Once you cook a steak using the reverse sear method, you may never want to cook a steak any other way! To reverse sear a steak, you bake it in the oven first, then pan-sear it in a heavy cast iron skillet. We love this technique because it gives you more control over the steak’s internal temperature. Plus, you get a super tender steak with a perfectly cooked steak browned crust.
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Most home chefs have pan-seared a steak, especially a thick cut of beef such as ribeye or filet mignon. Cooking a steak this way gives you a delicious piece of meat with a perfectly pink center and a crispy golden crust. However, you don’t always get your steak to the perfect temperature when pan-searing. The steak can end up being too rare or overdone by just a little bit. Having a steak that doesn’t turn out perfectly is frustrating because steak isn’t exactly cheap.
When you use the reverse sear method to cook steak, you have more control over how the steak turns out. Best of all, you get to maximize the flavor of the beef. A few simple changes make all the difference. Because you’re cooking the steak on low in the oven before you pan-sear it, it will be perfect for the pan-searing process that will give it that delicious golden crust. Below, we outline the perfect steps for how to reverse sear a steak.
Benefits of Using the Reverse Searing Method
There are many benefits to making a reverse seared ribeye steak, especially if it’s a thick cut such as a porterhouse. The traditional method when you pan-sear a steak is that you cook the steaks in a heavy cast iron skillet and sort of just hope for the best. With the reverse searing method, you heat the steaks first in an oven that’s preheated to 275 degrees Fahrenheit (135 degrees Celsius). After you heat the steaks, you pan-sear them in a cast iron skillet that’s been preheated.
Here are the reasons this process works so well.
- The oven is warm, so it dries the steak’s surface. This leads to more effective and efficient pan-searing once you pull the steaks out of the oven.
- Even, slow heat from the oven gives you more control and allows you to prevent overcooking your steaks.
- You’ll get a more consistent internal pink color, and you’ll also have limited grey edges when the steak is cooked.
- Thick beef cuts can be cooked gently to the perfect level of doneness.
- When you pan-sear your steak in a cast iron skillet that’s been preheated, the Mallard Reaction kicks in, and you get a gorgeous brown crust.
- Because you finish the cooking process in a cast iron skillet, you also get flavorful pan drippings and fond that you can use to make delicious gravy or sauce.
- Cooking steak with sous vide has become popular, and the reverse searing method is nearly as reliable as sous vide (and much more reliable than cooking on a charcoal grill or gas grill grate). This method is more affordable than buying a sous vide machine.
How to Cook a Steak with Reverse Searing
When you use the reverse sear steak method to cook steaks, it works best for thicker steak that is between 1 1/2 and 2 inches in thickness. This can be a USDA choice or prime top sirloin, grass fed steak, certified Angus beef, ribeye steak, porterhouse steak, filet mignon, or New York strip steaks. A thin steak doesn’t work well with the reverse seared steak method.
1. Prepare the Steak and the Oven
Follow these steps.
- Move one oven rack to the oven’s center position. Place a second oven rack just below the first one.
- Preheat your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit (135 degrees Celsius).
- Put your large 12-inch cast iron skillet or another type of heatproof pan on the lower rack of the oven. Placing the cast iron skillet in the oven will help to speed up the searing time once you start to pan-sear the steak.
- Take a baking sheet (or sheet pan) and line it with foil. Put a wire rack on top of the foil.
- Remove the steaks from the fridge and dry them completely using paper towels. You want to be sure you’re removing the excess moisture.
- Place steak on top of the wire rack and season them with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (or steak seasoning) on both sides.
2. Cook Your Steak in Your Oven
When you cook steak in your oven, it’s important to use an instant-read thermometer so you can keep an eye on the steak’s internal temperature. Put the thermometer into the steak’s thickest part. After 15 minutes of cooking, check the steak’s temperature. Then, keep checking every 5 minutes until you reach this internal temperature:
- Medium rare steak: 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit (32-35 degrees Celsius)
- Medium steak: 100-105 degrees Fahrenheit (38-41 degrees Celsius)
You don’t have to get to the full temperature in the oven because the steaks will finish their cooking time in the skillet. The key is to not bring the steaks to the regular cooking time for medium-rare or medium steaks. So use our guidelines here to cook your steaks properly.
3. Pan-Sear Your Steak
Now you’re ready to pan-sear your steaks.
- Pull your preheated cast iron pan out of the oven and place it on a burner on your stovetop.
- Turn the burner’s heat to high heat. Once your skillet is hot on indirect heat, add a high-smoke-point oil such as clarified butter, ghee, or vegetable oil.
- Sear the oven-cooked steaks on both sides for 2 minutes on both sides. This is the point where you’re looking for the correct doneness temperature.
- Use these cooking times to determine when your steak is done: 120-125 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare steak (49-52 degrees Celsius), and for a medium steak, the internal temperature should be about 130 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius).
- At this point, add a tablespoon of unsalted butter to the skillet (near the end of the cooking time). While this step is optional, the butter adds tons of flavor to the steak. Allow the butter to melt, then use a spoon to baste the steaks in the melted butter. This will give the steaks even more delicious browning and loads more flavor.
- Don’t forget the steaks’ sides. Use tons to hold them upright for approximately 30-60 seconds for each side. This will help to render more fat and flavor.
4. Allow the Steak to Rest
Before eating a steak, you should allow it to rest after cooking. Once you’re finished cooking your steaks, transfer them to a wire rack on a baking sheet or a clean plate. When you allow the steaks to rest, they cook just a little bit more in what is called carryover cooking. You can count on the internal temperature coming up to about 5 more degrees in approximately 10 minutes.
The Science of Reverse Searing Steak
How does reverse searing work, and why do you get the perfect steak when it’s cooked this way? Reverse searing relies on a low temperature that gradually cooks the steak because the oven is heated to below 300 degrees. The low heat gives the steak consistent heat, and it also activates the special enzymes that make beef so tender.
How To Reverse Sear a Steak
- You need this basic equipment for reverse-searing steak:
- 12-inch heavy cast iron skillet
- Baking pan
- Aluminum foil
- Cooling rack
- Instant-Read Meat Thermometer
- 2 steaks that are between 1 1/2 and 2 inches in thickness use thicker steaks such as New York strip, ribeye, porterhouse, or filet mignon
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp. canola oil you can also use ghee, compound butter, or vegetable oil
- Line a baking pan (a sheet pan works well) with aluminum foil and put a wire rack on top of it. Set the baking pan aside.
- Put the rack in your oven in the center position, then preheat your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit (135 degrees Celsius).
- Put a 12-inch large cast iron skillet into the oven so that it can get warm. Place it on the rack just below the center rack.
- Remove the steaks from the refrigerator and dry them thoroughly with paper towels. This is an important step because it will remove the excess moisture on the surface of the meat.
- Place the steaks on the wire rack on the baking pan.
- Using the freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt, season the steak generously on both sides of the meat.
- Put the baking pan with the steaks into the oven. Allow the steaks to cook for between 15 and 25 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the steak's thickness. In the notes, we give information on the target steak temperatures.
- After the cooking time, remove the pan with the steaks from the oven and set them aside.
- At this time, pull the cast iron skillet from the oven and set it on the burner on your stove.
- Over high heat, get the cast iron skillet nice and hot. Add the oil.
- When the oil is hot enough just to start smoking, add the steaks to the skillet carefully.
- Pan sear the steak's first side until it forms a deep brown crust. This will take about 2 minutes.
- Using tongs, flip steak over and sear for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on that side.
- Use the tongs to turn the steak onto its side so that the sides cook and render the rest of the fat. This will take about 2 minutes.
- Add 1 Tbsp. of the unsalted butter to the skillet. Allow it to melt, and use a large spoon to baste the tops of the steaks briefly.
- Put the steaks onto a clean plate and let them rest for 10 minutes at room temperature.
- Serve the steaks while still warm with your choice of side dishes. Salad, baked potatoes, or mashed potatoes are all great options.
When the steaks are pan-searing, the internal temperature of the meat should be between 120 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare steak (49-52 degrees Celsius). For medium steak, the internal temperature should be about 130 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius).
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