Hailed as the ultimate way to cook a perfect medium-rare steak, it’s easy to learn how to cook the Reverse Sear method, and rock steakhouse quality cooking at home. Even better – reverse sear method works every time.
You may have heard of this “reverse sear” method. It might be the biggest thing to happen to steak since the discovery of the ribeye. The reason reverse sear has gathered SO much attention, is that it’s a near infallible way to cook a steak perfectly, every single time. It also works on larger pieces of red meat. Traditionally, a restaurant method of cooking steak involved searing over incredibly high heat, then transferring to an oven to finish on a more gentle heat until done. The reverse sear method pretty much just flips the order.
How does reverse sear method work?
The basic idea is that with reverse sear, you can have extreme control over the doneness of your steak, achieving a perfect edge to edge medium rare without any gray or overcooked gradient. It works because you’re using low heat to cook the meat gently, then giving it a very brief HOT sear at the end, so the inside ends up perfect. So really, reverse sear is cooking via LOW heat, and then briefly applying HIGH heat to finish.
You can use any apparatus for reverse searing, as long as it’s low heat then high heat.
That’s right. Reverse sear is the technique, NOT the equipment. As long you as you apply low heat for the majority of the cook, then finish with high heat, that’s reverse searing. So, the low heat could be from a smoker, indirect grill, low oven or sous vide. And the high heat could be from a hot cast iron pan, blazing charcoal or a 500f oven. As long as you pair one with the other, you can reverse sear.
Why temperature is so important when it comes to cooking steak.
Truth be told, I actually prefer the JKF method for steak cooking, but there’s no denying this is the easiest cook method to achieve a perfect medium/medium-rare throughout. If you wanna get super meat-nerd about it, consider removing the steak about 3-5 degrees before it reaches doneness, as it will continue to cook slightly from residual heat during resting.
Internal Temperature Guide:
- Rare: 125-130 f
- Medium Rare: 130-135 f
- Medium: 140-145 f
- Well done: 155+ f (if you’re cooking to this degree of doneness, you really don’t need to reverse sear in the first place!)
You will definitely need a meat thermometer to do this correctly – the ‘ol palm pinch test is not gonna cut it here! Back in the day I used to use a cheapie stick-thermometer, until I started noticing bad inconsistencies and realised it wasn’t calibrated. When there’s just a few degrees difference between rare and medium, you can’t risk it! These days, I prefer to use a Thermapen which has an instant read and takes the temp off the very thin tip of the probe. That means less heat loss if I’m opening the grill or smoker to check something, and no nasty huge probe marks. Put it this way, investing once in perfectly cooked meat is cheaper than ruining your nice quality steaks!
Size matters! Reverse sear only works on thick cut meat.
This is an important point – the piece of meat needs to be at least 1.5 inches thick for the reverse sear method to work. It will not work on minute steaks or any thinner cuts of meat. You will just end up overcooking the meat. However, you can use this method on anything bigger than 1.5 inches thick – even up to a whole prime rib roast.
Reverse sear method also means you can eat your steak right away.
Though it ultimately takes longer to cook with reverse sear than other methods, it’s ready to eat immediately because you’ve rested the steak prior to the sear – so you can eat it nice’n’hot! I use an oven/heavy cast iron pan to reverse sear, but you can definitely experiment with a smoking/grilling combo too. If you’re looking for an extra secret weapon to help you achieve an incredible crust and appearance on the sear, you wanna check out this Hardcore Carnivore rub. It has activated charcoal IN the rub, so gives you a great appearance before you have even seared, which can help avoid overcooking.
I’ve put instructions for the oven method after the pics, but it’s translatable to any equipment or apparatus. If you’d rather see how to do the reverse sear method on a charcoal grill, check this out.