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How to Reverse Sear a Steak

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Are you the kind of person who frets over cooking the perfect steak? I was. Even after having trained as a cook, I realized I wasn’t terribly confident that I could routinely turn out a well cooked steak — dark crust on the outside and my perfect temperature on the inside — every time I wanted one.

So I set out to teach myself, by any means necessary, how to cook a perfect steak. I’ve tried lots of approaches, and the simple, nearly foolproof method called the “reverse sear” is by far the winner for anyone who wants a low-stress approach to a perfect piece of meat.

It’s called the “reverse sear” because rather than searing in a pan first and then finishing in the oven — a really common restaurant method — this approach cooks in the oven first and finishes with a rapid sear.

It’s much more gentle, allowing the inside to come to temperature more slowly and evenly without using a high heat that might rapidly overcook it, and then only applying the ripping heat of a pan for a couple of minutes at the end to give it the final browning.

So without further ado, here is the method demonstrated in the video above:

  1. Preheat your oven to 225-275 degrees (105-135° C). For an 1½” steak, this will cook in anywhere from 30-40 minutes.
  2. Pat your steak dry, season it well with salt, and place on a rack on a sheet pan.
  3. Cook in the oven until you reach your target temperature (see guide below).
  4. Preheat a cast-iron pan over high heat. Pat your steak dry if there is any moisture on the surface.
  5. Add oil, and when it starts to smoke, place your steak in the pan.
  6. Allow it to sit for about 1 minute.
  7. Flip and cook for second minute.
  8. Continue flipping your steak every 30 seconds until you are about 10 degrees below your final target, giving it a poke with your thermometer every couple of flips. (For a steak pulled at 105 degrees (40° C), this will probably be a total of 5 flips in a really hot cast iron pan to get to 115-ish degrees (45° C))
  9. Remove to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes.
  10. Slice and serve.

Target Temperature Guide

Rare
Oven target: 105° F (40° C)
Pan target: 115° F (46° C)
Final target: 120-125° F (49-52° C)

Medium Rare
Oven target: 110° F (43° C)
Pan target: 120° F (49° C)
Final target: 130° F (55° C)

Medium
Oven target: 115° F (46° C)
Pan target: 125° F (52° C)
Final target: 135° F (58° C)

 

If you like steaks more well done than medium, you don’t really need this technique. Cooking directly in the pan can get you the outer crust you want without having to worry about overcooking the interior. You have a good amount of time in the pan before you hit the 130-degree (55° C) target when you’ll pull it from the pan.

There it is! The reverse sear. As always, I recommend never cooking meat without a thermometer. The difference between rare and medium rare isn’t much and guessing isn’t worth it if you know exactly how you like your steak!

Bon appetit!

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Michael Stanwyck
Michael Stanwyck is the co-founder of The Whole Life Challenge, an idea that developed during his seven years as a coach and gym manager at CrossFit Los Angeles.

He graduated from UCLA with a BA in philosophy as well as a degree from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, and feels food is one of the most important parts of a life - it can nourish, heal, and bring people together.

Michael believes health and well-being are as much a state of mind as they are a state of the body, and when it comes to fitness, food, and life in general, he thinks slow is much better than fast (most of the time). Stopping regularly to examine things is the surest way to put down roots and grow.

He knows he will never be done with his own work, and believes the best thing you can do for your well-being starts with loving and working from what you’ve got right now.

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