Most home cooks assume that a steak should be cooked at a high temperature. That works fine for a steak less than an inch thick, but for a steak of about one-and-a-half inches, the way to get a tender, juicy-on-the-inside steak with a nice dark brown, even crust at home is different—it’s called the reverse-sear technique. What to do…
Choose the right cut. A rib eye or strip steak is a good choice. Also, for steakhouse quality, ask your butcher for “USDA top choice,” which is more flavorful because it contains more marbling (fat throughout the steak) than regular USDA Choice or lower grades. USDA Prime choice is even better, but most groceries don’t carry prime cuts.
Use a digital thermometer. Controlling the temperature is the key to a tender steak—and unless you are a world-famous chef, you cannot tell when meat is properly cooked by poking it with a finger.
Charcoal or Gas Grill
Set up two cooking areas on your gas or charcoal grill. Turn the gas on high on one side of the grill. Or if using a charcoal grill, move all the charcoal to one side and light it, then wait until the coals turn white. Season both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper. Place the steaks on the side of the grill that is not over the flame (the indirect heat). Cover the grill. The warm airflow will heat the steak evenly on all sides, with no need to flip it. Continue cooking until a digital thermometer inserted near the center reads 120°F.
Move the steak to the hot-flame side of the grill (direct heat), and keep the lid open. Flip the steak after one minute. Continue to flip approximately every minute or two, browning the surface of the steak evenly on both sides until the crust is a nice dark brown and the thermometer reads 130°F to 135°F.
Oven and Stove Method
Heat the oven to 200°F. Place the seasoned steaks on a wire rack in a baking pan in the oven. Cook until the meat thermometer reads 120°F to 125°F.
Heat a cast-iron pan on the stovetop on high (while the steak is in the oven). After the meat has reached 120°F in the oven, brush it on both sides with vegetable oil. Place the steak in the pan, keeping the stove on high. Flip the steak every minute for an even, brown crust and until the thermometer reads 130°F to 135°F.
Works for Other Meats, Too
The reverse-sear technique is extremely effective for other meats, too. Examples: Cook pork chops on indirect heat to 130°F, transfer to direct heat and cook to 140°F to 145°F. Chicken can be cooked to 150°F on indirect heat and then brought to 160°F to 165°F over direct heat. You will never burn the skin again with the reverse sear.