How to Reverse Sear a Steak: Exceed Restaurant Quality at Home

5 min
Reverse seared steak, evenly cooked and flavorful crust

The reverse seared method is our gold standard for cooking steaks, surpassing those of high-end restaurants. It can even perfectly cook a frozen steak into a mouthwatering masterpiece!

Starting with low heat cooks the steak to an even pink edge-to-edge, without the overcooked outer layers (gray bands). Then a blazing hot sear develops a flavorful, golden-brown crust.

The only downside is resisting the temptation to cook the steak faster, which will significantly affect steak quality. But the results are worth the wait, as a reverse seared steak even gives high-end restaurant steaks a run for their money.

For best results, consider a dry brine before reverse searing your steak!

Table of Contents

  1. Intro
  2. Reverse Sear Equipment
    1. Recommended/Optional Tools
  3. Reverse-Seared Steak Instructions
  4. Reverse-Seared Steak Explanation
  5. Why Reverse Seared Steaks Are Our Gold Standard
  6. Reverse-Seared Steak Shortcomings
  7. Alternatives to Reverse Searing Steak
  8. FAQs

Reverse Sear Equipment

  • Wire rack and drip pan – for dry-brining and cooking in the oven.
  • Convection oven – for baking in the oven with adequate airflow.
  • Heavy-duty pan – for searing on stovetop.
  • Grill – alternative to oven and pan.
  • Instant read thermometer – to ensure correct doneness.
  • Remote thermometer – for hassle-free temperature checks/notifications.

Reverse-Seared Steak Instructions

  1. Season
    1. Season steak’s surface with coarse salt.
    2. Optional: For dry brining benefits, rest seasoned steak on a wire rack and drip pan in the fridge for 8 to 24 hours.
  2. Indirect Heat
    1. Optional: Insert a wired/remote food thermometer into the thickest part of the meat.
    2. Lay steaks over wire rack or grill grates for adequate airflow.
    3. Heat inside 200-300°F oven/grill.
    4. Remove when the steak cooks to your desired doneness.
  3. Rest
    1. Rest the steak and let it cool by 10-20°F.
  4. Sear
    1. Turn up the heat on a pan or grill to get it blazing hot.
    2. Sear steak on each side for a deep, flavorful crust.
    3. Optional: Add spices, compound butter, or spice-infused steak oil right before searing is complete.

Reverse-Seared Steak Explanation

The reverse sear starts by cooking steak over low heat to reach your desired doneness. It then requires a short rest period before searing on a flavorful crust from the Maillard reaction A browning reaction that converts proteins and sugars from food into flavor compounds. It works faster at higher temperatures.
More info on Maillard reaction

Now that the steak has reached its desired internal temperature, it needs a short rest time before searing. The rest time allows the internal temperature to cool, re-establishing a heat sink for the upcoming sear.

Without resting, the edges of the steak will overcook and create thick, gray bands of meat on the edges. But by lowering the temperature with a short rest, the steak has a small buffer to prevent overcooking while getting a nice browning.

Why Reverse Seared Steaks Are Our Gold Standard

A low and slow cook is precisely why reverse seared steaks are irresistible. To understand why low temperatures are so effective, consider how steaks cook.

Most cooking methods apply heat directly to the meat’s surface. For the steak to fully cook, the heat must travel through the cut of meat and reach the center.

But if you apply heat to the surface faster than it can diffuse to the steak’s center, the outside will cook faster than the inside. That’s how you end up with a steak that has overcooked edges and a raw center.

Now imagine using indirect heat and lower temperatures to minimize the temperature differences. It gives the steak enough time to evenly distribute heat, preventing the edges from overcooking.

A small temperature gradient from using this method is why you can reverse sear a steak straight out of your fridge or freezer.

Reverse-Seared Steak Shortcomings

A reverse-seared steak will give high-end restaurant steaks a run for their money, but only because it so time-consuming.

If you’re eating steak out, you wouldn’t want to wait over an hour for your food. That’s why few restaurants (if any) reverse sear their steaks.

The reverse sear method can take up to several hours for the best results. You may also need to check on your steaks often to prevent overcooking.

However, you can avoid babysitting by using a remote thermometer with a built-in alarm.

Regardless, the benefits of reverse-searing your steak far outweigh the drawbacks. Whether frozen or thawed, it’s an excellent way (and our preferred way) to cook steak.

Alternatives to Reverse Searing Steak

Reverse searing steak isn’t for everyone. Whether you’re short on time or don’t have the available equipment, there are alternatives to a reverse sear.

Although they may produce slightly different results, try these alternatives if you find them more practical:

  • Pan-seared steak – fastest, lowest quality, more work
  • Pseudo-sous vide steak – fast, slightly lower quality, more work
  • Sous vide steak – slow, same quality, less work


What makes this the ‘reverse sear’ method?

The reverse sear reverses the usual method of searing on the steak’s crust before cooking it through. Instead, it cooks the steak to your desired doneness first and then sears on a crust.

Do I need to use coarse salt to season steak?

Coarse salt reduces the likelihood of over-salting because we can see how much we’ve added. Finer salts dissolve quickly and become invisible, which may trick us into adding more.

Why should I salt/dry brine before cooking?

Seasoning with salt early on helps dry brine meat, which improves taste, texture, tenderness. The benefits of dry brining are more apparent at least an hour in advance.

Do I need an instant-read food thermometer for reverse-seared steaks?

An instant-read food thermometer can help you cook steak to the perfect doneness, which prevents ruining an expensive cut of meat. It’s a worthwhile investment that pays for itself by minimizing food waste.

Do I need a wire rack to reverse sear a steak?

A wire rack allows better airflow to remove the steak’s surface moisture. Otherwise, excess moisture prevents a good sear a good sear. A dry surface ensures you get a flavorful sear from the Maillard reaction A browning reaction that converts proteins and sugars from food into flavor compounds. It works faster at higher temperatures.
More info on Maillard reaction

Why should I rest the steak before searing?

Resting the steak lowers its internal temperature before applying more heat. Without resting, searing will overcook and create gray bands around the steak.

Do I need a heavy-duty or cast-iron pan to sear steak?

A heavy-duty or cast-iron pan holds heat better and gives the steak a better sear. Although not necessary, it helps brown/flavor the steak through the Maillard reaction A browning reaction that converts proteins and sugars from food into flavor compounds. It works faster at higher temperatures.
More info on Maillard reaction

What’s the difference between cooking a thick or thin steak?

A thick steak requires more heat/time to reach your desired doneness after short sear. Meanwhile, a thinner steak will cook all the way through by the time you finish searing.

Why should I start cooking a thick steak with indirect heat?

Low heat helps evenly cook/defrost a thick and/or frozen steak. Starting with a hot sear will unevenly cook the outside to overcooked, while the inside is still frozen.

Why should I add spices (if any) at the end of searing?

Spices will burn at extremely hot temperatures and create bitter compounds through pyrolysis.

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