Well, well, well. It looks like you've stumbled upon the holy grail of steak cooking techniques: the reverse sear. If you're anything like me, you've probably spent countless hours trying to perfect the art of cooking a steak. And let's be real, there's nothing more disappointing than cutting into a beautiful piece of meat only to find that it's overcooked or undercooked. But fear not, my friends, because the reverse sear is here to save the day.
Learning how to reverse sear a steak might change your life. It has for me. There are plenty of different ways to cook a great steak (I've written pretty extensively about it). But the reverse sear is the one that comes out perfect so consistently. You can use it for any steak, and it works for both indoor stovetop/oven cooking and outdoor grilling. And it's not super hard to master. So let's get into it.
We will go over everything you need to know in this post. What exactly is reverse searing, why does it work so well, what is the science behind it, and how can you master it? And there's definitely a recipe included at the end.
Steak was one of the first things I learned to cook - about twenty-five years ago. My dad and I worked on this project together, and to this day, he still cooks one of the best steaks around.
- What is Reverse Searing?
- Why does it Work so Well?
- It's Harder to Mess Up
- The Benefits of Reverse Searing
- What Kind of Steak Does This Work Best With?
- How To Reverse Sear a Steak
- Steak Temperature Chart
- Grilling Method
- Pro Tips and Tricks
- Frequently Asked Questions
- More Awesome Beef Recipes
- 📖 Recipe
What is Reverse Searing?
Reverse searing is where you slow-cook a steak at a low temperature first, then finish with a high-heat sear. This ensures even cooking and a beautifully caramelized crust.
Traditional searing - meaning, searing the steak first, then letting it finish cooking all the way through, totally still works, but it can result in a more uneven cook throughout the steak.
Why does it Work so Well?
Low-temp cooking allows for a gradual heat transfer, minimizing the temperature gradient within the steak. This results in a more uniform doneness from edge to center (it's kind of the same theory behind sous vide cooking).
By avoiding the initial high-heat sear, you prevent the outer layers from overcooking. This means the steak retains more moisture and tenderness.
When you eventually sear at high heat, you create a Maillard reaction - that magical chemical reaction responsible for the beautiful browning and enhanced flavor.
So, in a nutshell, reverse searing combines controlled, low-heat cooking with a high-heat finish for a steak that's both succulent and deeply flavorful. And again, the consistency in this method is unmatched.
It's Harder to Mess Up
That is to say, it can be tricky to cook a steak perfectly. Perfectly timing the moment when the crust is seared but the middle is still perfectly medium-rare is something that only top chefs can pull off without using a meat thermometer (though we're still going to be using one here).
Reverse searing allows you to cook the steak slowly at first. This means you have a much bigger window for hitting that perfect medium-rare temp on the inside.
The Benefits of Reverse Searing
- As previously mentioned, you have way more leeway for cooking it perfectly every time.
- It avoids overcooking the edges of the meat.
- You get a gorgeous color in the middle as a result - if you haven't overcooked the edges, they aren't grey; they're pink (similar to a sous vide situation).
- It also means it's tender from edge to edge, with that crispy exterior.
- When you cook it low and slow first, it helps to dry out the outer portion of the steak, meaning the sear you get is out of this world.
What Kind of Steak Does This Work Best With?
Thick cuts with good marbling, like ribeye, a tomahawk or a New York strip, are ideal for reverse searing. T-bones and porterhouses can also work beautifully. The extra thickness allows for a more gradual, controlled cook, ensuring even doneness.
These cuts also have ample intramuscular fat, which melts during the slow-cooking phase, infusing the steak with flavor and keeping it moist. When seared, this fat contributes to that coveted crust.
Leaner cuts, like sirloin or filet mignon, can definitely work as well, but they do have less fat for flavor.
I love to keep steak ingredients super simple. So, for me, it's just the steak, salt and pepper, and some olive oil near the end to sear the steak. If you have a favorite rub you like, by all means, use it.
How To Reverse Sear a Steak
Ok, we're going to focus on how to do this in a cast iron skillet and the oven, but below, we'll discuss how you can adapt this method for the grill as well. Stick with me here!
Prep Your Steak
After you've got your hands on a high-quality, thick steak with lots of marbling (think at least 1.5" thick), ask your butcher to cut it for you if you only see thinner ones available, take it home, and get it out of the packaging immediately. Pat dry with a paper towel, and season both sides with salt and pepper.
If you have time, leave it overnight in the refrigerator to dry out the crust as much as possible. The less moisture you have, the better the sear on the outside is going to be.
Let it come to room temperature on the counter before you start the cooking process. This is super important. It helps you control the temperature of the meat so much more.
Cook it Low and Slow
The amount of time it will take to cook depends on the steak size (we have a chart below to help you estimate this), so you need to keep your meat thermometer handy at all times.
The general rule of thumb: you want to take your steaks out when they're about 10-15 degrees lower than where you want them to end up. So, if you want your steak to end up:
- Rare: take it out when the thermometer reads 105F.
- Medium-Rare: 115F.
- Medium: 125F.
- Medium-well: 135F.
It can take anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes for the steak to come to temperature properly, it all depends on the size and how well you like it done.
Let it Rest
This step is absolutely KEY. There are a lot of recipes out there that don't require this, and in my experience, it's the absolute fastest way to overcook the steak while reverse searing (and yes, I tested it both ways, there's no comparison).
Once your steak comes out of the low and slow oven, you must let it cool off for 6-10 minutes or so. This will ensure that the steak's internal temperature will be cooler when you go to sear it.
Pro Tip: while it's resting, flip it once or twice to make sure the blood and juices are evenly distributed.
Seal it With a Sear
While your steak is resting, preheat your cast iron skillet. Once it's hot, add your fat. I like doing this with an oil that has a high smoke point. Olive oil can work, and in my opinion, has the best flavor. If you want to add some butter at the very end, this also helps with flavor and browning. Just be careful - it can burn.
Using tongs, add your steak to the skillet. Sear for about 1 minute per side. You can do the edges if you want as well.
Once the steaks are perfectly seared, get it out of the pan, slice and serve. We've already rested the steak, no need for round two.
Serving: The Grand Finale
Now that your steak is perfectly cooked, it's time to serve it up and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Here are a few tips for making the most of your reverse seared steak:
No Need to Rest a Second Time: Because the steak cooks low and slow, the juices don't tend to pool in the cut. This means you don't need to let them have time to redistribute, which is the whole point of resting a piece of meat.
Slice it right: When it comes to slicing your steak, the key is to cut against the grain. This helps to break up the muscle fibers and make the meat more tender. I also like to slice my steak at an angle, which gives it a more visually appealing presentation.
Dress it up: While a perfectly cooked steak is delicious on its own, you can take it to the next level by adding some simple toppings or sauces. A pat of butter, a sprinkle of sea salt, or a drizzle of balsamic glaze can all enhance the flavor of your steak. Just be careful not to overpower the natural taste of the meat.
Pair it with the right sides: A great steak deserves some great sides to go along with it. I like to keep things simple with a mashed potato or some roasted vegetables, but you can get more creative if you prefer - like these truffle parmesan fries. Just make sure that your sides don't steal the show from your main course.
Enjoy it with good company: Finally, the best way to enjoy a reverse-seared steak is with good company. Whether you're sharing it with family, friends, or a significant other, a great steak is always better when it's shared with those you love. So sit back, relax, and savor every bite of your perfectly cooked masterpiece.
Steak Temperature Chart
Again, this is going to vary depending on your steak, and how accurate the temperature of your oven is. You definitely need to be using your meat thermometer for this!
|Remove from Oven (°F)
|Target Temperature (Final) (°F)
|Approximate Time at 225°F (mins)
|Rest Time Before Searing (mins)
|Sear Time (mins)
- Preheat Grill: Get your grill nice and hot. For charcoal, set up a two-zone fire with hot coals on one side and none on the other. For gas, light one side and leave the other off.
- Season the Steak: Season your steak generously with salt and pepper. Let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
- Slow Cook: Place the steak on the cooler side of the grill. Close the lid and let it cook indirectly until it's about 10°F below your desired final temperature.
- Rest: Let your steak cool off for about 10 minutes before you sear it.
- Sear it Up: Move the steak to the hot side of the grill. Sear each side for about 1-2 minutes until you get a beautiful crust.
Pro Tips and Tricks
As someone who has reverse-seared a lot of steaks, I've picked up a few tips and tricks that might not be obvious at first. Here are some of my favorites:
- Use a thermometer: This might seem obvious, but it's worth mentioning. A good thermometer is essential for getting the perfect steak. I like to use a digital thermometer with a probe that I can leave in the steak while it cooks. This way, I can monitor the internal temperature and pull it off the heat at exactly the right moment.
- Season early: Don't wait until the last minute to season your steak. I like to season mine with salt and pepper at least an hour before I plan to cook it. This gives the seasoning time to penetrate the meat and really infuse the flavor.
- Room Temperature: Let your steak come to room temperature before you start cooking it. This gives you more control of the internal temperature.
- Use a cast iron skillet: A cast iron skillet is the perfect tool for reverse searing. It heats evenly and retains heat well, which means you can get a nice crust on your steak without overcooking the inside.
- Finish with butter: For an extra decadent touch, finish your steak with a pat of butter. As soon as you take it off the heat, add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet and let it melt and coat the steak. This adds richness and depth of flavor that will make your steak truly unforgettable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ah, the age-old question. Well, my friend, the key to impressing your pals is all in the preparation. Make sure you have a good quality cut of meat, season it well, and take your time with the reverse searing process. And of course, don't forget to let your steak rest before cutting into it!
The T-bone steak is a classic cut that can be a bit tricky to reverse sear. My advice? Start by searing the steak on the bone side first, then move it to the indirect heat side of the grill until it reaches your desired temperature. This will ensure that both the tenderloin and the strip side are cooked evenly.
Absolutely! In fact, filet mignon is one of the best cuts for reverse searing. Just be sure to keep an eye on the temperature and remove it from the heat once it reaches your desired level of doneness. And as always, let it rest before cutting into it.
While it's technically possible to reverse sear a steak in an air fryer, it's not the ideal method. Air fryers are great for cooking things like chicken wings and fries, but they don't provide the same level of heat control that you get with a grill or oven. Stick to the traditional methods for your reverse searing needs.
For a tomahawk steak, I like to start with a low temperature of around 225°F and slowly bring it up to 275°F before searing it over high heat. This will give you a perfectly cooked steak with a nice crust on the outside.
The length of time will depend on the thickness of your steak, but a good rule of thumb is to aim for around 45 minutes to an hour at a low temperature before searing. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that it reaches an internal temperature of 130°F for medium-rare.
More Awesome Beef Recipes
Reverse Seared Steak
- Meat thermometer
- 1 ribeye steak preferably at least 1½" thick
- salt and pepper for seasoning
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat your oven to 225℉.
- Pat your steak dry with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to come to room temperature.
- Place the steak on a wire baking rack over a baking sheet. Place in oven for 20-40 minutes, depending on how well done you like your steak, and how thick it is. Using a meat thermometer is key here.
- Take your steak from the oven once it reaches temperature (Rare: take it out when the thermometer reads 105℉. Medium-Rare: 115℉. Medium: 125℉. Medium-well: 135℉.).
- Let the steak rest for 6-8 minutes while you preheat your searing pan.
- Add olive oil to the pan and allow it to heat. It should be smoking hot. Add you steak, and sear each side for 60 seconds.
- Remove steak, slice against the grain, and serve.
- If you can, allow your steak to dry out in the fridge overnight to help dry it out.
- Make sure your steak is at room temperature before you start cooking!
- USE A MEAT THERMOMETER.
- Make sure you rest the steak in between the bake and the sear.
- Rare: take it out when the thermometer reads 105F.
- Medium-Rare: 115F.
- Medium: 125F.
- Medium-well: 135F.
Hi, I'm Cara! I'm a food writer, journalist, and recipe developer. I'm obsessed good food, good wine, good cocktails and entertaining. I've picked up a few tips over the years, and love sharing them with others.