If you’re looking for a technique that offers better control of internal temperature, a beautifully browned sear, and a more tender and juicy steak, then you’re going to love the reverse sear steak method.
How do you reverse sear a steak?
Just like the name implies, the reverse sear is a three-part cooking technique where you cook the steak first at a low temperature, no higher than 325°f. When the internal temperature is 20 degrees lower than your desired final temperature, rest the steak for 15 minutes, crank up the heat and finish the steak off with a beautiful sear.
This advanced technique may take a little practice, but once you get it down, you will be glad you did.
If you are unfamiliar with how to reverse sear a steak, you are really missing out. If you have been considering trying it, I highly suggest giving it a go.
Come with me as I will show you the best way to reverse-sear a steak.
Table of Contents
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Why Reverse Sear a Steak?
There are several benefits to reverse searing a steak but the biggest one is that it helps cook thicker steaks more evenly. Cooking a thick steak at low temperatures before searing ensures a more tender and juicy steak.
A reverse sear also gives you more control for a perfectly cooked medium-rare steak. It’s hard to nail the perfect internal temperature when cooking hot and fast.
Finally, cooking your steak using this method ensures a fantastic sear. Cooking low and slow to start removes a lot of the surface moisture for a dryer exterior allowing the perfect hot and fast sear.
A Brief History of Reverse Searing Steak
The Reverse Sear (or The Finney Method) was first brought to the barbecue world by Chris Finney sometime around 2001. It certainly did not take off right away. Most people thought this backward technique of grilling meat was just plain crazy. “Who in their right mind would sear meat after it’s cooked?”.
It took Chris Finney more than 3 years to get fellow cooks to even try his method with little success. Chris has since achieved national recognition throughout the competition BBQ circuit by winning with the reverse sear technique and today the “Reverse Sear” is everywhere. You can see more on Chris Finney here.
When I first started grilling many years ago, no one had ever even heard about the reverse sear method. It wasn’t even until the last several years that it really took off. Now you can hardly find a BBQ website that doesn’t describe this method, and for good reason.
Why Risk a Good Cut of Meat on an Untried Technique?
Reverse searing has several advantages. The first is that you have better heat control, as you can cook the steak to almost a precise point of doneness.
The second is that this is the ultimate cooking method to achieve a perfect medium/medium-rare throughout the inside from wall to wall while sealing the deal with a perfect uniform sear on the outside.
Using the traditional sear first method, you will create more of a darker brown “doneness ring” moving down from the outside. This means that you will have a dark ring around the top, closest to the surface, a slight tan ring following that, a pink ring, and on to the reddest section in the middle.
The middle will still be your desired doneness, but the rest of the meat will be overcooked.
The reverse sear method helps negate that “doneness ring” and leaves you with a more uniform doneness throughout the center.
What Is the Reverse Sear Steak Method?
You start by slowly bringing the meat up to temperature using an indirect heat cooking method to start. At around 15-20 degrees before your desired doneness, you remove the meat and let it rest while building back up the fire for an optimal sear. After resting for 10-15 minutes, you move it to the hottest part of the grill and finish with a very hot sear on both sides. That’s all there is to it.
It’s not quite as simple as that as there is a bit of timing and technique involved but really, there is nothing mind-blowing or magical about it. It can even be done in the kitchen (gasp) using the oven and a skillet.
How Do You Go About Doing the Reverse Sear Steak Method?
The reverse sear method only works on thicker cuts of meat. Your steak should ideally be no less than 1 inch in thickness. The thicker the better here folks. Anything thinner should be cooked extremely hot and fast to ensure you don’t overcook the middle while getting a nice flavorful crust on the outside.
Setting up the Grill
You’ll first want to set your grill up using the 2-zone method meaning you will have a hot radiant zone area and an indirect medium heat convection zone. Once you light your grill, there is no need to wait for the grate to heat up as you normally would. You want to put your meat on the medium heat convection side as soon as you have consistent heat.
With your steak already on, slowly bring the grill temperature up to 250 -325°F. Hold as steady as possible at this temperature. You don’t want to go much higher than that and I prefer the lower end. Insert a meat probe to monitor the temperature of the meat.
This method absolutely requires a remote digital thermometer probe and a precise instant read meat thermometer. I have reviewed a good instant read option which you can see here: ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE Digital Meat Thermometer Review
Close the lid and keep an eye on the meat temp. I suggest flipping the meat at least once during this process to ensure an even cook. Keep the meat as far away from the direct heat as possible.
Resting the Meat Before You Sear
When the meat reaches about 115°F for a medium rare finish, (you will want to practice to see what temp works best for you) you want to remove the meat from the grill, tent it on foil, and let it rest for 15 minutes or so. Resting the meat allows the juices to soak back into the meat and tenderize at the same time.
If you prefer a different final doneness temperature, plan on taking the meat off 15-20 degrees less than what you want to finish with.
Below is a handy steak temperature doneness guide for your reference.
One of the cool things about this method is that you are letting the meat rest in the middle of the cook instead of at the end. If seared correctly, this will ensure your bark will still be crusty and the steak hot as the meat will be ready to eat immediately after taking it off the grill. The steak will not have time to cool down.
While the meat is resting, you will want to start building up the fire. Open your vents, and add additional hot coals if necessary using a charcoal chimney starter. You can find my recommended chimney starter options here if you need one. Best Charcoal Chimney Starters Reviews And Buyer Guide
If you are using a Gas grill, crank the heat up as high as it will go and close the lid.
Steak Temperature Doneness Guide
Searing the Steak
When your grill is up to about 550 to 600°F, start your sear. You will want the grate surface to be scorching hot so the meat will brown quickly without adding much heat to the center. When searing hot and fast, the heat will mostly stay on the surface and won’t have the time to get too far down into the middle.
Place your meat on the grate directly over the coals in the extremely hot radiant zone. You will want to flip your meat quite frequently, around every 30 seconds to a minute so as not to let the heat buildup and penetrate too far into the center. Try to find a “virgin” spot on the grates after every flip to ensure you are using the hottest part of the grate.
If your fire was cranked up high enough, you should only need a few flips. If you haven’t quite got the char you desire after this, try another 30 seconds on each side.
It’s Time to Eat
Immediately transfer the meat to a warm plate and start eating. There is no need to let it rest again. Remember, you already did that before the sear. Don’t let it cool off and lose its wonderful, charred crustiness.
The times stated above will never be an exact match for every cook. There are too many variables involved including outside temperature, the thickness of the meat, how hot your fire is, what final doneness you prefer, etc. If follow these basic guidelines though, you will perfect this technique in no time. Practice makes perfect.
Final Thoughts on Our How to Reverse Sear a Steak Guide
Don’t be discouraged if you discover you didn’t nail it the first time. Adjust the timing to accommodate your tastes. Lastly, I always err on the side of undercooking my meat. You can always put the meat back on the fire but you can never fix it if it is overcooked.
Slow cooking your steak first and searing last gives you more control of the internal doneness, a more even cook throughout, and a better way to lock in juices and tenderness.
If you can perfect the reverse sear steak method, you will be upping your grilling prowess to a whole new level. You might also be cooking the best steak you, your family, and your friends have ever tasted.
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I hope you have enjoyed my tips on The Reverse Sear Steak Method and that it proves helpful to you. I also hope that you are one step closer to joining me in “The Grilling Life”!
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A backyard warrior, certified carnivore, lover of good whiskey, self-proclaimed grill master and I’m Living The Grilling Life!
I have a passion for cooking with live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I’m a real person just like you, who loves outdoor cooking and BBQ. Food, fun, and time spent with family and friends are what it’s all about! It is my mission to take my passion and knowledge for outdoor cooking and all things BBQ and share this expertise in techniques and grilling equipment with you. In other words, Living The Grilling Life!