can use prime, wagyu, or something local. The key is to look for good marbling. We salted this cut on both sides lightly and then left in the fridge for a quick dry brine over a couple of hours. The salt disappears as it is absorbed into the meat.
How to Reverse Sear A Ribeye
It all starts with smoking at a low temperature for flavor and then finishing on high heat for that sear. This is a similar concept to sous vide cooking (which is also all the rage right now for good reason), only done on the smoker (no sous vide appliances necessary). This is also a similar method to these friggin’ amazing smoked burgers with chorizo and smoked poblanos. Those burgers were smoked at low heat and then finished on a hot grill for that irresistible sear.
What Temperature do you Reverse Sear Ribeye?
First we get the smoker preheated to 225 degrees (F). And you slowly bring the internal temperature of your meat up while smoking, until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 110 degrees (F). (Note we like our beef rare or cooked to 125 – 127, if you are more a medium rare, take the smoke internal temperature up to 120 degrees).
You’re not trying to cook the steak completely for this step, you’re just adding a layer of incredible flavor while slowly and steadily warming up the meat. Depending on the thickness of the cut this should take around an hour – but temperature is king here! Always cook to temp, not time. This is where it’s vital to have a good thermometer.
For something like this, we use an instant-read thermometer, like the Thermapen MK4 (pictured). You don’t want to mess around with something that’s going to take a long time to get a proper reading, not after you’ve already invested in a good cut of meat and not to mention the time it has taken you to cook.
Once your meat hits the 110 degree mark (or 120 for the end temp if you’re going for medium rare), that’s when you move the steak over direct heat and finish to get that sear mark. (We moved ours from the smoker to the Weber kettle grill that we have nice and hot while the meat was smoking. You can use whatever grill you have that can get hot hot hot.)
Alternatively, you can finish the steak on a hot cast iron pan if you don’t want to heat up a second grill (or if your smoker doesn’t get that hot). Just smoke the meat to 110, then transfer it to your hot cast iron pan over the stovetop.
What temperature is Ribeye Done?
I like my steak rare to medium rare so I remove it at 125 – 130 degrees Fahrenheit at the center. So once the internal temperature reaches your desired doneness, let it sit for a few minutes for the juices to redistribute and tent it with foil. It’ll also keep cooking a little bit with that residual heat.
- 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)
How To Reverse Sear On A Gas Grill
- On a three or more burner grill, turn on one burner to low or medium-low heat.
- Place wood chips in a foil pouch on the grill grates over the flame.
- Place meat on the indirect side. Close lid. Try to keep the temperature of the gas grill under 250 degrees, it’s tough as they have a lot of venting, so adjust your flame as needed. When the meat’s internal temperature reaches 110 degrees, you can remove the foil wood pouch.
- Next, crank up the heat to high and finish with that sear. (Note: It is likely you will replace the foil pouch a few times.)
- Remove when the internal temperature of the meat is to your desired doneness.
Side Dishes for Steak Dinner
Reverse Sear Ribeye Steak Recipe
What if I only have a smoker, and no grill?
If you have a hard time getting your smoker to a sear temperature, have no fear. Just finish it on a cast iron pan over high heat. Get the cast iron pan hot, you know it’s hot enough when you add extra virgin olive oil to the pan and it is slightly bubbly and smoking just before you put the steak on. Sear each side for 2 -3 minutes or until the steak comes to the temperature you like.
More Reverse Sear resources
*This recipe was originally published in May 2016, and updated in May 2020 with some updated information. The recipe remains the same.
***While this post does contain affiliate links, it is not a sponsored post at all, nor were we paid by anybody to write this! We are just huge fans of these thermometers and have been using our own Thermapen for years. Whether a Thermapen or not, we truly believe a good thermometer is absolutely essential for grilling and smoking meat, especially using a method like reverse sear! Your perfectly cooked meat will thank you (and so will the friends you serve it to).
If you like this recipe we’d truly appreciate it if you would give this recipe a star review! And if you share any of your pics on Instagram use the hashtag #vindulge. We LOVE to see it when you cook our recipes.
I have been reverse searing for years.
I have discovered that using a wireless probe thermometer like Meater makes cooking so simple. This brand thermometer even predicts when your steak will get to 110 degrees. When it does get there I remove the Meater and use an MK4 to get to 5 degrees below desired finish temperature due to carry-over heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes and allow juices to redistribute. I also presalt the steaks with kosher salt at least a couple of hours prior to cooking and preferably 24 hours prior.
Les S says
Nice write up. I do however wish, if you were going to give such a great recommendation for $100 steak, you should’ve took the same effort to give a counter recommendation for a working class budget. You guys are great, but sometimes I feel you only give recommendations for products that the average Joe can’t always afford and you give no budget friendly recommendations….why not both?
Greg L. says
This was a great and simple recipe. Thank you!!
Excellent! Was recently wondering about this idea, and wallah, here it is.
I loved the run and was very pleased with the results. Definitely worth the time!
Teddy johnson says
I kept smoker at 220 and when I checked 30 minutes later it was past temp….. you should mention if you have a cheap little smoker do the time you said but other wise check on temp.
Trey D says
Same thing happened to me. Keep an eye on these.
I have a 3.3lb two bone ribeye. I am thinking of smoking as one piece of meat roast. Will this work? How long should I plan to smoke? Thanks.
Sean Martin says
Mark that will totally work as one roast. If smoking, I would plan 90 minutes for it to come to 110 internal temperature. 2 hours if you take it to 130. Then sear.
Smoked reverse sear is a winner!
Tonight I did 2 ribeyes in this manner. Smoked to 100 internal temp, then set aside while pellet grill got to 450 and then seared each side for 3 minutes. Internal temp was 125 to 130 before tenting. Inside was middle pink with a nice crust. Sorry to be heathenly, but all we had was cabernet in a box!.
Sean Martin says
Awesome!!! And I am sure the CAB in a box was great! We have a box of pink wine in the fridge right now!
Cathy Lee says
Can I smoke the rib eye the day before and grill right before serving?
Sean Martin says
Cathy yes, you can if you can’t time it. But I would be sure you pull from smoke and then add right away to the fridge to cool it down. Then before grilling, take it out of fridge to come closer to room temp then put on high heat.
Martha Michelsen says
I made this last night. Followed the recipe exactly using a pellet smoker and finishing on the grill. It was amazing!
Sean Martin says
Yeah!!! Thanks for the feedback!!
Charlotte Burton says
I found this article/recipe while trying to find a way to cook a huge standing rib roast(8 bone) for Christmas dinner. I want the meat to have a nice, smoky grill flavor but I like the way the roasts have that nice, crusty exterior when they have been cooked at a high temp in the oven first then finished off in a lower temp oven. How can I achieve that? Would this method work? I would love to know your thoughts and the exact steps I should take.
Charlotte, great question. We have a smoked prime rib recipe that doesn’t quite get you to that crusty exterior. So I would consider the reverse sear method. Because you have such a large rib roast, I would smoke it first (that way the smoke gets into the rib roast). At about 110 internal temp at the center of the roast, Pull it, and then sear.
Because you have an 8 pound monster! (jealous here) I would get the grill really hot and set up an indirect/direct method of coals. You can put the rib roast over direct heat and kind of roll it for a good crust and move to indirect heat and cover for a few minutes to let it further caramelize.
That should get you the best of both worlds. They key is pulling from smoke early, like 110 – 115 so you can grill it and not overcook it while grilling. That is going to need some big tongs!!! If you just go direct, I fear it may overcook the outside, so get the crust you like, then move to the indirect side to finish.
Going to try this on a London Broil and on the rare side, maybe with some different marinades just for fun.
OHHHHH please let us know how it goes with the broil!!!
I am going to be trying this technique tomorrow for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, my in-laws like medium well steaks, and I like mine mid-rare. How would you recommend timing this so everyone eats at the same time and nobody has a cold steak?
I have 2″ thick NY strips, planning on the smoking portion in an offset smoker @ 225 and finishing on screaming hot LP.
Hopefully someone reads this and can reply in time!
Chris, What I recommend, is to do the reverse sear to each persons liking in advance. So for yours, cook it to 110 to 115 and cook the other closer to 140 internal temp. Yours will take 45 minutes to an hour, theirs may take 90 minutes. Then you can sear off the finish at the exact same time by planning that rough timeframe.
Another option is to smoke first. Then you can put into the fridge. When you are ready for dinner, you can pull them out about 30 minutes ahead of time, and then you can sear them in a pan, so they are done at the exact same time. Putting into the fridge will halt the cooking process quickly and retain moisture. It won’t be as juicy as say, fresh off the grill, but it is an option.
(I’ll withhold judgement as they are your in-laws 😉 we have to make our in-laws happy!)
Have smoked the tender beef cuts for years — T-bone, porterhouse, prime rib et al — BEFORE grilling or roasting; never been disappointed. But I’ve never referred to the process as “reverse sear”.
I concur that temperature is key and IT of > 135º F will begin to noticeably dry out and toughen these cuts. Once you hit 135º F in the thickest area of the cut — at uniform distance(s) from the heat source — you’ve likely already dried and toughened the thinner portions of the cut, and hastened the evaporation of fluids so vital to flavor. Key takeaway: Do not overcook.
Nailed it exactly! And while we will never criticize those who like a well done steak, we strongly encourage folk to try it a little more rare or medium rare to see how that adds to the flavor!
The Engineer says
I tried this technic today. Ribeye was boneless @ 1.75″_Salt/Pepper/GarlicPowder.
Cheap big box smoker <150$
Kept temp @ 220 for 1 hour, let steak sit 5-10 minutes
Seared over burning wood with flames for 2 minutes each side
STEAK WAS INCREDIBLE!!!!
Maybe next time I pull it off about 10 minutes sooner, maybe…
That’s great feedback! We’re so happy to hear that. And you know, that’s exactly what I made my husband yesterday for Father’s Day! This very recipe 🙂 Great minds think alike!!
Thanks for the great recipe, but I found that smoking at 150 didn’t render the fat very well. The two times I tried it I smoked at 150 for about an hour and a half then seared at about 500 for a minute and a half a side. How hot should I smoke to render the fat a bit better. Or do you have any other tips for that.
Jeff, you bring up a great point and we just updated the recipe, thanks for the comment! We have since become bigger fans of smoking at 225 degrees. We actually don’t try to render too much of the fat, as the fat will take on a lot of the smoke flavor. We do trim fat where needed, especially on a rib eye, when we start removing the side fat. Then the edges still have a little fat for flavor.
Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂 ropqq
Roughly how long should the smoking stage take? Seems like it might be a while, even with leaving it out for twenty minutes prior.
Chris, it will depend on your cut of meat and thickness. If you run your smoke temperature at 225 to 250 a 1 1/2 inch cut of ribeye will likely take about an hour. You want to really focus on temp. Look for pulling the meat when the internal temp hits 110. Then put on your screeching hot sear until the internal temp hits 125 for rare. (that’s how we like it) If you are a medium rare (135) then smoke until the internal temp is 120. The key is not to smoke to the finished temperature, it’s to finish to your temperature during the sear.
Mary, What about smoking, cooling and then searing at a later time/date? Maybe even freeze?
Brian, personally i try not to freeze (or buy pre frozen) meat because it damages the cellular structure of the meat. I know I can’t always do that, but that’s why I don’t freeze. That said, you can definitely pre smoke and then finish at a later date. I would bring the pre smoked meat to a room temperature before cooking. If you sear right from the fridge it takes longer and you run the risk of pushing beyond your desired doneness. Hope that helps!
We use the reverse sear method when we smoke prime rib (save the bones for soup!). How long do you think the ribeyes could be held in a post-smoke, pre-sear state?
Jack black says
3 mins 😛
I’ve never heard of the reverse sear before, but I definitely want to eat it! And I’m glad you addressed the corn that I saw aside in your pic because I started to really want that too! Corn with a little char is the best way to have corn I think!
I’ve never heard of this technique. But I did make a corn-black bean salad at the beginning of the week to go with tortilla soup, and it was phenomenal!
Suzannah Stanley says
Oooh, yum!! I’ve never heard of a “reverse sear” but this recipe sounds simple and delicious! I’m looking forward to grilling this season!