A pricey cut of meat doesn’t always yield a perfect steak, because it’s all about the preparation. Recently, I’ve fallen in love with a cooking technique called the reverse sear, which works great on the barbecue and yields the most tender, juicy steak that’s nearly impossible to over-cook. I liken the process to a sous-vide without a sous-vide machine, and slow-cooking without the extensive time commitment. Here’s how to master the reverse sear.
Why do you sear steak?
In food terminology, searing is a technique in which you cook the surface of the food over high heat in order to form a brown crust. This browning process is called the Maillard reaction — a chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars in the food that gives us colour and flavour.
So what does reverse-sear mean?
Reverse sear refers to when you sear your meat in the cooking process. Usually, you sear first, before bringing the steak up to the desired level of done-ness via the grill or oven. With a reverse-sear, you cook your steak over a low temperature first before giving it a final sear over high heat.
Why should I reverse-sear?
You’re picky about your meat
If you’re a stickler for bloody steak (or non-bloody steak), this grilling technique is practically fool-proof. Be sure to use a probe thermometer — a digital thermometer connected to a long, pointed metal stem via a heat-safe cable — for accuracy. I particularly appreciate models — such as this $18 thermometer — that alert you when your meat reaches your desired pre-set temperature.Recipe: Reverse Sear Steak
It’s a great way to cook thicker cuts of steak
I’ve ruined many oddly shaped steaks before I started using this method. Thicker cuts are tricky because you run the risk of over-cooking the outer edges before the internal layer is cooked through. By slow-cooking, you’ll get a uniform level of done-ness, no matter how much your steak resembles a baseball. When you cut open a medium-rare reverse-seared steak, you’ll see a beautiful consistent shade of pink throughout, with a brown crust, instead of a pink-red ombre gradation.
You love a nice, salty crust
The ideal complement to your tender, juicy steak is a nicely charred, smoky crust. (Thank you, Maillard reaction.) Be sure to season your steak generously with salt before grilling it, and always slice cooked steak against the grain to achieve a tender chew.
What type of steaks should I reverse sear?
For best results with this cooking method, use a steak that’s at least one-inch thick. I recommend trying this technique with easy-to-find cuts such as rib-eye, t-bone, striploin or sirloin steaks. Any steak less than one-thick thick is best prepared in the traditional grilling method.
How do I reverse sear steak on the grill?
- Cook your steak (seasoned with salt) over indirect heat to slowly bring up the meat’s internal temperature. Ensure your barbecue is preheated to medium-high on only one side of the grill. Once it’s at temperature, place the steak on the cooler side, with the lid closed, to slowly heat up
- Temperature control is essential during this step, so in addition to the grill, you’ll need a probe thermometer. Place the stem inside the slow-cooking steak and leave it there until it finishes the initial cook. Start searing when the internal temperature is 15 to 20 degrees below your desired temperature (for medium-rare, stop at 125 F, for instance) because the internal temperature will continue to rise (refer to this temperature chart for your desired doneness)
- For the final sear, remove the thermometer, then crank the heated part of the grill up to high. When the grill is at temperature, move the steak over, then sear until charred grill marks form, about 2 min per side. As with most steaks, let it stand for a few minutes before slicing it. (If you prefer a more charred exterior, sear the steak when it reaches 105 F)
Fire up your grill and try this technique today with this delicious reverse-sear steak recipe. And don’t worry when the weather starts to cool down, you can still achieve similar results indoors by using your oven to slow-cook the steak, then searing it in a hot pan.