Reverse Sear, the Perfectly Grilled Steak Every Time

by Top Geek  

Last Updated: April 5, 2022


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.

illustration of direct and indirect heat

comparing indirect to direct cooked steak
Left: Ribeye cooked over indirect heat. Right: Ribeye quickly seared over direct heat.

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.

fast sear
While it seams insane, this level of heat produces a uniformed steakhouse quality sear in under 60 seconds.

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.

reverse sear on a kettle
Using the Slow ‘N Sear on a kettle grill to apply direct heat.

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.

Not Limited

Reverse Searing on different cooking accessories

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.

searing steak in a pan
Using a sous vide cooker in combination with cast iron is the only way to cook steak when indoors — your smoke detectors will cheer you on.

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 recipe

Smoking A Porterhouse Steak – Meat Geeks Style

Start with your juicy cut of Porterhouse steaks (I’m talking about 20 oz. and 1 inch thick. While a smaller and thinner cut would do, that just wouldn’t be Geek Style). You will also want to use a strong wood as you won’t be smoking the steak longer than 30 – 45 minutes. I like to use Jack Daniels Wood Chips.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
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.
As outlined above, place your steak on the cold side of the grill. Leave smoking until your steak is about 80% done.
Before you move it to the hot side of the grill, brush it once again with another third of the butter mixture.
You only leave in on the hot side of the grill about 30 seconds per side. Right before you transfer your steak to a plate give it one last brush of rest of the butter mixture for good measure.
Now, just let your steak rest for a few minutes and you’re in business.


About the author Top Geek

I have always been a believer: “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I’ve been lucky enough to use my professional experience in the meat industry over the past 20 years to create a business where I love to go to work.

Smoking Meat Geeks is all about bringing people together that enjoy food as much as I do. We provide a place for everyone to share thoughts, ideas, and recipes; to be a go-to spot for cooking inspiration. Feel free to leave a comment, say hello, or provide any tips. There is no right or wrong input, as long as you’re engaging, you’re a Meat Geek!

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