Cook the perfect medium-rare cut of BBQ T-bone beef steak with this reverse searing recipe. Barbecued over smoke before seared on high heat, this is the best way to enjoy prized T-bone.
The reverse sear has surged in popularity among steak fans, and the barbecue world is no different. It’s one of the best ways to cook a thick steak for a juicy middle and crusty outside, with those seared grill marks we all strive for.
With this recipe, we slow cook the beef on our barbecue smoker to the perfect temperature before searing it at high heat. The end result is the perfect hybrid between barbecue smoking and outdoor grilling. Let’s get into it.
What is Reverse Searing?
The grilling method involves two distinct cooking stages. The first stage of reverse searing is to cook it at a low temperature, below 300°F (150°C). This moderate heat activates the meat’s enzymes, tenderizing it, while also drying out the meat’s surface. The second stage involves searing the meat at high heat. With the surface now dry, this sear can develop a delicious crust, courtesy of the Maillard Reaction.
Because it cooks the meat at a low and consistent temperature, it allows us to grill thick cuts of steak that we wouldn’t be able to with more conventional grilling methods.
While reverse searing is often used in the kitchen with the help of an oven and cast iron skillet, replicating it on an outdoor charcoal grill takes things to a new level.
It’s a meat cooking method that is much simpler than it sounds, and the results speak for themselves. The process gives us a tender cut of beef with a beautiful crispy brown outside.
To save yourself the stress, it helps if you have a two-phase unit that can do both smoking and grilling. The point is to raise the internal temperature of the steak by cooking it at a low temperature. As the steak cooks from the inside, the outside is relatively untouched. This is the first phase of your reverse sear.
Then from here, you move on to the second phase, which is where you cook the rest of the steak and get the outside cooked and brown with the right crust. This is where you use high temperatures.
Benefits of Reverse Searing
- Evenly cooked. Barbecue smoking is built upon the principle of cooking meat low and slow, transferring heat more evenly than high-heat grilling. By smoking it to a temperature just below medium-rare, we ensure that the T-bone is cooked consistently throughout. This maximizes the amount of pink meat inside while eliminating gray color around the edges.
- Better Browning & Crust. The first stage of reverse searing dries the outside of the meat, which makes the searing stage much more effective. The dry surface is more susceptible to a phenomenon called the Maillard reaction. This is a chemical reaction caused by exposing the proteins and sugars in meat to high heat. The result of this is a beautiful, delicious crust.
- Tender results. Cooking meat low and slow stimulates enzymes in meat, known as cathepsins. As their activity increases in line with the heat, they break down the tough muscle proteins in steak.
Best Beef Cuts for Reverse Sear
Reverse searing is best for thick beef steak cuts, like T-bone, tomahawk, porterhouse, ribeye, New York Strip, and filet mignon. These cuts are typically at least two inches thick, with enough meat and marbling to get the benefits from being cooked low and slow.
To prepare a steak for the grill, you must make sure the steak is defrosted but still cold. You can then use a rub of your choice to make sure that you get the seasoning you want. Either keep it simple with just salt and pepper or add other spices to the mix for a dry rub.
Whichever way you go, make sure you dry brine your steak. This will help to lock in extra flavor and moisture, especially when you come to smoking it. It’s a simple step but will make all the difference. Just apply a layer of kosher salt all over the steak, and leave in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before cooking.
Reverse searing steak is all about making sure that the steak is cooked the way you want it cooked. T-Bone steak, unlike poultry, has different ways in which you can cook it. I’m a well-done steak type of person, but for some, this is the cardinal sin, and they would rather have their steak rare or with a bit of pink in it.
It needs to reach a particular internal temperature for it to be done to your specifications. But the internal temperature it reaches differs depending on how you want your steak cooked and the thickness. Also, cooking times and internal temperature may vary according to the method of preparation and the meat’s shape.
- Rare: Cool red center and 125°F
- Medium-rare: Warm red center and 135°F
- Medium: Warm pink center and 145°F
- Medium-well-done: Slightly pink center and 150°F
- Well-done: Little to no pink and 160°F
Remember that the steak may continue to cook even after you have taken it off the grill. Allow for an increase of about 5°F, meaning that you can remove it from the grill when it is about 5°F from your need’s internal temperature.
How to Reverse Sear T-Bone Steak
Reverse searing a t-bone steak doesn’t need to be rocket science. It’s easy enough when you know what you are doing and also what not to do. Here’s how to reverse-sear your steak to perfection. Also, it works better when the steak is about an inch thick or thicker.
Reverse Seared T-Bone Steak
- 1 t-bone steak at least 1.5 inches thick
- kosher salt
- ground black pepper
- Fire up your smoker to 225°F (107°C). If you are using a charcoal grill, ensure it is set up for 2-zone cooking.
- Season steak with kosher salt and black pepper
- Place steak on smoker grates. Close door/lid and smoke for 60 minutes, or until internal temperature of steak has reached 130°F (55°C)
- Increase smoker or grill temperature to sear. Sear steak over heat for one minute on each side.
- Remove steaks from grill or smoker. Allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes before serving.