The Reverse Sear

In the last several months I have read a lot about how to produce the perfect steak.  Most of the technique behind a good steak has to do with the The Maillard reaction.  This is the process when meat turns from pink or grey to golden brown and delicious.  A reaction happens between sugars and amino acids that produces new molecules.   These molecules are what forms the crust on the outside of a steak.  Some factors limit this reaction from happening.  For one is the presence of liquid.  Liquid reduces the temperature that the outside of the meat can get so in the cooking process you will stay below the 240-340 ° mark you need to get the non enzymatic browning process to take place.  There is much debate over what temperature this process happens.  This has much to do with the PH of the meat.  Not to bore you death with details yet if your meat is acidic(been marinated)  the Maillard reaction happens at higher temperatures.  This is why you see baking soda added to bbq chicken to crisp skin and pinch added to onions to hurry the caramelization process.  This is important to know since burning or pyrolysis happens at 355 °.  

So you ask what does all this have to do with steak and cooking it.  For years I have been a fan of the sear roast method to cook about everything.  The blending of direct and indirect cooking methods make for crusty outside and juicy inside.  It always seemed that the searing process was highly variable in time per side.    In culinary school we studied the Maillard reaction and the fact that the meat outside had to hit a certain temp before it would become brown.  That is when I discovered The Reverse Sear where you indirectly heat your steak first then it goes to the hot pan or grill to sear in much less of the time.   This in turn makes the crust more effective and the inside of the steak being more of the cooking temprature that you disire.  Sear roasting produces more of a no pun intended grey area between crust and red or pink interior.

The choice of steak is important when cooking any beef.  You really want the steak to between 1-1.5 inches.  NY Strip and ribeyes work the best.  Make sure you get at least choice.  Quality of beef with the high prices recently have been an issue.  Choosing a great steak is another post all together.  Pull your steak from the refrigerator 45 minutes to 1 hour before you want to start the warming process.  Season with kosher salt and your favorite steak seasoning.  Avoid seasonings with citrus as they will mess with your PH.  I like Weber’s Chicago Steak Seasoning

First of all your indirect heat source needs to be about 225 degrees.  I use an oven as it is consistent , but this could be done on a grill or kettle.  A digital instaread type thermometer to test the interior temp of the meat is needed.  I found about 12 minutes for a 1″ steak will hit you at 110° for a future perfect medium rare.  Start checking your temp around the 9 minute period because you really don’t want to go over .

As you wait for the steak to hit internal temp, Put a heavy pan( like a multi layer clad pan or cast iron) on the stove over high heat with a splash of vegetable oil with a high smoking point(avoid olive oils I use canola).  You want to make sure that you do not get the pan much hotter than 400° f as you will smoke your oil and give your steak a off flavor.  A laser thermometer is great to have in your arsenal to check the temp.  When the steak hits 110° and you pan is ready.   Throw your steak in the pan.  You will have a GBD(Golden Brown Delicious) crust within a minute.  It will happen quicker than you think and you will have to check on it soon so don’t walk away.  Flip over and repeat on the other side.  Remove steak to your plate and let it rest for 8-10 minutes.   Do not skip this step.  Plus this is a great time to pour you a glass of red wine.  Then enjoy.


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