The best way to cook a nice thick steak is with the reverse sear method.
This process involves slowly cooking the steak at a low temperature and then finishing it on a blazing-hot grill.
It’s the best way to guarantee succulent, better than steak-house quality steak at home.
For this recipe, I used my Weber Kettle charcoal grill, but you can still get great results using a gas grill, or even an oven and then finish the steak in a hot cast iron pan.
So don’t risk ruining an expensive, thick-cut steak, read on and learn how to reverse sear a steak.
What is the reverse sear method?
So you picked up a beautiful steak from the store, and you’re ready to throw it on the grill.
Not so fast.
The conventional method of searing steak by flipping it until it’s cooked in the middle works for steaks that are less than an inch thick but falls short when you are cooking proper, thick-cut steak.
The problem is that by the time you reach a nice medium rare temperature in the middle, the outside of your steak will be seriously overcooked.
The technique commonly used in restaurants involves searing the meat first to form a crust, and then transferring it to an oven to bring the inside up to temperature.
The reverse sear method flips this concept on its head by slowly bringing the steak up to temperature in a grill or oven at low heat and then searing it at high heat.
This method gives you more control over how the interior of the steak cooks so you can achieve a perfectly uniform medium rare with a beautiful brown crust.
Commonly used for steak, this method works for thick-cut pork and lamb chops.
Benefits of the reverse sear method:
- Inside cooks more evenly – Because the steak cooks at a low temperature first the entire steak cooks more evenly instead of the out side burning while the inside is still raw.
- Better crust – While the steak cooks at low temperature the surface dries. The Maillard reaction can’t start until most of the steak’s surface moisture has evaporated so this process helps ensure a beautiful crust.
- Easier to avoid overcooking – When searing a thick steak, the outside will burn before the inside is done. There’s also only a narrow window when the center will be perfect. With the reverse sear the temperature moves so slow it’s easy to take it off at the right moment.
Disadvantages of the reverse sear method:
The reverse sear definitely isn’t a perfect method for every cut of meat.
- More time-consuming – It’s faster to throw a steak on the grill and flip it a few times until it’s done.
- Only works on thick steak – The method breaks down if the steak is less than an inch thick. 1.5 – 2 inches+ works much better.
I find the whole process much less stressful, especially if I’m cooking multiple steaks.
If you’re concerned that the steak is too big, I find that one two-inch thick rib eye is enough for two people.
What type of steaks work best
It’s crucial to use the reverse sear method with at least 1.5″ thick steak.
Bone-in or boneless are both fine, and the bone can help protect the steak during the initial cooking phase.
I used a 1.5-inch Wagyu Ribeye from Vermont Wagyu. They are a family-owned business that always takes care of me.
Temperature for reverse-seared steak
The key reverse searing steak is knowing when to switch from the low and slow stage to the final sear.
The table below gives you the internal temp of the steak, at which point you should finish the low cooking phase.
For example, if you want a medium rare steak with a final temperature of 130°F you would remove the steak from the grill or oven once it hits 115°F.
|Doneness||Low Heat Target||Final Temperature|
I won’t include the target temps for anything above medium, you might as well just throw your steak in the microwave if you’re going to cook it until well done.
Do you need to dry brine steak
You’ll see lots of recipes tell you to salt your steak and leave it in the fridge for several hours or overnight.
The argument here is that dry brining helps the outside of the steak get dry while making the steak moister.
Sprinkle a generous amount of kosher salt and let it sit uncovered in the fridge.
I find this isn’t required, and you can simply season your steak and then leave it on the bench for about an hour to come up to temperature.
If you do decide to dry brine overnight, be aware that the steak tends to cook faster.
The one essential item of equipment for the reverse sear is a meat thermometer.
A smoker, grill, or oven all work for the low and slow stage, and then you can finish the steak over a hot grill or in a cast-iron pan.
I personally prefer to use a charcoal grill, as the steak can take on some smoke flavor during the initial low and slow stage of the cook, and then it’s quite easy to get the grill seriously hot for the final sear.
How to reverse sear a steak
The beauty of the reverse sear method is that the process can be broken down into a few simple steps. Unlike the normal way of cooking steak, you actually have plenty of time to get organized.
I used a charcoal grill for the entire process, but you can easily use an oven and then finish on the grill, or stay inside and finish on a hot cast iron pan.
1. Season your steak
I like to add a little oil to the steak as a binder and then season it with kosher salt, and black pepper.
Then let them sit on the counter until they come up to room temperature.
It normally sits on my counter for an hour, and in that time, the steak absorbs the seasoning.
2. Fire up your grill
For the low and slow phase of the cook, you want to get your grill up to about 200 – 250°F.
To do this on the
Once the charcoal has started to ash over, dump them into one side of the grill.
I had the vents fully open until I got up to about 180°F and then closed the bottom vent about 3/4.
It’s not necessary, but for extra flavor, during the reverse sear process, I like to use two small pieces of smoking wood. I used hickory. Just be careful not to use too much as it can overpower quickly.
You can also use a water pan on the cool side of the grill to help keep the temperature stable.
3. Cook the steak at low heat
Once your grill is up to temp, it’s time to place the steak on the cool side of the grill.
Position the steak so the fattier side is pointing towards the charcoal. If you have a bone-in steak, then the bone side should face the coals.
It’s helpful to monitor the temperature of your grill at the same location as the steak. The built-in thermometer will read much higher because it’s closer to the charcoal.
to do this, I use my ThermoWorks Smoke with the probe on the cool side of the grill next to the steak.
You can either place a probe in the thickest part of the steak or monitor it with an instant-read thermometer.
For medium rare, you want to bring the steak up to 110 – 115°F.
4. Remove and rest the steaks
When the steak hits your desired internal temperature (that’s 110°F for medium rare), you can remove it from the heat for a quick rest.
Resting your steaks has two main advantages:
- Allows you to crank up the temperature of your grill for the final sear
- Results in a juicer steak
Place a pat of butter on top of the steak and tent loosely with aluminum foil.
While your steak is resting, lift up the grill grates and dump in more charcoal right on top of the lit pieces. In about 10 minutes, the charcoal is hot enough to sear and finish the steak.
If you had to close the vents during the low and slow part of the cook, open them up all the way now.
5. Sear the steaks over high heat
Your steak should be almost cooked through, and all that’s left to do now is finish it with a quick sear.
Ignore the advice you often hear about not turning a steak more than once. Flipping multiple times gives you a more even sear and tastier crust.
If you are grilling a steak with lots of fat, like a ribeye you’re going to get some flare-ups.
If that happens just flip the steak and move it around to try and avoid any huge flames.
Don’t forget to hit the sides of the steak as this will help render the fat.
Once both sides of the steak have developed a nice crust, you can start probing with your meat thermometer every 20 – 30 seconds until you hit your desired internal temp of 130°F for medium rare.
You can take the steak off about 5°F before your target.
There’s no need to rest your steak again, but you can let it sit for a few minutes while you finish preparing any sides.
Read more – 11 Mind Blowing Side Dishes for Steak
I like to slice the steak and then serve it with a sprinkle of kosher salt.
Notice how there’s almost no grey around the outside of the steak. Thanks to the reverse sear, you get a beautiful crust, and then the steak is cooked evenly on the inside.
How to Reverse Sear a Steak on the Grill
- 20 oz rib eye steak 1.5+ inches thick work best.
- 1.5 tsp Kosher salt
- 1.5 tsp Black pepper Coarse ground works best for developing the crust
- 1 tsp Vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- Apply a thin coat of oil to steak and then season generously with kosher salt and black pepper.
- Leave seasoned steak for up to an hour to come up to room temperature while you get the grill ready.
- Optionally place two small pieces of smoke wood like hickory on the charcoal for extra flavor.
- Place steak on the cool side of the grill with the fattier or bone side pointed towards the charcoal.
- For medium rare remove steak from the grill when it hits an internal temperature of 110 – 115°F. Place a pat of butter on steak and wrap loosly in foil.
- While your steak is resting, lift the grill grates and add more charcoal on top of the lit pieces. In about 10 minutes, the charcoal is hot enough to sear and finish the steak.
- Finish the steak with a quick sear, flipping every 30 seconds. Remove steak from the grill when it hits 130-135°F for medium rare.
- Slice steak and serve