When you start to prepare a really, really nice piece of steak, what's your worst fear? Mine is that I'll overcook it and render the beautifully marbled fat and flesh into a tasteless brick. There are, of course, many instructions when it comes to perfectly cooking steak. What I've always done is sear the steak first and then either finishing the center of the meat in the oven or, if the cut is thin enough, monitoring the inner temperature until it's just right. But if that makes you nervous, and what you want precision—and you don't own a sous vide machine—let me recommend a clever technique called the reverse sear.
Reverse searing a steak is what it sounds like. You slow roast the steak in the oven until it gets to with ten degrees of the internal temperature you want, and then sear the outside of the steak quickly on a pan after it's already cooked through to get that nice outer crust.
The reverse sear has a couple of distinct advantages. First, roasting the steak at a low oven temperature, between 200 and 275 degrees, means that you can gently cook the meat to the temperature you want it without being overly anxious about it swinging wildly into overcooked territory. Second, you don't have to then rest the steak as long to let the juices redistribute, as you would during the usual method of steak making.
It's the perfect method if you have a particularly thick cut of meat that wouldn't get to the temperature you want on the grill without a lot of manipulation. It allows you a lot of control over the inner temperature, which is perfect if you don't feel like you can just throw a steak on the pan and know by touch or scent when it's ready.
There are drawbacks to this method too, though. If you love a good pan sauce for your steak—and who doesn't—the quick sear at the end won't leave as many of those fantastic browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Because the steak is cooked slowly and then flashed in the pan, I've found that the inside can be more lukewarm than hot, which isn't necessarily unpleasant, but might not be what you're going for. But still, next time you have a nice steak and no plans for it in particular, try the reverse sear.
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