How to Reverse Sear Steak

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Reverse-seared steak is the process of slow-cooking steak in the oven followed by pan-searing in a scorching hot pan. Reverse-searing steak is the inverse of my typical steak cooking process (pan-searing with an oven finish) but it offers some excellent benefits and phenomenal results. Depending on the thickness of your steak, reverse searing just may be the preferred method over traditional searing first and then baking at higher temps.

Medium rare bone-in ribeye steak sliced in half revealing a juicy red center.

The outline in the article can apply to any steak that is roughly 1½-2 inches thick. The recipe at the bottom features a 2-inch thick bone-in (frenched) cowboy steak that was roughly 2 pounds. The cowboy steak was roasted in the oven for 1 hour and seared for 90 seconds per side in a hot skillet for a perfect medium rare. It’s one of the best steaks I’ve ever had!

If you’re looking for a perfect wall-to-wall medium-rare steak with a phenomenal crust, then reverse searing is the answer you’ve been searching for.

Why This Recipe Works

  • The low and slow cooking process makes for an evenly cooked steak and also greatly reduces the risk of overcooking. The perfect window for medium rare is much wider than cooking at higher temps.
  • Because the steak’s exterior will be much drier from the extended oven duration, the steak will also develop a far superior crust to steaks that are seared first.
2 inch thick uncooked cowboy steak being measured with a tape measure.

The reverse sear method is best suited for thicker cuts of beef, ideally 2+ inches thick. I would not attempt with anything less than 1½ inches thick because the tail end searing will likely overcook the steak, rendering your extended time and efforts useless.

Keep in mind that reverse searing is a much slower process. While this does come with more predictability, a 2-inch thick steak will take around 50-55 minutes to reach the target oven temp for medium rare. Searing will add 10°F to the final temperature.

Reverse searing works similarly to the sous vide method of cooking steak, however, you can achieve a much better sear thanks to the drier exterior! Reverse searing is a fantastic way to cook a large porterhouse steak or even a thick filet mignon (even bacon-wrapped filet mignon).

Dry Brining Steak

Dry brining is the process of drying out the exterior of the steak before cooking, locking in the juices, and enhancing the flavor. To dry brine steak, place the steaks on a wire rack set on a baking sheet and season liberally with coarse sea salt or kosher salt, and pepper. Place the steaks in the fridge uncovered for at least one hour or preferably overnight. The drier steak surface will make for even better crusting.

Steak should still rest on the counter for at least 30-45 minutes before cooking to climatize. No additional salt or seasoning is required.

How to Reverse Sear Steak

Reverse searing steak is comprised of three main steps. I will walk you through each step of the process in detail below.

  1. Season the steak with salt and pepper. Let rest on the counter for 60 minutes to warm up from fridge temps.
  2. Slow roast in the oven at 250°F until the final desired serving temp is nearly reached.
  3. Flash sear in a hot cast iron skillet for the perfect caramelized exterior.

Step 1.

Remove the steak from the fridge 1 hour before cooking to bring it closer to room temp. This is going to ensure even cooking and more accurate cooking times. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and place on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and season generously with coarse sea salt or kosher salt and pepper.

Quick Tip

It’s important to keep the steak elevated off the pan so it cooks uniformly and has room to breathe. Otherwise, the hot pan will transfer more heat to the bottom of the skillet. The wire rack will also help to dry out the entire exterior of the steak.

Uncooked seasoned cowboy steak with salt and pepper.

Step 2.

Preheat your oven to 250°F and place the steak on the middle rack. Cook the steak until the center of the thickest part is roughly 10°F below your final desired serving temp. The searing process will continue to cook the steak and raise the final temp.

Once the steak has been removed from the oven, it will appear darkened, slightly grey, dry, and a little unappealing. Fear not, a good sear will turn this steak into a work of art.

Quick Tip

The oven portion of this recipe requires an accurate digital thermometer for the best results. A heat-safe wireless thermometer that can be left in the meat as it cooks eliminates any guesswork and ensures perfect results every time.

Cowboy steak after roasting in the oven on a wire lined baking sheet.

Step 3.

Remove the steak from the oven and place it on the counter to rest. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat until the pan is scorching hot. Once the oil starts to smoke, transfer the steak to the skillet and press down to ensure good contact. Sear for 60-90 seconds per side. One optional final step is to quickly sear the side edges for 15-20 seconds to ensure browning all the way around.

Once my steak is on its final 60-second sear, add fresh herbs, butter, and garlic to the pan. As the butter melts it will infuse with the herbs and garlic and produce a flavorful sauce that can be spooned over the steak just before it’s served.

Quick Tip

Once the steak is finished searing it can be served immediately without the need for additional resting. Thanks to the slow-cooked nature of the steak, the juices don’t go haywire like traditionally cooked beef.

Searing a cowboy steak in a cast iron skillet with garlic and fresh herbs.

SMOKE WARNING: Cooking steaks at high temps in a skillet tends to get smokey. Open a kitchen window and turn on your kitchen’s overhead vent fan before you start to help with ventilation.

Steak Temperature and Timing

The following chart is a rough guide for a 2-inch thick steak in a 250°F oven. Timing will vary depending on the actual steak thickness. How did I arrive at these results? I monitored a steak in the oven with a bluetooth thermometer up to 140°F and recorded every temperature to the nearest minute.

DonenessTarget Oven TempFinal Target TempOven Duration
Very Rare/rare105°F-110°F115°F-120°F 40-45 minutes
Medium rare115°F-120°F125°F-130°F50-55 minutes
Medium125°F-130°F135°F-140°F60-65 minutes
Medium well135°F-140°F145°F-150°F70-75 minutes
Cowboy steak sliced in half prepared medium rare with a red center.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I attempt this with 1-inch-thick steaks?

I would not attempt with anything less than 1½ inches thick because the tail end searing will likely overcook the steak

Is the wire rack really necessary?

I highly recommend keeping the steak elevated off a pan in the oven. Otherwise, the bottom will overcook.

Do I need a Bluetooth thermometer?

No, but it makes the process that much easier and cuts down on manual checking.

What to Serve With Steak

You can never go wrong with steak and potatoes. Pair steak with my parmesan roasted fingerling potatoes or my garlic butter roasted red potatoes. If you’re looking for ultra-crispy potatoes, try my pesto smashed potatoes! If you prefer mashed potatoes, try my rich and delicious cream cheese mashed potatoes.

My favorite veggie of choice will always be my roasted bacon and parmesan Brussels sprouts or my restaurant-style Brussels sprouts. Make this recipe surf and turf with pan-seared lemon butter scallops or baked lobster tails.

More Steak Recipes

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5 from 2 votes

How to Reverse Sear Steak

Servings: 2
Prep: 45 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 45 minutes
Reverse searing is the best way to cook thicker cuts of beef. If you’re looking for a perfect medium-rare steak with a phenomenal crust, reverse searing is for you.

Ingredients 

  • 1 frenched bone-in ribeye, 20-24 ounces (roughly 2 inches thick)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 whole thyme sprig
  • 1 whole rosemary sprig
  • 1 whole garlic clove
  • 1-2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 250°F.
  • Remove the steak from the fridge 45 minutes to 1 hour prior to cooking to bring it closer to room temp. This is going to ensure even cooking and more accurate cook times. Pat steak dry with a paper towel and place on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and season generously with coarse sea salt or kosher salt and pepper.
  • Place the steak in the oven on the middle rack. Cook until the center of the thickest part is 10°F BELOW your final desired serving temp. For rare, target 110°F, medium rare, 115°F-120°F, medium 125°F-130°F, medium well, 135°F-140°F. The searing process will raise the final temp. A digital thermometer is imperative for the best results. My 2-inch thick cowboy steak took about 55 minutes to reach 110°F. See my detailed timing/temp chart in the post above for a rough guide.
  • Remove the steak from the oven and place it on the counter. Remove any residual moisture from the surface with a paper towel. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat until the pan is scorching hot. Once the oil starts to smoke, transfer the steak to the skillet and press down to ensure good contact. Sear undisturbed for 60-90 seconds or until a nice crust has formed. Flip and repeat.
  • As the second side cooks, add garlic, butter, and fresh herbs to the skillet. Optionally finish by quickly searing the side edges of the steak for 15-20 seconds to ensure browning all the way around.
  • Spoon the garlic/herb-infused butter drippings over the steak before serving. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately. Thanks to the slow-cooked nature of the steak, no rest period is required.

Notes

SMOKE WARNING: Cooking steaks at high temps in a skillet tends to get smokey. Open a kitchen window and turn on your kitchen’s overhead vent fan before you start to help with ventilation. You’ve been warned.

Nutrition

Calories: 699kcalCarbohydrates: 0.4gProtein: 68gFat: 45gSaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 321mgSodium: 1449mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 0.2g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
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About Shawn Williams

My name is Shawn, author behind Kitchen Swagger. I'm a food & drink enthusiast bringing you my own simple and delicious restaurant-inspired recipes.

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