Reverse Sear: The Secret to Grilling the Juiciest Meat

There's a searing technique that will pretty much guarantee you get juicy meat every time. (iStock)
There’s a searing technique that will pretty much guarantee you get juicy meat every time. (iStock)

In the heat of the moment (or the summer sun), with a beverage in one hand and more guests arriving by the minute, the grilling pressure’s on. Will you scorch the chicken and leave the inside underdone? Will those beautiful thick steaks go from medium-rare to well-done while you’re trying to get a nice sear on the surface? You just. Don’t. Know.

Unless you go for the reverse sear, of course.

After blowing my mind about beer-can chicken and loose burger meat, grilling guru and cookbook author Meathead Goldwyn weighed in on why the reverse sear might be the best way to grill (almost) anything.

What is reverse sear?

Fancy steakhouses love to sear their steaks and then finish cooking them in the gentler heat of the oven. The reverse sear is just that same process…in reverse. First, you cook your thick-cut steak or bone-in chicken over indirect (aka low) heat until the interior is almost done, then move it to the direct (aka hot) heat zone to finish it with a sizzling crust.

“Ideally, you have to treat the surface of the meat one way and the interior of the meat another way,” Goldwyn said.

If you cook a steak only on direct heat, you’ll definitely get a crust, but underneath that, it’ll be a rainbow of color: tan, pink, and then, finally, a very thin layer of picture-perfect medium-rare meat. If you’re lucky. But with the reverse sear, it’s easier to nail that moving target of doneness since the meat cooks through more slowly. “You really want edge-to-edge medium-rare,” said Goldwyn, “The way to get there is by starting the meat at a low temperature.”

Just imagine the backyard bragging you’ll be able to do with this technique. After all, you see the same thing going on in Michelin-starred restaurants in sous vide baths. After vacuum sealing and cooking pork or beef for upwards of 70 hours in a water bath, the meat will be almost fork tender but will lack that appetizing brown crust (you are cooking in a bag, after all). To give meat some color and a crisp exterior, cooks will quickly sear it in a pan during service, creating a piece of meat that’s crisp on the outside and almost buttery on the inside. No wonder they’re getting fancy awards.

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Tommy Werner

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