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How to Reverse Sear for the Most Tender Grilled Meat Ever

Have you tried the hottest trend in grilling yet? Fans of the reverse sear swear it makes for the best steaks, chops, even burgers that you've ever experienced. Here's a quick guide on this technique so you can try it and then decide. One go-around turned me from a skeptic to a reverse sear convert.

reverse sear steaks edited

Cooking steaks slowly, off the fire is a trendy technique called Reverse Sear. Photo by Leslie Kelly

What is Reverse Sear?

This technique "reverse sear" started surfacing in a big way a few years ago, and continues to gain steam as more discover its magical powers to produce grilled meat that's tender and juicy on the inside and mahogany on the surface.While the origins of this technique remain a mystery, grilling guru Meathead Goldwyn credits the food service foot soldiers who introduced sous vide cooking in the 1980s. Sous vide involves holding foods at a particular temperature for extended periods in vacuum-sealed bags in water baths. Cooking the meat low and slow preserves the its moisture, but produces a gray looking piece of meat, so cooks using this method took to searing the meat just before serving.

Essential Ingredients for Success

  • Thick steaks or chops -  between 1.5 and 2-inches is ideal.
  • An instant-read thermometer
  • A cool side of the grill, or, if you're cooking inside, the oven and a grill pan for finishing.
  • Patience!  This process can take considerably longer than the standard sear.

How to Reverse Sear

Whether you use charcoal or a gas grill, it's essential to build heat on one side, leaving half "cool," at 225 degrees. Once the coals have turned white, or the gas grill has reached that temp, place the seasoned steaks or chops onto the cool side and the lid is lowered, creating a type of convection oven.

Cooking the meat at a lower temperature means the proteins don't contract and squeeze out the moisture. When the meat reaches 10 to 15 degrees lower than the desired temp -- about 120 for the 130-135 degrees for medium rare -- stoke the fire and flip the meat onto the hot side. Wait just a minute and turn. Another minute, then turn again and so on until you've got an exterior that's deep brown. The inside should remain ruby red and super succulent.

reverse sear closeup edited

Photo by Leslie Kelly

In the Oven

Recreate the same effect inside by cooking seasoned meat on a rack in a 275-degree oven until the internal temp reaches 120, about 45 minutes for a piece that's 2-inches thick. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes while heating a grill pan or cast iron skillet. Sear in the hot pan 1 minute per side until reaching a deep brown. No need to rest after searing, just slice and serve.

To serve alongside, check out Chef John's Chimichurri Sauce.

chimichurri photo by Meredith

Photo via Meredith Publishing

About Leslie Kelly

Always hungry to learn, never had my fill of oysters, Memphis dry rub ribs, wild salmon, chocolate chip cookies or a well-rolled lumpia. Washington state wine lover, bourbon fan. Totally obsessed with brunch!