Visit any great steakhouse and chances are good that you’ll see the same tried-and-true methods of preparing meats. Either by grilling it over a super hot live fire, or searing it in cast iron over high heat. With either method, the meat is typically then finished in an oven until the center reached the desired doneness. 

Reverse searing, a method developed in the early 2000s and, over the last two decades, reverse searing has become the new favorite method of chefs all over the world, and one of the most talked-about cooking innovations of the last century.

What is Reverse Searing?

Reverse searing creates a perfectly cooked cut of meat by reversing those traditional steps of searing then roasting, by cooking or smoking the meat to near the desired temp first, over low, indirect heat, and then finishing with high heat. (Hence the term “reverse sear”)

Why Reverse Sear Meat?

Doing most of the cooking at low heat instead of high ensures a much more controllable cook with much more reliable results. Cooking at high temps gives the cook a narrow window to pull the meat off the heat and still have the rested results turn out “just right.” Hitting the bullseye on a perfectly medium-rare steak is much easier with reverse searing.

Another great reason to reverse sear is that, by cooking the meat slowly in the smoker first, much more of the exterior moisture gets evaporated from the meat’s surface, leaving a dryer exterior and forming a perfect crust without risking an overcooked piece of protein.

Remember, wet meat steams, dry meat browns. No one likes grey meat.

Our favorite reason for reverse searing, however, is all about the taste.

By doing a reverse sear, you can “cook” your meat over an offset wood fire, or in your smoker, infusing cuts of meat that typically can’t be finished this way, like steaks, with that delicious hint of woodsmoke without the risk of overcooking. 

The result is a deep, smoke-roasted flavor without losing that perfectly crunchy crust or that delicious pink interior!

Recommended cooking wood: We love using Hickory cooking wood for its amazing heat and bold smoke flavor with steak.

How to Reverse Sear a Piece of Meat

Reverse searing is great for just about any meat from picnic-cut pork ribs, to beef and pork loins, to steaks, and traditional recipes are easily adaptable. (I’ve even reverse seared a rack of ribs after cooking them low and slow and they were delicious.) 

For this article, let’s focus on traditional cuts of beef steak.

Our goal is to cook a perfect medium-rare to medium steak, low and slow over chunks, splits, or logs (depending on the size of your cooker), and then finish it by quickly searing both sides over a high temperature (the higher the better) bed of wood coals to form a crust on the outside of the meat.

And of course, if you want the best flavors then don’t forget to use the best firewood for cooking.

Step One

Preheat your favorite outdoor cooker to around 225. You can use your oven for these first steps, but we’ve found that you can achieve a great deal more flavor using your kettle or smoker.

For best results, move the meat to a counter and allow the temperature to rise a bit before cooking.

Season your steak generously with salt and place it in your smoker over indirect heat. Add your choice of wood chunks or splits to get the smoke going.

Step Two

Cook/smoke the steak until it reaches an internal temperature of 105 for medium-rare or just under your desired doneness. If this temp seems slow, remember that you want your steak mostly cooked before searing, but not completely cooked. 

The internal temperature of the meat will go higher while searing.

Step Three

Remove your meat from the smoker and rest for 15 minutes tented loosely in foil. 

Step Four

Add cooking wood to build up your fire and create the hottest possible fire, and sear your steak on both sides, directly over and close to the coals. The high heat should form a nice crust with just a minute or so of searing on each side, so don’t step away!

Step Five

Since you rested the steak before you seared it, there’s no need to rest it again after. Once the crust has browned to your liking, you can take your steak off the heat, grab a knife and fork, and dig in immediately!

Why Wood?

When grilling with wood, the flavorful smoke that’s released while the wood is burning is absorbed into your meat, enhancing its flavor. 

While you can cook solely using wood, combining wood with charcoal when grilling is a great way to get the benefits of both.  

Place your kiln-dried cooking wood chunks either directly on the burning charcoal for a hotter and faster fire, or off to the side of the charcoal where the wood will burn more slowly and at a lower temperature. 

This method is referred to as “off-set” grilling. 

Find the best quality firewood for cooking by visiting our online store today. Cutting Edge Firewood offers a variety of high-quality smoking chunks, including white oak, hickory, cherry, pecan, and whiskey that you can use when grilling steaks or other meats.  

We offer complimentary shipping for our smoking chunk products across the United States.

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