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How To Reverse Sear a Steak

How To Reverse Sear a Steak

Reverse searing has been taking the steak world by storm for some time now and for a good reason.

Reverse searing gives you the perfect amount of doneness with a deliciously rich, deep brown crust.

What Is Reverse Searing?

Reverse sear refers to a two-step cooking method that is used most often to cook steaks.

It involves cooking your steak in the oven and allowing it to reach your desired temperature.

Cooking the steak using indirect heat prevents the steak from being overcooked, giving you a perfectly cooked steak.

Next, the steak is seared in a hot skillet until it is perfectly browned.

Due to the Maillard reaction, cooking the steak using direct heat creates the most beautiful crust.

If you want to know how to sear a steak, check out our in-depth guide.

Why Should You Reverse Sear Your Steak?

The reason why it’s called reverse sear is that it literally turns the traditional way of cooking steak upside down.

The idea behind searing steaks is that it seals in the juices.

However, the biggest benefit of searing steaks is it adds flavor to ranch or Denver steaks. In turn, reverse searing creates a better end result.

Even Cooking

Have you ever cut into a tomahawk steak and noticed some parts were more cooked than others?

Whether you are smoking brisket, cooking ribs 3-2-1 style, or reverse searing steak temperature is important.  As the meat cooks, energy transference occurs.

Essentially, the higher the heat you use to cook a steak, the more energy is transferred, which causes your steak to cook unevenly.

In contrast, reverse searing a steak cooks it gently, which means it cooks evenly.

Cooking the steaks in the oven using a low temperature almost guarantees you will have no overcooked parts of the steak, and you will end up with a juicy moist steak.

Superior Browning

Ever cooked a porterhouse steak that had some spots that browned more than others?

Searing a steak aims to create a rich brown crust that makes the moist pink meat underneath pop.

To accomplish the perfect sear, the Maillard reaction has to occur.

This reaction involves a series of chemical reactions that happen when proteins and sugars in meat come into contact with high heat.

Essentially the pan has to be hot enough to cause moisture to evaporate, which triggers the Maillard reaction.

Moisture will not evaporate from the steaks surface until it has a temperature of 212°F.

In the same way, the Maillard reaction will not occur until the steak has a temperature of 300°F.

Ultimately, moisture will prevent you from achieving the perfect steak.

Reducing the moisture on the steaks surface increases the chances that it will brown easier.

In addition to this, ensuring the steak is dry will also decrease the chances that it will overcook while it is being cooked.

Reverse searing removes as much moisture as possible from the surface of the steaks.

This occurs because as the steaks cook gently in the oven, its exterior dries out, creating a surface that browns quickly.

If you want to sear brown your steak even more, place your steak onto a wire rack set over a rimmed cookie sheet.

Place your steak into the fridge overnight uncovered.

The cool air that circulates in the refrigerator will dehydrate the steaks’ exterior surface.

When you desire a reverse seared steak, you can place the entire rack into the oven and cook it to perfection.

Tender Meat

In the case of searing steak, reverse searing creates a more tender steak due to enzymatic tenderization.

Whether it is pork butt or pork shoulder, all meats have compounds known as cathepsins.

The enzymes are responsible for breaking down proteins tough muscles.

These enzymes are also credited with making dry-aged steaks super tender.

Unfortunately, storing steak in the fridge does not help the development of cathepsins much.

The fridge’s temperature causes these enzymes to develop so slowly that meat has to be dry-aged for 4 weeks.

In contrast, as the steak heats up, the potential of cathepsins increases quicker until it ceases at 122°F.

Gradually allowing your steak to come up to temperature in the oven quickly ages it creating a more tender steak than traditionally seared steaks.

Steaks cooked the old-fashioned way quickly reach a temperature of 122°F. Therefore cathepsins have no effect on the tenderness of the steak.


Searing steak at a higher temperature gives you a small time frame to cook your steak to medium-rare.

Although most people make it seem easy to sear a steak, the truth is if you cook for 1 minute too long, the steak will be tough and dry.

If you cook your steak one minute too quickly, then it will be as raw as a blue rare steak.

In contrast, because the reverse searing technique cooks the steak slowly in the oven, that time frame increases drastically.

The bigger the time frame, the more room you have to cook your steak to a perfect medium-rare.

Disadvantages of Reverse-searing Steak

No good cooking technique comes without its disadvantages. Reverse searing is no different; it is certainly not all roses and perfume.

There are 3 major drawbacks of reverse searing steak: time, lack of fond, and it is not compatible with thin steaks.

Reverse searing takes time. It takes less time to season your steak and plop it into a hot pan, and turn it periodically until it is cooked.

The entire reverse searing process takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

Fond is the residue or brown bits that cl to the pan after searing meat or vegetables on the stove. Unfortunately, the reverse searing process creates little to no fond.

Because there is no fond to deglaze and add flavor to the sauce, if you desire a sauce for your steak, you would have to make it from scratch.

Nevertheless, reverse steak does not need a sauce.

The last drawback of the reverse searing method is that it is incompatible with thin steaks.

Steaks thinner than 1 1/2 inches will cook too quickly, resulting in a dry, tough steak instead of a tender steak.

Remember, this method is compatible with cuts of beef bigger than 1 1/2-inches.

Even a bottom round roast will work with this method. If you cannot find a steak that is 1 1/2 inches in thickness, choose a 1-inch steak.

What’s the Best Steak To Reverse Sear?

As mentioned above, all steaks are not suitable for reverse searing. The ideal steaks for reverse searing are ribeye, T-bone, strip steak, porterhouse, Tomahawk, and T-bone steaks.

These steaks are thicker, which means they will not dry out.

Recommended Steak Cooking Temperatures

Reverse searing is the perfect way to create a medium or medium-rare steak. Although you should cook your steak to the recommended temperatures, you can remove it 3-5 degrees before it reaches your desired temperature.

Because of carryover cooking, the residual heat will continue to cook the steak while it is resting.

For a rare steak, aim for a temperature between 125°F-130°F. A medium-rare steak ranges between 130°F-135°F, while a medium steak has a temperature between 140°F-145°F.

Although a well-done steak is not recommended, if you must, a well-done steak has a temperature of 155°F or above.

How To Reverse Sear a Steak

Reverse searing is a relatively easy process. The first step is thawing a steak.

While you can cook a steak from frozen, it should be thawed completely when it comes to reverse searing steaks. Luckily you there are a few ways you can thaw steaks.

You can place it into a leak-proof container and thaw it 48-72 hours in the fridge.

Make sure you place your steaks onto a separate shelf by itself. This is the best way to avoid cross-contamination, which can cause foodborne illness.

In addition to this, you can also thaw your steaks using cold water.

Place your steaks in their vacuum sealed packaging into a bowl and add enough cold water to submerge the steak.

Drain the water from the steaks, then fill it back up with water every 30 minutes.

Next season your steaks. Most people recommend using salt and pepper for seasoning a steak.

However, you can also use your favorite steak seasoning or a BBQ rub. Place your seasoned steaks onto a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet.

Alternatively, you salt your steaks, place them onto a wire rack set over a rimmed cookie sheet and place it into the fridge uncovered overnight.

Next, heat your oven to a temperature between 200°F and 275°F.

Note, the lower the temperature, the more evenly your steak will cook. However, this will lengthen the cooking time the lower the temperature.

Place your steaks into the oven and cook them until there achieve a temperature that is 10-15°F lower than your desired temperature.

It is necessary to use a food-grade thermometer to monitor the steaks’ temperature. Luckily we’ve got a review of the best infrared thermometers on the market.

Place a tablespoon of vegetable oil into a cast-iron skillet and set it over medium-high heat just before you remove the steak from the oven.

Check out our in-depth guide if you want to know how to season a cast-iron skillet.

Alternatively, you can also use a triple-clad stainless steel skillet.

Once the oil is scorching hot, add your steak to the skillet, then add a tablespoon or 2 of butter and cook them for 45 seconds to a minute until the steaks are browned.

Next, turn the steaks over, cook them for another 45 seconds to a minute, and then turn them on the sides to ensure every part of the steaks are seared.

Remove the steaks from the skillet and serve them immediately.

Although letting the steak restis important, you do not have to let reverse seared steak rest.

Even though the steak is cooked in the oven, it is technically resting, so there is no need to sear rest the steak after it is seared.

How To Reverse Sear Steak on a Grill

If you are interested in reverse searing steak on a portable pellet grill or a natural gas grill, you must use 2 zone grilling.

Essentially, one side of your grill will use direct heat and have a high temperature, while the other side of the grill will use indirect heat and have a low temperature.

If you are using charcoal, arrange them on one side of your charcoal grill.

If you want to know how much charcoal to use or how to make charcoal check out our detailed articles.

On the other hand, heat half of the grill’s burners and leave the remaining burners off if you are using a natural gas grill or propane grill.

Heat your grill to 225°F, then season your steak, making sure to massage it into the meat.

Place your steaks onto the indirect or cooler side of the grill and close the grill.

Cook the steaks until they have a temperature of 115°F. Remember, use a thermometer to monitor the steaks temperature.

Open the grill’s lid and turn the burners on the direct side of the grill too high.

Transfer your steaks to the direct or hot side of the grill and cook them for 2-3 minutes per side until your steak reaches your desired temperature.

You can serve your steaks as soon as they come off the grill. However, you can also let your steaks rest for 5-10 minutes before carving and serving.

If you are looking for sides to serve with your reverse seared steak, try our BBQ beans, BBQ jackfruit, or BBQ shrimp.

Final Thoughts

Traditionally most steak experts and chefs have taught us to sear the meat first and finish it in the oven.

However, there is something magical about reverse searing a steak. Not only does it create a browner steak, but it also creates a more tender steak.

Yes, it takes a little bit longer than steaks cooked the traditional way, but reverse searing steak is definitely worth it. Happy reverse searing!