The reverse sear method might change the way you cook a thick steak forever. The process involves baking in the oven followed by searing on a pan. I’m a fan of this technique as it provides more control of the internal temperature, a stunning browned crust, and a more tender piece of beef.
Most home cooks have prepared a thick cut of filet mignon or ribeye by pan searing, a conventional method to get a golden crust and pink center. However let’s be honest, sometimes you nail just the right temperature, and other times the beef is too rare or just slightly overdone. This process can be especially frustrating when you’ve paid big bucks for the better cut of meat.
The good news, using the reverse sear steak method will allow for more controllable odds of making the perfect steak while maximizing its flavor. With just a few simple changes like gently cooking the beef at a low temperature in the oven first, and then searing it at the very end will undoubtedly result in delight and high fives! Follow this step-by-step guide on how to reverse sear a steak.
Benefits of the reverse sear method
Instead of searing the steaks first in a hot pan until cooked to the desired doneness, thick-cut steaks are heated in a moderately warm oven at 275°F (135ºC) and then seared afterward in a preheated cast iron skillet.
- The warm oven dries the surface which removes the moisture for more efficient and effective pan-searing later on.
- Slow and even heat in the oven provides more control and prevents overcooking.
- More consistent pink internal color, while limiting cooked grey edges.
- A thick cut of beef can be gently cooked to nearly the right level of doneness.
- Pan-searing at the end of cooking in a preheated cast iron skillet creates a beautiful crust by the Maillard Reaction.
- Finishing the cooking in a pan allows for a flavorful sauce to be made using the fond and pan drippings.
- More affordable than using a Sous Vide, but a similar cooking process.
How to Reverse Sear Steak
Cooking a steak using this method is best for thicker cuts, minimum 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch thick pieces. Anything below will cook too quickly. Chose quick-cooking, high-quality steak (USDA prime or choice) with some marbling, like ribeye, top sirloin, new york strip, porterhouse, or filet mignon.
1) Prepare the oven and steak
- Place the oven rack in the center position and another below in the lower third.
- Preheat the oven to 275°F (135ºC).
- Place a large cast iron skillet or heatproof pan in the oven to preheat. This process will kickstart the cooking process and speed up the time it takes to sear the surface.
- Line a baking sheet with foil and then place a wire rack on top.
- Dry the surface of the steaks with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
- Place the steaks on the wire rack and season both sides with salt and pepper.
2) Cook the Steak in the Oven
When cooking the steak in the oven, use an instant-read meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the thickest part of the steak. Once 15 minutes passes, check the temperature and continue checking every 5 minutes until you hit:
- 90 to 95ºF (32 to 35ºC) for medium-rare
- 100 to 105ºF (38 to 41ºC) for medium
The steaks will finish cooking in the skillet and continue to increase in temperature, so you don’t want to cook the steak in the oven completely.
3) Pan Sear the Steak
- Remove preheated cast iron skillet from the oven and transfer it to the stovetop.
- Turn the heat to high, once the pan is hot add oil that has a high smoke point temperature. I use vegetable oil or clarified butter like ghee.
- Sear the steaks on each side in the hot oil or fat for about 2 minutes, or until the desired doneness internal temperature is reached.
- Aim for an internal temperature of 120 to 125ºF (49 to 52ºC) for medium-rare or 130 ºF (50ºC) for medium.
- An option is to add 1 tablespoon of butter at the end of cooking. The hot melted butter is spooned on top to baste the steaks for enhanced browning and flavor.
- Sear the sides of the steaks to render the fat, about 30 to 60 seconds per side.
4) Rest the Steak
Remove the seared steak from the pan to a clean plate or wire rack set on a baking sheet. Allowing to rest gives the carryover cooking a chance to finish heating the steaks. Typically the internal temperature will rise about 5 degrees in 10 minutes. Keeping in mind that continued cooking will occur helps to determine the perfect medium-rare or medium serving temperature.
I was introduced to the reverse sear method in an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook. After learning about the advantages, its become my go-to way to cook thick-cut steaks. I would love to hear your thoughts and if you’ve found success with this method, let me know in the comments section below.
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Cook the steak on low heat to make it more tender
The gradual and low heating temperature in the oven below 300 degrees not only gives a gentle and consistent heat treatment but also activates enzymes that tenderize the meat. Cathepsins are natural enzymes that help to break down muscle proteins. Gradual heating increases enzyme activity, working to make the meat more tender over time. At about 122°F (50°C) the activity reduces, but the 15 to 25 minutes of slow heating allows the enzymes to work their magic. (Source: The Food Lab)
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How To Reverse Sear a Steak
- 2 steaks, 1 ½ to 2-inches thick, (ribeye, new york strip, filet mignon, porterhouse)
- kosher salt, as needed for seasoning
- black pepper, as needed for seasoning
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, optional
- Line a sheet pan with foil and place a wire rack on top, set aside.
- Adjust oven rack to the center position and preheat oven to 275ºF (135ºC).
- Place a large 12-inch cast iron skillet in the oven to warm, on a rack below the center rack.
- Dry the steaks with a paper towel to remove excess surface moisture and transfer to the wire rack.
- Generously season the meat with salt and ground black pepper on both sides.
- Place steaks in the oven and cook about 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness. See notes for target temperatures of the steak.
- Remove the steaks from the oven and set aside.
- Remove the cast iron pan from the oven and transfer to the stovetop.
- Heat pan over high heat and add oil.
- Once the oil is very hot and just beginning to smoke, carefully add the steaks to the pan.
- Sear the first side until a deep brown crust is formed, about 2 minutes.
- Carefully flip the steaks over and sear about 1 ½ to 2 minutes.
- Use tongs to turn the steaks on their sides to cook and render remaining fat, about 2 minutes total.
- OPTIONAL: Add one tablespoon of the butter to the pan, melt and use a spoon to briefly baste the tops of the steaks.
- Transfer steaks to a clean plate and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
- Serve steaks warm.
- When steaks are in the oven, check the temperature of the steaks using an instant-read thermometer at 15 minutes, then every 5 minutes until target doneness is reached, 90 to 95ºF (32 to 35ºC) for medium-rare, or 100 to 105ºF (38 to 41ºC) for medium.
- When steaks are searing, aim for an internal temperature of 120 to 125ºF (49 to 52ºC) for medium-rare, or 130 (50ºC) for medium.
- MAKE IT DAIRY FREE: Omit the butter.
- MAKE IT PALEO: Use ghee instead of vegetable oil and butter.
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