Cooking a thick steak has never been more exciting for me since I discovered the reverse sear method. It’s a game-changer! This technique starts with baking the steak in the oven, and then finishes with a quick sear on the pan. I absolutely love how it gives me greater control over the internal temperature, ensuring a perfectly browned crust and a tender, succulent piece of meat.
Take a medium-rare steak, for instance. Like many home cooks, I used to sear thick cuts like filet mignon or ribeye in a pan. It’s a traditional approach to achieve that golden crust with a pink center. But let’s face it, it’s hit or miss. Sometimes I’d get the temperature just right, but other times, the steak would turn out too rare or slightly overcooked. And it’s particularly frustrating when you’ve splurged on a high-quality cut.
Here’s the great news: the reverse sear method changes all that. It offers much more predictable results, making the perfect steak almost every time and really bringing out the flavor. The key is to gently cook the beef at a low temperature in the oven first, then sear it right at the end. This technique never fails to impress and is sure to earn some high fives! Let me walk you through how to reverse sear a steak step-by-step.
Benefits Of This Method
The reverse sear method flips the traditional steak cooking process on its head. Instead of starting with a hot pan, thick steaks are first warmed in an oven set to a moderate 275°F (135ºC). This step is followed by a quick sear in a hot cast iron skillet.
This method has several advantages:
- Drying out the steak’s surface in the oven gets rid of excess moisture, setting the stage for a more efficient and effective sear later.
- The oven’s slow and steady heat allows for better control, reducing the risk of overcooking.
- It ensures a more uniform pink color inside the steak, while minimizing the overcooked grey edges.
- It allows a thick cut of beef to be gently brought almost to the desired level of doneness before searing.
- Searing the steak in a preheated cast iron skillet at the end creates a stunning crust, thanks to the Maillard Reaction.
- Finishing the steak in a pan also offers the opportunity to make a delicious sauce using the fond and drippings left in the skillet.
- This method is more cost-effective than using Sous Vide, yet offers a similar approach to cooking.
Reverse Searing Steak: A Guide for Thicker Cuts
For the reverse sear method, it’s crucial to choose thicker cuts of steak, ideally between 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick. Thinner pieces tend to cook too quickly for this technique. Opt for high-quality, quick-cooking steaks with good marbling, such as ribeye, top sirloin, New York strip, porterhouse, or filet mignon.
1. Preparing the Oven and the Steak
- Place the oven rack in the center and an additional rack in the lower third.
- Preheat the oven to 275°F (135ºC).
- Put a large cast iron skillet or heatproof pan in the oven to warm up. This helps jumpstart the cooking process and reduces searing time.
- Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top of it.
- Pat the steaks dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.
- Lay the steaks on the wire rack and season both sides generously with salt and pepper.
2. Cooking the Steak in the Oven
- Use an instant-read meat thermometer to monitor the steak’s internal temperature. Begin checking after 15 minutes and continue every 5 minutes until reaching:
- 90 to 95ºF (32 to 35ºC) for medium-rare.
- 100 to 105ºF (38 to 41ºC) for medium.
Remember, the steaks will finish cooking in the skillet and their internal temperature will rise, so avoid fully cooking them in the oven.
3. Pan Searing the Steak
- Once the cast iron skillet is preheated in the oven, move it to the stovetop.
- Heat the skillet on high. When it’s hot, add an oil with a high smoke point, such as vegetable oil or clarified butter (like ghee).
- Sear the steaks in the hot oil for about 2 minutes on each side, or until they reach the desired internal temperature.
- Target an internal temperature of 120 to 125ºF (49 to 52ºC) for medium-rare, or around 130 ºF (50ºC) for medium.
- Optionally, you can add a tablespoon of butter towards the end, spooning the hot, melted butter over the steaks for extra browning and flavor.
- Don’t forget to sear the sides of the steaks for about 30 to 60 seconds each to render the fat.
4. Resting the Steak
After searing, transfer the steak to a clean plate or wire rack set over a baking sheet.
Allow the steak to rest, giving time for carryover cooking to complete. The internal temperature typically rises by about 5 degrees over 10 minutes.
Remember, the steak continues to cook slightly while resting, which is crucial for achieving that perfect medium-rare or medium finish.
|For 1 1/2–Inch Steaks in a 250°F (120°C) Oven
|Target Temperature in the Oven
|Final Target Temperature
|Approximate Time in Oven
|20 to 25 minutes
|25 to 30 minutes
|30 to 35 minutes
|35 to 40 minutes
Recipes for Sear Stake
1. Herb-crusted ribeye Steak
- 2 thick-cut ribeye steaks (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (for garnish)
- Preheat your oven to 275°F (135ºC) and place a cast iron skillet inside.
- Pat the ribeye steaks dry and rub each side with olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped rosemary, thyme, and garlic.
- Place the steaks on a wire rack over a baking sheet and cook in the oven to the desired internal temperature (90-95ºF for medium-rare).
- Heat the skillet over high heat on the stovetop and add the butter.
- Sear the steaks on each side for about 2 minutes.
- Rest the steaks for 10 minutes before serving, garnished with fresh rosemary sprigs.
2. Garlic Butter Filet Mignon
- 2 thick-cut filet mignon steaks (1 1/2 to 2 inches thick)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 275°F (135ºC) with a cast iron skillet inside.
- Season the filet mignon with salt and pepper.
- Cook in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 90-95ºF for medium-rare.
- Heat the skillet on high, add the oil, and sear the steaks for about 2 minutes on each side.
- Add the butter and garlic to the skillet, spooning it over the steaks for the last minute of cooking.
- Rest the steaks for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.
3. Spicy New York Strip with a Coffee Rub
- 2 thick-cut New York strip steaks (1 1/2 to 2 inches thick)
- 1 tablespoon ground coffee
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 275°F (135ºC) and place a cast iron skillet inside.
- Mix the ground coffee, smoked paprika, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, and onion powder.
- Rub the steaks with olive oil, then coat them evenly with the spice mix. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cook the steaks in the oven until they reach an internal temperature of 90-95ºF for medium-rare.
- Sear the steaks in the hot skillet for 2 minutes on each side.
- Allow the steaks to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
1. Time Consumption
Honestly, reverse-searing is not the quickest method out there. It’s much faster to just season a steak and toss it into a hot pan, flipping it occasionally until it’s done. The reverse sear method requires patience and a bit more time.
2. Lack of Fond for Sauces
One noticeable issue with reverse-seared steaks is the almost complete absence of fond, those delightful browned bits in the pan that are perfect for creating rich pan sauces. If you’re a sauce lover, you’ll need to prepare it separately when using this method. However, this isn’t entirely a disadvantage. The reason there’s no fond is that all those delicious juices and flavors are retained in the steak itself, often making the need for additional sauce redundant.
3. Not Ideal for Thinner Steaks
I’ve also found that this method doesn’t work too well with steaks thinner than 1.5 inches. They tend to cook through too quickly. If you’re not into thick cuts, I’d recommend cooking a large steak and sharing it between two people.
Is Sous-Vide Steak Better Than Reverse-Seared Steak?
The reverse sear was originally developed to emulate sous vide cooking, but it actually excels in one crucial aspect: searing. Steaks cooked sous vide come out wet, making it hard to achieve a good sear, even after patting them dry. In contrast, a reverse-seared steak has a superior crust and a richer, more roasted flavor. However, sous vide takes the prize for foolproof cooking. It’s almost impossible to overcook a steak sous vide, so if consistent results are your top priority, sous vide might be the method for you.
Can I reverse sear steaks using a gas or electric oven?
Yes, the reverse sear method works well in both gas and electric ovens. The key is maintaining a consistent low temperature, typically around 275°F (135ºC), for even cooking.
How long should I rest the steak after searing?
It’s best to let the steak rest for at least 10 minutes after searing. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring a juicier, more flavorful steak.
Can I use other cuts of meat for reverse searing?
While this method is ideal for thicker cuts of beef steak, it can also be applied to pork chops, lamb racks, or even thick fish fillets. The key is thickness; thinner cuts may not benefit as much from this method.
Is it necessary to use a cast iron skillet for searing?
While a cast iron skillet is recommended due to its excellent heat retention and distribution, you can use any heavy-bottomed skillet. Just ensure it’s oven-safe if you’re preheating it in the oven.
How do I know when the pan is hot enough for searing?
You can test the skillet’s readiness by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If the water droplets sizzle and evaporate quickly, the skillet is ready for searing.
Can I reverse sear a frozen steak?
It’s not recommended to reverse sear a frozen steak directly. Thaw your steak completely in the refrigerator for even cooking and optimal results.
Are there any specific oils recommended for searing?
Use oils with a high smoke point like vegetable oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil. These oils can withstand high temperatures without burning.
In conclusion, my journey with the reverse sear method has been nothing short of transformative. It’s a fantastic way to achieve a perfectly cooked steak, especially when dealing with thicker cuts. By following these steps and tips, you can master the art of reverse searing, ensuring your steaks are cooked just the way you like them every time. This method may take a bit longer and require a bit more attention to detail, but the results are well worth it. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a home cook, the reverse sear technique is a valuable skill to add to your culinary repertoire.