Low ‘n’ slow meets hot ‘n’ fast – The reverse searing method explained
Have you ever been to a restaurant that is famed for its BBQ steaks? You order the biggest lump of beef on the menu to really test their reputation and when it arrives, it looks beautifully charred. As you make your first cut, the blade travels through the bark crust with little to no resistance. The sight of the ordered “wall to wall” doneness follows, and the first mouthful proves beyond doubt that you are eating steak perfection. Well, I am going to share with you a sure-fire way to get those results in your own backyard every time!
When contemplating reverse searing on a solid fuel BBQ (in this instance a Weber 57cm Master Touch kettle), plan to create two cooking zones: indirect and direct. The indirect phase allows the meat to slowly cook to the desired doneness and the direct creates that wonderful textured BBQ bark/crust and flavours.
As you can see from the photos, reverse searing isn’t all about beef steak but also works great for lamb racks, venison and even goose! This technique can be used on any red meat cuts that aren’t likely to make you sick when cooked to rare through to medium rare doneness.
Reverse searing meat is not tricky but does require preparation, a watchful eye and for you to be aware of the phases required during the cook… let’s get stuck in!
Reverse Sear Method
1) First of all, be sure to select the best cut of protein that your budget allows that’s at least 1-inch thick. Ribeye (scotch), tomahawk (bone on ribeye), New York rump, picanha, top sirloin and porter house (T-bone) are all very good reverse sear options when it comes to beef. Talk to your local butcher and let them know what you’re after.
2) Remove the thawed meat from the fridge for no more than an hour before preparation begins to allow it to come up to ‘room’ temperature.
3) Trim away any unsightly bits that may have been missed during the butchery process and get rid of any hard fats present as they will not render down during the cooking process, creating a not so appealing dining experience (whereas any soft fats will add flavour). It is all about that 5% magic.
4) Spray and coat the protein lightly with duck fat or at a pinch, any light oil or a mist of plain water from a spray bottle. This helps the rub adhere to the surface and lessens the chance of the rub falling off during the cook.
5) Shake an even coating of your chosen rub on to both sides of the meat and don’t forget the outer edges as well. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes so that salts begin to “sweat” the meat, allowing the rub flavour to penetrate and work its magic.
6) Prepare your grill with lit BBQ briquettes (consistent even temps – good for indirect zone) and/or lump coal (hotter – good for sear phase). Ensure good air flow in the BBQ is underway. The aim for a grill temp with the lid closed is around 120C. Some built-in lid thermometers are notoriously inaccurate, so it pays to use a third-party probe like the very intuitive Fireboard system to check your ambient under lid temps before introducing the meat.
7) Add some seasoned wood chunks directly over the coals (see photo) to create gentle smoke that will adhere to the meat’s surface during the indirect phase. This will give your end product that natural wood fire flavours. Treat smoke as an ingredient like salt or pepper. Certain woods pair better than others with certain meats, so do some homework and experiment. The Urban Lumberjack is a great Kiwi business that specialises in and supplies seasoned smoking wood to a lot of the competition teams – check them out online!
8) Once the BBQ is up to temp, place the meat as far away from the heat as possible but put the thicker portions (if there are any) nearer the heat source to cook it as evenly as possible. The key is to “lowly and slowly” bring the internal temp of your meat up to the desired doneness without dramatically or quickly changing the texture or freaking out the moisture molecules in the process.
9) At approximately the halfway mark (see Temp and Time table), open the lid and use an instant read thermometer to check the middle of the meat for doneness – this will give you an indication of how the cook is progressing. Flip the meat over, close the lid, grab another refreshment and ensure any sides are ready to go – approximately 30 minutes to go.
10) Using the Time and Temp guide, begin to check for preferred doneness, again using an instant read thermometer. Once your desired internal target temp has been reached, take the meat off the grill, set it aside and rest on a cake rack for 10-15mins. During the rest phase, the internal temp of the meat will continue to increase. You may wish to lightly wrap with tinfoil on cold days to keep the heat in.
11) Now it is time to get the direct zone of your BBQ cranking. Add more fuel and wood chunks to create flames – now wasn’t that fun and primal!?
12) Once rested, place the meat directly over the flames for no more than one minute per side. Spray each side with duck fat or brush gently with softened butter so you don’t disturb the rub.
How many times to ‘flip’ is a matter of conjecture, but I personally only flip the meat once unless trying to create ‘grill marks’ for aesthetics, then it is a simple 45 degree turn on the grill with each flip.
Searing in the above fashion not only improves the look but also kicks off a reaction known as the Maillard Effect* where sugars and enzymes begin to transform into desirable flavours. Once you are happy with the colour (goal: dark-golden) take the meat from the grill and on to a chopping board – there’s no need to rest as with traditional grilling styles.
Follow the above and you will have a perfectly reverse seared piece of meat every time which any restaurant would be proud to serve.
In the next issue of Off-Site, I’ll take you behind the BBQ competition scene here in New Zealand and introduce some of the characters to find out what BBQing means to them. Till then, happy BBQing!
* THE MAILLARD REACTION – The Maillard reaction is many small, simultaneous chemical reactions that occur when meat proteins and sugars are transformed by heat, producing new flavours, aromas, and colours.
Matthew Melville and his Rum & Que BBQ Team are one of the most anointed competition winners and he also produces the Rum & Que Rub and Sauce range made right here in New Zealand.
Matt’s Reverse Sear Pro tips:
• Take your protein out of the fridge no more than an hour before starting the process to allow it to become room temperature.
• Use the best steak your budget allows for that’s at least one inch or thicker.
• Use a rub that pairs perfectly with the protein you are cooking.
• When reverse searing, cook till 120f (rare) and rest for 15 mins, then sear to any temp you want your steak at.
• Have a cold beverage in hand throughout the entire process.
Choose a rub that pairs perfectly to your chosen protein. A simple homemade SPG (salt, pepper and garlic) will work well in most instances, but I prefer to accentuate the flavours of the proteins by using specific rub parings. We are fortunate in New Zealand to have several locally produced rubs from the likes of Rum & Que, The Four Saucemen and TexaNZ that have done the hard work and created amazing “off the shelf” and competition winning options.
Article by: Kezza Packer