Why is this a ‘reverse’ sear? The answer goes back to old school slow cooking from crockpot to Dutch oven, all the classic braising techniques. When making pot roast or stew, you typically sear the meat at the beginning of the process. Sometimes you flour it lightly and brown it with a softer sear. This creates flavor and color that will be brought out through the long slow cooking process.
A ‘reverse’ sear simply means that you sear the surface of the meat after the slow cooking process. The difference is that searing immediately before serving lets you enjoy the crisped goodness instead of cooking it into the whole dish. Let’s say you used the ultra-slow oven technique on a beautiful porterhouse. 150°F for a couple hours hitting an internal temperature of 135°F for a perfect med-rare. It is still going to look horrible, even raw, if you serve it that way. Crust it with a nice hot sear and it becomes a thing of beauty.
Those of us who love smoking know that smoke will impart some color, but you don’t always get that rich Maillard caramelization that we love on the outside of good meats, so an additional sear will finish it up nicely.
In the end, cooking meat indirectly to perfection (under 5 to 10°F of target doneness) then using intense direct heat yields a juicy cut with a tasty crust.
Reverse Sear: Direct Heat
Getting a good sear happens better at higher the heat, sometimes much higher. There are folks who literally bring out the blow torch or brush burners to get that proper finish. One of the most effective simple solutions is that instead of dumping that chimney of coals, keep them in the chimney with the grill positioned directly above and you will have an effective 700ish degree output for a very fast sear.
Our good old kettle barbecue is really made for this kind of cooking. Get a low slow smoke going with the coals and wood banked on one side, and the meat soaking up the smoke, along with some heat, on the other side. When the internal temperature gets within 15°F or so of target doneness, add a small handful of charcoal to your banked coals. When those coals have taken, and the meat is still 5 degrees or so from your target put it directly over the hottest spot of the coals.
30-60 seconds per side should get a nice crust and make it ready to serve. One of our favorite upgrades for a kettle grill is the Slow N’ Sear, while it’s a little pricy it definitely kicks things up to the next level.
Searing does not require an open flame. Oven style top broilers, when pre-heated, can generate enough heat for a good sear. Even the oven fired up to 500°F will work. A heavy cast iron skillet or flat iron taken to just shy of red hot is another great way to get a nice crusted sear on your meat.
Be aware that these kind of temperatures will generate smoke, setting off those indoor detectors if you are not careful. You also want to be aware of carry over cooking. The idea that when you remove the meat from the heat it will continue to cook, and the thicker it is to begin with the more carry over cooking it can have.
Now that you know some basics about searing, let’s take that porterhouse from start to finish, Geek style.
Smoking A Porterhouse Steak – Meat Geeks Style
You’ll also need a few simple ingredients, only enough to complement the smoky flavors.
- 5 Tablespoons Melted Butter
- 3 Teaspoons Mustard Dijon if you have it
- 3 Tablespoons Worcester Sauce
- Dry Rub a light coat of your favorite rib dry rub; or, just salt and pepper
- Combine all ingredients, then brush a third of it on your splendid Porterhouse (I’m hungry!), reserve the remaining butter mixture.