Do This: The Reverse Sear

'Tis the season -- for steaks.

And if you're like a lot of people, odds are good that steaks are going to feature into your weekend plans sometime very soon (*cough* *cough* Father's Day *cough*).

Most of those steaks will likely go down onto a very hot grill, seared for something in the neighborhood of ninety seconds per side, twice per side, with a rotation of about thirty degrees each flip to get those sexy grill crosshatches. Basically, as outlined here.

And that's cool. That's nice.

But sometimes, you want to pull together a steak that's a little more refined. Something, maybe, cooked indoors with a degree of sophistication. Maybe with a nice zin instead of a backyard beer.

I got you.

You should reverse sear those steaks.

Note the cooling rack under the ribeye. more on that later.

Note the cooling rack under the ribeye. more on that later.

In the normal cooking process outlined above, you're applying a high degree of heat to the outside of the steak, which makes the meat beautiful and browned, due to the caramelization that occurs during the Maillard reaction.

As this heat passes into the meat, it cooks the center of the meat through. So if you're looking for something like a medium-rare center, you'll find very thin layers of medium, and even medium well as you near the surface of the meat. If you use high enough heat, those layers are thin, resulting in a maximum volume of meat at the desired medium rare doneness.

A reverse sear changes all that.

In a reverse sear, you cook the meat at low temp in an oven, until the entire steak is at the desired medium-rare doneness. Then you pull the steak from the heat and rest it, before finally dropping it onto a molten-hot hunk of slag iron to sear only the very surface of the meat to golden brown deliciousness.

That's a sexy steak. Here's how you do it.

Start with a steak at least one and a half inches thick. Something off the short loin would be nice -- rib eyes, strips, and the like.

  1. Bring your steaks up to room temperature. (Cold spots = uneven cooking.)
  2. Sprinkle steaks liberally with kosher salt. Don't be shy. Most of it will fall off.
  3. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees.
  4. Place steaks onto a cooling rack on a half sheet pan**. Insert an instant-read probe thermometer set to freak out at 125 degrees. (Thermometers like this, if you have a smart phone and this, if you don't are both quite nice.)
  5. Bake your steaks until your thermometer says to stop. Probably thirty minutes to an hour.
  6. Pull the steaks (leaving the probe inserted), and let them rest on a cutting board for about fifteen minutes. (The temp will continue to rise. The fact that you're done adding heat doesn't mean the temp is done climbing.)
  7. Heat your finest hunk of cast iron to rival the surface of the sun. Hot as you can get it.
  8. Remove the probe, then gently drop the steaks onto the iron and sear each side like rockets for just a minute or two, or until the surface is dark brown and makes you want to sing.
  9. When adequately seared, pull and serve immediately.

**Placing the steak on a cooling rack is important. On a rack, warm air can circulate under the meat. This results in the meat cooking via convective (warm air moving around) and radiative (heat directly radiating into the meat) heat. These types of heat brown the meat more slowly. Conductive heat (touching the meat to something hot, like metal) brown things much faster. In this case, slow is what we're after. Put some aluminum foil underneath if you like, to make cleanup easier.

One of the many great things about this method is that since the meat has already rested before the sear, the juices agitated by the baking process have already redistributed back into the meat. Thus, the steaks are ready to serve immediately after the searing is complete.

Further, the searing process itself happens much more quickly. This is because a) the surface is already dry from the cooking process, so the sear isn't slowed by escaping moisture, and b) the surface temp is already elevated from baking, so there's less thermal distance to go before the Maillard reaction occurs.

At the table, you should discover a beautiful piece of nicely seared meat, medium rare from edge to edge.

If you haven't already decided what to do for Dad, this isn't a bad choice. (Though briskets are nice, too.)

See you in the kitchen...