How do you reverse sear thin steak without overcooking it? The whole point of the process is to cook the steak to perfection, but it’s not always easy to do. We’re here to help you get the results you desire.
Reverse Sear Thin Steak
You can reverse sear thin steak, but it’s often not worth the extra effort. The technique works better on steaks that measure at least 1-1/2 inches thick. One exception would be for fatty steaks like ribeye, which can create flare-ups when grilled over high heat. However, ribeye is usually cut fairly thick to begin with.
What Does “Reverse Sear” Mean?
Reverse searing is a cooking method that enlists a two-step process to give steak the ideal texture.
The first step is to bring the steak to the crest of the perfect serving temperature. Then you’ll finish it over high heat to give the exterior that prized golden-brown crust.
Searing steak over high heat results in the Maillard reaction, which is the scientific term for the crisp brown layer that forms on the outside. The trouble is, when you grill or sear a thick steak right from the beginning, it might become too charred.
The reverse sear method gives you better control over the internal temperature of the meat, helping to avoid overcooking. As a result, your steak should be pleasantly crisp on the outside and perfectly juicy and tender on the inside.
Should You Reverse Sear Thin Steak?
You can use this method on any cut of steak, but it works best on thick cuts—say, at least 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick.
The reasoning behind this is simple. Thicker steaks have a hard time cooking to the correct internal temperature before the outsides have become charred and bitter-tasting. Unless you prefer your steaks blue rare, reverse searing is the way to go for these cuts.
That’s not to say that you can’t reverse sear a thin steak. But if the cut measures less than 1 inch thick, you’ll probably be able to cook it to the right temperature without burning the exterior.
We should also mention that the technique comes in handy for fatty cuts such as ribeye. As the fat renders, it can drip onto the hot coals or flames, causing flare-ups. These impart a nasty, bitter flavor to the meat as well.
How To Reverse Sear a Steak
When reverse searing a steak, your first step is to make sure the meat is completely thawed. Of course, this will only be an issue if the steak was frozen in advance, but it’s still important. If you start with partially frozen steak, it won’t cook evenly.
Once you’re certain that the meat is defrosted, bring it to room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This is another step to ensure even cooking. Don’t keep it out for longer than 2 hours, though, as this is a big no-no in terms of food safety.
You can remove any excess moisture by patting the steak dry with paper towels. Don’t skip this step if the meat was previously frozen, as moisture will have collected on the surface.
Season the steak as desired. Premium cuts such as ribeye and tenderloin don’t need more than kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, but you can add garlic powder or fresh herbs to the mix if you’d like.
If you have time to plan ahead, let the seasoned steaks rest in the refrigerator overnight or up to 24 hours. This process is known as dry brining, and it will improve the flavor and texture of the cooked steak. Bring them to room temp again before cooking.
When it’s time to begin, you have a couple of options. You can either pre-cook the steaks in the oven, or fire up the grill and use indirect heat for the first step. After that, you can finish them on the grill or on the stovetop.
If you opt for the oven method, preheat your unit to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Set the seasoned steaks on a wire rack to ensure even airflow, then place the rack on a baking sheet.
Cook the steaks until they’ve achieved an internal temperature that’s about 10 degrees less than your preferred serving temp. For example, if you want to serve the steaks at 135 degrees (a perfect medium rare), remove them from the oven when they’ve cooked to 125.
Alternatively, you can start with the grill method. This isn’t the best way to go if you’re an amateur griller—using indirect heat can be difficult for novices. But if you know what you’re doing, this method will improve the flavor of the steak.
When using a gas grill, turn on half of the burners, leaving the others cold. For grills that have middle burners, light one side and leave the one in the center turned off. If you’re cooking with a charcoal grill, keep all the coals piled on one side.
Once the grill has heated to 225-250 degrees, cook your steak over indirect heat with the lid closed. Try to maintain the same low, steady temperature as you wait for the steak to cook to within 10 degrees of your preferred serving temp.
When you’re searing a steak, you should only flip it once. But for the low-and-slow step of the reverse searing process, you may need to turn the meat over more frequently to prevent scorching and hot spots.
Once the steaks have hit the correct temperature, take them out of the oven or grill and set them aside.
If you’re using the stovetop, heat a heavy skillet over a burner set to high. Add a small amount of neutral oil or beef tallow to the pan. Then add the steaks, searing for about 2 minutes per side, until the exterior is crunchy and golden brown.
Searing the steak on the grill is even easier. Place the steaks on the hotter portion of the grill and sear for about 2 minutes per side. When the outside has achieved a nice golden crust and the meat has cooked to about 5 degrees below your target temperature, the steak is done.
Pro Tip: If the steak is extra thick, you might need to sear the edges as well. This will help to lock in all those savory juices.
Let the steak rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. Don’t neglect this step, or the cooking juices will run out all over the plate, resulting in dry steak.
If you’d like, you can finish the steak off with a compound butter flavored with fresh herbs and garlic. The butter will melt and blend with the steak’s juices, creating a nice interplay with the crisp crust.
How To Test Steak Temperature
You should always use a quality instant-read thermometer to test the temperature of a steak—or any cut of meat, really. Insert the probe into the thickest segment of the cut and wait several seconds for the numbers to hold steady.
Be very careful not to touch any bone when testing steak temperature. The bone conducts heat differently than flesh, so your readout won’t be accurate.
Now that you know how to reverse sear a steak, you’ll be able to decide whether it’s a technique you want to apply to your next cookout. Of course, it’s fine to use this method when cooking indoors as well, but cooking over an open flame gives the steak more flavor.