What is Reverse Searing? [How to Grill Steaks Perfectly]

Reverse searing is the best way to improve the texture and flavor of your grilled steak. Find out what it is and how to use it to take your barbecue steaks to the next level.

reverse seared wagyu steak

What is reverse searing?

Reverse searing is a cooking method whereby you get to cook your meat twice to get the desired look. It’s one of the best ways to cook and be sure that the meat is done to perfection inside and that it also looks the part. It is especially great with thick steak, which may seem challenging to cook well, but isn’t when you have the proper techniques such as reverse searing.

Technically speaking, reverse searing is when you first cook the meat to a few degrees below your preferred doneness and then sear it over very high heat. This will finish off the cooking process and give a charred look.

The idea of reverse searing came about from the sous vide method developed in 1974 by chef George Pralus. He created this method to increase the shelf life of foie grass in his restaurant. Like reverse searing, this method involved cooking the meat to its correct level of doneness and then searing it overheat, sealing in flavors and moisture.

As the technique was developed, reverse searing came into play decades later, in 2001, and developed by different chefs. This concept yielded a more constant color, from edge to edge, without a ring of well-done meat around the pink one. It also created a browner crust and added an intense smoky flavor to the meat.

There is also hot and fast searing, which is different from reverse searing. The two methods work well when used in the proper context. For instance, hot and fast searing is better used on thin sheet steaks, while reverse searing is better used on thick steaks.

Why you should reverse sear

Reverse searing has different advantages, and as such, that is the reason why it is often used in steak houses. Let’s get into some of those reasons. The first is that reverse searing gives you a more even cook. Because you are allowing the meat enough time to cook well, and you are simply using the high heat as a way of searing it to brown it. Also, reverse searing will help you get a steak that is cooked from edge to edge.

The way a steak is cooked is determined by the rate at which energy is transferred to the meat. The faster this happens, the more uneven the steak cooks. But when you cook it slowly, the meat cooks more evenly. 

The other benefit of reverse searing is that it gives you tender meat. This is because the meat is first cooked to the desired internal temperature and then seared on high heat. The searing locks in moisture. This is how it works. Enzymatic tenderization will keep the meat tender as it cooks slowly. This will not happen when you cook the meat fat and hot. 

A reverse seared steak will have better browning than one that is cooked traditionally. This will only come about when you trigger the Maillard reaction. This is when sugars and proteins react and begin to form the brown crust that you want on a good piece of steak.

Also, when you reverse sear a steak, you cook slowly and allow yourself more time to check on the temperature and make sure that it reaches the right level of doneness. When you are cooking on high heat, it is seconds between the different levels of doneness. 

How to reverse sear a steak

To reverse sear your steak, you will need first to use your favorite spices as a dry rub. This is how you infuse the taste that you want in it. You could also just season with the absolute basic, salt, and pepper. Make sure all sides of the steak are covered. You can then leave them in the fridge, wrapped in foil, overnight. 

The next thing you want to do is preheat your oven to be ready for your steak. Preheat the oven between 93 and 135˚C. It’s important to remember that the lower the temperature, the more evenly your meat will cook. Slow cooking your steak is imperative to get the ultimate benefits. 

To slow cook the steak, place it on a baking rack in the oven, and then bake it until it reaches about ten or 15˚F before your recommended level of doneness. For this to be effective, you will need to have an internal thermometer to know when your meat has reached the right level. Remember that there will be more cooking when you sear it, so you need to leave room for this in the final temperature reading. While many recipes will tell you how long it will take to cook, it’s better to monitor the temperature you need.

Once you have slow-cooked the steak, you will need to sear it then. This works better in a cast-iron skillet. It needs to be made of heavy material and a good heat conductor. Before you sear it, make sure to preheat the skillet and add a bit of oil. When the oil starts to smoke, add the steak in, along with some butter. Cook on both sides, turning it often. You can use a skillet with grill marks on it so that it transfers onto the meat. 

Other meats 

Chicken 

You can reverse sear chicken breast. Do this after smoking it low and slow. You can then reverse sear it in a hot pan or on a hot grill over direct heat. 

Prime rib

Prime rib is another meat that you can reverse sear. Rub your dry ingredients on it and cook it to a few degrees below the required doneness. Then place them on the grill over high heat. 

Pork tenderloin

To reverse sear pork tenderloin, cook the pork over indirect heat at 275˚F and then sear it over direct heat at 400˚F.

Burgers

Prepare the meat and cook it over indirect heat, such as smoking. Then transfer them to high heat.

Disadvantages of reverse searing

While reverse searing has its advantages, it also has its downsides. You cannot use it on thinner steaks or sheet steaks. And also, it takes up more time than just cooking it once off. Also, there will be no bots left in the pan for you to make any sauce with.  

Reverse sear vs sous vide

While sous vide and reverse searing are closely related, they differ. Sous vide is used to bring about a similar result as reverse searing but will not give the same constant cook and color as reverse-seared meat. Sous vide will have a ring of cooked meat well done, and the inner ring will be pink. Also, sous vide will not have a crispy exterior like what you get with reverse searing. 


Still hungry? Check out more BBQ posts

how to keep charcoal grill hot BBQ Tip: How to Keep Your Charcoal Grill Hot (7 Easy Steps) - Keeping the temperature of your charcoal grill consistent is one of the hardest skills when it comes to barbecue, but… ...
cleaning large black cast iron grills How to Clean a Cast Iron Grill (9 Easy Steps) - Having problems getting stubborn cooked on food off your grill? Here are nine simple steps for you to help you… ...
best lighter fluid substitutes 4 Best Lighter Fluid Substitutes to Get Your Coals Raging - Using lighter fluid is a quick and easy way to ignite your charcoal grill. But what should you do if… ...
how to clean cast iron grill grates Stainless Steel Grill Grates vs. Cast Iron | Everything You Need to Know - Another day, another debate: this time we're pitting cast iron grill grates against stainless steel varieties. Since the grate is… ...
how to grill in the rain How to Grill in the Rain - Barbecue grilling doesn't need to end with rainy weather. From the best gear to creative shelter ideas, here's everything you… ...

Get BBQ recipes straight to your inbox!

    We respect your privacy and will never spam you. Unsubscribe at anytime.