Reverse Searing Steak the Right Way
If you are unfamiliar with the reverse sear steak method, you're really missing out. If you have been considering trying it, I highly suggest giving it a go. This advanced technique may take a little practice, but once you get it down, you will be glad you did.
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 being that you have better heat control, as you can cook the steak to almost a precise point
of doneness. The second being that this is the ultimate cooking method to achieve a perfect medium/medium-rare throughout the inside from wall to wall and sealing the deal with a perfect uniform sear on the outside.
Using the traditional sear first method, you will create “doneness rings” if you will. This means that you will have a dark ring around the top, closest to the surface, a slightly 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.
So what is the Reverse Sear Steak Method?
You start by slowly bringing the meat up to temperature using the slow and low heat method. At around 15 degrees before your desired doneness, 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 stove and a skillet.
How do you go about Doing the Reverse Sear Steak Method?
The reverse sear method really only works on thicker cuts of meat. Your steak should ideally be no less than 1 ½ 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 an extremely hot radiant zone area and an indirect
medium heat convection zone. Once you light your grill, there is no need to wait for the grill grate to heat up as you normally would. You want to put your meat on the medium heat convection side right away.
With your steak already on, slowly bring the grill temperature up to 250°F. Hold steady at this temperature. You don’t want to go much higher than that. Insert a meat probe to monitor the temperature of the meat.
This method absolutely requires a precise instant-read meat thermometer or meat probe. I have reviewed a good option which you can see HERE.
Close the lid and keep an eye on the meat temp. I suggest flipping the meat at least 2 to 4 times during this process to ensure and even cook. Flip the meat not only from end to end but from side to side keeping it as far away from the direct heat as possible.
Rest Before you Sear
When the meat reaches about 115°F, (you will want to practice to see what temp works best for you) you want to remove the meat from the grill, wrap it in foil and let it rest for 15 minutes or so. This allows the juices to soak back into the meat and tenderizes at the same time.
One of the cool things about this method is that you are letting the meat rest in the middle of the cook instead of the end. If seared correctly, this will ensure your bark will still be crusty and the steak hot steak 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 even add additional hot coals if necessary using a charcoal chimney starter. You can find a good chimney starter option HERE if you need one.
If you are using a Gas grill, crank the heat up as high as it will go and close the lid.
When your grill is up to about 550 to 600°F, start your sear. You will want the grill 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 on the extremely hot radiant zone. You will want to flip your meat quite frequently, around every minute so as not to let the heat build up and penetrate too far into the center. Try to find a “virgin” spot after every flip to ensure you are using the hottest part of the grill 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.
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 this basic guideline, though, you will perfect this technique in no time. Practice makes perfect.
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.
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 friends have ever tasted.
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I hope you have enjoyed my tips on The Reverse Sear Steak Method and it proves helpful to you. I also hope that you are one step closer to joining me in “The Grilling Life”!