Look, cooking a big (likely really expensive) steak to perfection can be tricky. You can sweat it out wondering whether the interior will be that desired medium-rare or if you've bungled a $50 piece of meat. Or you can make it stress-free by slowing things down, and initially cook it through at a low temperature, then sear it to perfection.
The method is easy: Cook the steak in the oven, for an even cook. Quickly sear at the end, for that beautiful flavor-packed crust. Done. Perfect. And your butcher shop investment has paid off.
And that's another thing. While a London broil (typically top round, or any lean tough cut) is a perfectly fine, inexpensive cut to practice on; my advice is to spend some money on your steak. Make it a special occasion. You're worth it. Any type of steak can work, but it MUST be a thick cut or it will overcook during the sear.
I first learned to cook steak by watching chefs in a French restaurant. The technique they used was the complete opposite (or reverse) of what we're talking about in this recipe. They would sear a beautiful steak in a carbon steel skillet over extremely high heat, flip it and then into the oven it would go. Finally finishing with butter and herbs. This method works! And it's actually pretty fast (and what you need in a fast-paced restaurant). However, reversing that process is even more magical and relies less on experience and perfect timing.
Your favorite steakhouse has been reverse searing for years. Reverse searing was developed in the early 2000s, as a sort of "redneck sous vide," as a way to get the even cooking temps of a sous vide device without the expense.
When you don't have an immersion circulator to utilize the sous vide method, just reverse sear your beautiful steak. Even with the ability to sous vide, there are definitely some great advantages to the reverse sear.
Advantages of Reverse Sear:
- The steak comes out of the oven dryer than with the sous vide steak method. This means you will get a better crusty sear in a shorter amount of time, and a juicier steak overall.
- Way harder to mess up — because of the low temp oven. It won't overcook as quickly as it will in a hot oven, so expert timing isn't needed.
- More flavor development during the slow cook and the slow cook also means more tender.
A Note About Quality of Steaks
Steak night isn't a time for a cheap-skate steak. Let me explain why. I've always been about "less but better," "quality over quantity" with food of all kinds, but that was recently taken to another level. A local steakhouse was selling 40-day dry-aged and Wagyu steaks, something I would normally never think of purchasing. But I splurged, and those steaks changed the way I think.
The flavor, and even more importantly, the tenderness and texture were beyond any steak I'd tasted before. I'd rather have steak like that once a month than eat lesser steak once a week.
So if you are going to go steak: Go big. Go quality. And maybe just go a little less often to make it happen. Trust me, your meat-loving carnivore self will thank you. Just be amazed and appreciate every bite. As an added incentive, American ranchers raising premium beef, like Snake River Farms, often take better and more humane care of the environment and their animals, even in the processing.
A Bone-In Ribeye Is Perfect for Reverse Sear
This (IMO) is the ultimate steak, with its combination of flavor and marbling, with differing textures. Being the ultimate steak, it needs to be cooked in the ultimate way for perfect results that will seriously just melt in your mouth as you melt into your chair with disbelief that something could taste so good.
For the ultimate in high-quality dry aged and American Wagyu Ssteaks that can be ordered online; check out Snake River Farms (affiliate).
Reverse searing isn't just for steaks. It is a wonderful way to cook a roast or pork chops to perfection as well. The concept is exactly the same, it's just going to be cooking for longer. This is how I cooked our holiday standing prime rib roast and it was melt in your mouth perfection.
Tools & Equipment to Reverse Sear Steak
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- A high-quality steak (at least 1 ½" thick)
- Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper
- Baking sheet pan
- Wire cooling rack
- An oven, BBQ grill or smoker
- Oven probe thermometer
- Thermapen instant-read probe thermometer
- High smoke-point oil (such as canola or peanut oil)
- Carbon Steel Frying Pan or a cast iron skillet
Top Reverse Searing Tips
- Use thick-cut steaks that are at least 1 ½" thick. If you try it with thin steaks, you will probably be disappointed.
- Buy one larger steak rather than two smaller ones. Slice and share.
- Buy the best steak you can. Less is more.
- Season the steak well ahead of time (24 hours before cooking). This will allow the salt to fully penetrate the meat and act as a dry brine, bringing out the flavor and making it more tender.
- Use a probe thermometer in the oven. It's easy and ensures a proper temp without guesswork without even having to open the oven.
- Temper the steak, meaning let it come to room temperature before cooking. This promotes even cooking.
- A lower temp oven will cook more evenly and make the steak even more tender but will increase the cook time. (just start earlier!)
- Rest for 10 before searing so it doesn't overcook on the edges.
How to Reverse Sear Steak
- Heavily season and temper the steak and place on a wire cooling rack on top of a foil-lined baking sheet. *it can take up to 2 hours to truly bring a large steak to room temp.
- Preheat oven to 275° F (135° C), or lower if your oven is capable.
Tip: Use a remote probe thermometer (affiliate) to monitor the internal temperature of the steak while it cooks in the oven or grill.
- Remove from the oven and rest the steak for 10 minutes to let it cool slightly before searing.
- Heat a heavy cast iron or carbon steel skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke. Then add about 1 tablespoon canola or other high smoke point oil.
- Sear the steak for 2 minutes per side. (Optional: Add butter and herbs to the skillet and baste while the steak sears.)
- Slice and enjoy with a sprinkle of coarse salt.
To Rest and When?
Do you even need to rest the steak after cooking it at a low temp in the oven? Yep, you do and it's for a different reason than the normal resting period after cooking at a hot temperature. You want to rest the steak after it comes out of the oven to allow it to relax and cool off slightly before searing.
This will prevent it from continuing to cook too much when it hits the screaming hot skillet to get crusty. There's no need to rest it after the sear.
To Reverse Sear in a Grill or Smoker
The oven isn't the only way to reverse sear a steak. A grill with the ability to cook with indirect heat and the lid closed or a smoker are great for the reverse sear method. The advantage of using a grill or a smoker is that additional flavors from the smoke of the charcoal and/or wood chips can be infused into the meat while it cooks. The downside is that controlling the temperature of some grills can be more difficult than the oven in your house.
While a bone-in ribeye is fantastic for this; a tri-tip is also a perfect candidate to reverse sear in the smoker and infuse with oak smoke for authentic Santa Maria flavors.
Reverse Sear Steak Times and Temps
(1 ½ to 2" Steak)
(remove from oven)
|Rare||115°F||125° F / 52°C|
|Medium-Rare||120°F||130° F / 54° C|
|Medium||130° F||140° F / 60° C|
|Medium-Well||140° F||150° F / 66°C|
Notes on Times and Temps
- Don't rely on cook times. Rely on internal temperature with an instant-read probe thermometer (affiliate).
- Rest the steaks out of the oven for about 10 minutes before searing.
- The pull temperature is 10 degrees Fahrenheit below the final target temperature.
- The chart shows target temps and not a range, so feel free to vary by +/- 5 degrees to make it perfectly to your liking.
- Start checking steak doneness in the oven after 30 minutes, but it usually takes 40 minutes to an hour or more depending on your oven or grill and other variables.
- Since you are using a low temp oven, there isn't nearly as much carry-over cooking as there would be with a hot oven.
Of course a sauce is optional, but it brings it to another level.
- 1 thick-cut steak (1 ½" to 2″ thick)
- 2 teaspoon Kosher salt (half on each side)
- 2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (half on each side)
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
Optional for butter basting
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary sprigs
- 1 sliced shallot
- 2 smashed whole garlic cloves
- Remove steak from refrigerator at least 1 hour before cooking and season heavily with kosher salt. Place the steak on a cooling rack on top of a parchment paper or foil-lined sheet pan.
- Preheat oven or grill to 275° F (135° C) or lower if possible (mine goes to 250° F).
- Cook the steak in the oven until the internal temperature of the steak reaches the desired "pull temperature," 120°F for medium-rare (10 degrees below your target finished internal temperature). *See chart for other temperature options.
- Remove from oven and rest the steak uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes to let cool slightly before searing.
- With your range hood vent on high, heat up your heaviest skillet (preferably cast iron or carbon steel) over high heat until it is ripping hot and just starts to smoke.
- Add about 1 tablespoon canola oil and let heat through for about 30 seconds.
- Carefully place the steak in the skillet and sear for 2 minutes per side. Add the butter and herbs (if using) after about 1 minute and baste the melted butter onto the steak while it sears.
- Serve immediately with a sprinkle of coarse finishing salt.
- Buy one larger steak rather than two smaller ones. Slice and share.
- Buy the best steak you can. Less can be more.
- Season your thick-cut steak right when you bring it home (up to a day before cooking). This will allow the salt to fully penetrate the meat and act as a dry brine.
- Use a probe thermometer in the oven. It's easy and ensures a proper temp without guesswork.
- It is important to rest the steaks after cooking in the oven so they can cool slightly and will not overcook when seared.
- Don't sear for more than 2 minutes per side, or the steak can overcook.
- There is no need to rest after the sear.