The Correct Way to Reverse Sear a Steak

The ideal steak is tender, juicy, and flavorful. The reverse sear method allows you to achieve that perfection every single time. The process is simple: All you do is cook gently over indirect heat, then sear over high heat.

High heat causes muscle fibers to contract and squeeze out moisture. You can avoid this by keeping your oven or smoker temp between 225 and 275 degrees for the indirect heat portion. This will allow your steak to cook evenly, similar to the effect you get from a sous vide.

Unlike sous vide, in which meat slowly steams inside a bag, the reverse sear method keeps the surface of the steak dry. This is important because it enables you to brown properly at the end and develop rich flavors. This results in a juicy middle and a crispy crust.

Not all cuts are great candidates for this cooking method. Never try this on a butterflied backstrap steak or cutlet because they’re too thin and will quickly overcook. Instead, use a thick-cut steak, whole tenderloin, or backstrap.

Time to make

1 hour

Ingredients

Venison steaks
Steak rub
Cooking oil
Herbs and butter (optional)

Also works with

Bear, hog, turkey breast

Special equipment

Metal rack, oven-safe meat thermometer, frying pan, oven or smoker

Method

1
  1. Season steaks generously with either coarse salt and pepper or your favorite steak rub. You can do this step several hours or even a day in advance.
  2. Preheat an oven or smoker to between 225 and 275 degrees. A lower heat setting will yield a juicier steak because the heat is gentle, but it takes much longer to reach the desired internal temperature.
  3. Drizzle the steaks with a thin layer of oil and place them on a metal rack set inside a cookie sheet to catch drippings. If you’re using a smoker, you can set the steaks directly on the grilling rack. This allows airflow and keeps the exterior dry. You’ll need that to achieve a good crust when you go to sear it at the end.
  4. Insert an oven-safe thermometer in the meat at the thickest point and place the meat in the oven or smoker. You’ll need to know where the internal temp stands throughout the process to avoid having to constantly open the door and prick the meat with a probe. Pull the steaks when they reach about 15 degrees below your target temperature.
  5. For a final target temp of 125 degrees (rare), pull from oven at 110 degrees. For a final target temp of 130 degrees (medium-rare), pull from oven at 115 degrees. For a final target temp of 135 degrees (medium), pull from oven at 120 degrees.
  6. Let the steaks rest on the counter while you pre-heat a frying pan over high heat. Add a drizzle of oil and swirl to coat the bottom. When the pan is smoking hot, lay the steaks down and sear for about 30 seconds on each side. At this point you can add herbs and butter and baste the steaks for more flavor.
  7. You don’t need to let the steaks rest because they were cooked so gently in the oven. Don’t feel guilty about digging right in!

*If cooking bear or hog loin, you’ll want to make adjustments so that the final target temp is 165 degrees, which means you’ll take it out of the oven at 150 degrees. For a thick turkey breast, you want to aim for a final temp of 155 to 160 degrees and remove it at 140 to 145 degrees.