How to Reverse Sear a Steak

Skip the grill and reverse sear instead.

April 27, 2022

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The kitchen is my happy place and I'm game for trying almost any new recipe. However, the one thing that's always stopped me in my tracks is steak. The few times I've tried to make steak on a grill pan or in a skillet on the stovetop, it's been a disaster. Until recently, I'd given up on thinking I'd be able to cook steak in my apartment successfully. Then, I learned about the reverse sear method and suddenly, the perfect steak became a possibility.

Chances are you've seen or tried the classic steakhouse method of cooking a steak: sear on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet and finish it in the oven. Sounds simple right? Not exactly. In a small apartment, this method sets off every fire alarm and it can be hard to keep from overcooking the steak. If you're lucky enough to have a grill, maybe that's your go-to. My issue there? No edges seared in butter. Seriously, once you have a steak seared in butter and aromatics you won't go back.

What Is Reverse Searing?

Which brings me to the reverse-sear method: Originally developed in the mid-2000s, one of the pioneers of the method is J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, James Beard award-winning author of The Food Lab. He developed it as a way to make the perfect steak indoors — and it's now the method everyone talks about.

His reverse sear method of a steak is essentially turning the steakhouse method on its head. Cook the steak on a low temperature in the oven first and then sear it in a hot pan on the stove after.

What Are the Benefits of Reverse Searing Steak?

  • Cooks thick cuts of steak evenly. It's hard to cook a thick cut of steak perfectly - large bone-in ribeyes we're looking at you - often the outsides will be more well-done than the insides, which will remain cherry pink. Cooking the steak in a low-temperature oven ensures even cooking and a more tender steak.
  • More control. It gives you more time to get the steak just how you like it. At a high temperature, your window to get a just-right medium-rare is short. With a lower temperature, you have more control.
  • A great sear. When you cook the steak in the oven first, much of the surface moisture evaporates providing a drier exterior, which is how you get that perfectly browned exterior without overcooking the steak.

How to Reverse Sear Steak

1. Season the Steak

Season all sides of the rib-eyes liberally with salt and pepper.

2. Let the Steak Come to Room Temperature

Place the steak on a wire rack inside a foil-lined baking sheet. Let it sit on the counter to come to room temperature, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Baking the steak on a wire rack keeps them from steaming - steam is the enemy of a good sear.

3. Bake In a Low-Temperature Oven

Bake until the desired internal temperature is reached, 105 degrees F for rare, 115 for medium rare and 125 for medium.

4. Heat a Cast Iron Skillet Over Medium-High

When the rib-eyes come out of the oven, tent loosely with aluminum foil while preheating the skillet. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.

5. Sear the Steaks

Add a couple tablespoons of neutral oil. Sear the steaks on the first side for about a minute. Flip the steaks and add a big knob of butter to the skillet. Once the butter has melted, continue to cook the steaks, continuously basting with the melted butter, until seared on the second side, about 45 seconds.

6. Slice and Serve Immediately

There is no need to rest the meat with the reverse sear method.

Reverse-Seared Steak Recipes

Claire Thomas' recipe starts with a bone-in rib-eye steak, cut at least 1 inch thick. She ups the ante by seasoning it with onion and mushroom powder (bring on all the umami).

Elena Besser's recipe walks you through how to reverse sear boneless ribeye steaks. After slicing the steak, you'll drizzle it in balsamic, sprinkle with flaky sea salt and garnish with charred lemons and mint.

Jeff Mauro's recipe calls for a DIY unique spice rub made from ground and toasted sesame seeds, peppercorns, poppy seeds and mustard seeds plus salt, dark brown sugar and dehydrated onion.

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