Want to know the secrets to cooking a steak perfectly every time you grill? Use this helpful guide to learn how to make a perfectly reverse seared cooking technique on any steak cut.
While I’m far from ever calling myself a grill pro, I have spent the last three years learning how to cook and BBQ almost anything on the grill, especially my fair share of steaks. While I mention the reverse sear method in this post on 10 recipes every BBQ lover should master, you can also see it implemented with other recipes like my Coffee Rub Grilled Lamb, these delicious Greek Chicken Kebabs, and even this tri-tip recipe.
Reverse searing a steak (especially one that’s thicker cut) is my ideal method for cooking several steaks at once, to a perfect medium rare every time. Let me tell you, before this was definitely not the case. I often found myself guessing and either massively undercooking or even over cooking my steak. Because this method works so well, I wanted to finally write a helpful guide to impart my knowledge onto you!
You can jump to the recipe below, but I highly suggest you take a few minutes and read through this guide to get better acquainted with the food science and culinary techniques to achieving the perfect grilled steak every time. Let’s dive in!
Here is what you need to reverse sear on the grill-
- Small Baking Sheet
- Cooling Rack (for elevation)
- Thermometer Pen and a Probe Thermometer
- Oven Mitts
- Optional – Cast Iron Skillet
Here are some commonly asked questions and culinary techniques broken down and explained to help you make your next steak like the pro’s.
What is the reverse sear method?
The reverse sear method is a form of cooking (typically on a grill but also can be done using your oven and stove top) where you utilize two-zone grilling. Two zone grilling is done by using both indirect heat and direct heat to grill your steak.
Typically with a gas or charcoal grill, you can light your coals or burners so only one side has direct flames or direct heat going to it. The other area where the burners are unlit or have zero coals still gets hot, but it a slower manner. Think of reverse searing similarly to baking.
The entire grill heats up and gets hot, but the side where the direct flames do not touch is going to not be so hot yet that the meat sears. Then once it reaches an ideal temperature, you move the steaks over direct heat to finish it off with a nice sear for that perfect steak crust and beautiful diamond grill marks.
Why use this method?
For temperature accuracy! It allows you to slowly bring your steak up to temperature and works especially well with one inch thick steak cuts or higher. I also like using this method for leaner steaks (like a filet mignon or T-bone) because you’re less likely to over cook them even though they contain less fat.
I also like this method for when I’m cooking multiple steaks at a time for family and friends. Steak cuts often vary in size and thickness and it allows you to pay attention to each steaks internal temp.
What steak cuts can I reverse sear?
Any steak cut can use this method, but it works best with thicker steaks. I think when a steak is on the thinner side I prefer to just use the direct sear method only (like I do here with this adobo marinated flank steak recipe) because by the time you reverse sear, and then sear again, it could be a little harder to get both sides flipped on the grill before it becomes over cooked.
Reverse searing can also work for other recipes and is often used with other proteins like chicken, pork, shrimp or even vegetables. Again, it’s great when you want the internal temperature to reach a solid point so you can essentially just finish it off with a final sear for perfectly cooked food.
How long does it take to reverse sear steaks on the grill?
Your cook time will vary depending on how hot the indirect temperature of your grill is and will also depend on how close your steak is to the direct heat as well as the thickness of the steak. A general rule of thumb is that it could take between 30-60 minutes to cook our steaks with these factors in mind.
How do I use this cooking method on a charcoal or gas grill?
- Set your grill up for two zone cooking and preheat it to 250 F.
- Place your steak on a foil lined baking sheet and place a cooling rack over the baking sheet to keep the steak elevated so hot air can pass underneath.
- Season your steak with a high smoke point oil and salt and pepper (or other steak rubs as desired).
- Place the cookie sheet on the cooler side of the grill and close your lid. Let the steak cook until it reaches an internal temp of 105-110 F. Remove and set it aside to rest before directly searing (10-15 minutes).
- Preheat your grill to at least 550-600 F. for the maillard reaction to occur (searing and browning vs. steaming). Oil your grates once it comes to temp and place your resting steaks over the direct flame on your grill.
- Flip the steaks every minute or so until they come to your desired level of doneness. Use your meat thermometer to check often during this phase for accuracy.
- Remove and let your steaks rest while tented before slicing and serving.
Can I reverse sear without a grill?
Yes! You absolutely can reverse sear at home with just an oven and a stove top. This is a great way to cook steaks indoors during colder months or to utilize this method if you don’t own a grill. Follow the same steps listed above but use your preheated oven for the indirect portion of the cook.
Then finish it off by pan searing the steaks over high heat in screaming hot cast iron pan for the direct sear. Continue to utilize your meat thermometer to get an accurate internal temp so you know when it is done.
Once your steak is done, dig in and enjoy! Grab the full recipe below or try this method out with my Keto Steak Frites recipe or with one of these 6 easy ways to add flavor to your steak too for something unique!
- 1 Steak (Any cut that's at least 1" thick is best)
- High Smoke Point Oil (Avocado, Grapeseed, or Canola)
- Sea Salt
- Fresh Ground Pepper
Remove your steaks from the fridge and packaging at least 40 minutes prior to cooking. Remove the packaging and pat dry with a paper towel. Lightly oil both sides and season generously with salt and pepper if desired. Let the steaks rest out at room temperature on the foil lined baking sheet, fitted with a cooling rack (pictures in the post above).
Preheat your grill (or oven) to 250 F and set it for two-zone cooking (one hot side and one cool side).
Once the grill is preheated and the steaks have sat for 30-40 min, place the baking sheet with the steaks onto the cooler side of the grill. Alternatively place in the oven if cooking indoors.
Cook the steaks indirectly until the internal temperature reaches around 105-110 F. Remove and let it rest 10-15 minutes before directly searing.
For a direct sear on the grill, crank up your heat to high on all burners so the grill is over 550 F. Oil the grates as needed then sear each side about a minute or so, checking often with a thermometer until it reaches your desired cooking temperature. For medium rare, I like it to hit around 125 F. *See notes below for searing on a cast iron pan*
Remove the steaks and let them rest 10 min or so before slicing.
If searing on a cast iron pan, preheat your pan to high heat and add a higher smoke point oil. Place your rested, partially cooked steak directly into the middle of the pan and lightly push down. Allow it to sear about a minute or so, then flip your steak and sear again. Lower the heat and baste with butter, garlic cloves, and thyme if desired until it reaches and internal temperature that you desire (125 F. is what I like for medium rare).
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 544Total Fat: 55gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 31gCholesterol: 114mgSodium: 697mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 58g