Why you should be reverse-searing your steak
When it comes to steak, most South Africans have their perfect braai method. Some use salt and pepper, while others prefer to skip the pepper because it can get over-charred. Some say flip it once and don’t mess with it, while others flip it every minute for even caramelisation. I’ve tried nearly all the recommended options and they’ll all work so long as you’re paying attention to time and temperature. But if you want edge-to-edge ruby red perfection and a crispy crust like no other, it’s time to get your reverse sear on.
The reverse sear is a cooking method that became popular on the internet a few years ago. The principle is so simple and if you’ve ever seen steak seared in a pan and finished in the oven then you’ll recognise it. It’s the same thing, just reversed. The key to success is having a digital thermometer. (None of that finger-pressing into your palm business, please! Get a digital thermometer – trust me, they have a ton of uses.)
The basic idea is that the steak goes into an oven set to 120°C until it reaches an internal temperature 8 degrees lower than your final desired temperature. That means for a rare braaied steak you’ll want a final temperature of 50°C, so you’ll take the steak out of the oven at 42°C. For medium-rare, you’re aiming for a final temperature of 55°C, so you’ll take the steak out steak out of the oven at 47°C.
Once the steak comes out of the oven, it’s a simple task of finishing it off over a scorching hot bed of coals. Oil the steaks as you normally would for the braai and go for it. Because the steaks are so close to done, it takes under two minutes per side of hard searing, while flipping frequently, to create a gorgeous caramelised crust. The interior should be end-to-end perfection with no grey gradient towards the pink.
While it takes a little timing and prep, reverse searing is an easy way to look like a steak braai master. Imagine walking out to a roaring fire, meat in hand, casually spreading the meat on the inferno and moments later you’re serving up perfectly cooked steak. That could be you, champion.
Keep in mind that this method works best with steaks that have a bit of meat to them. Any thick-cut (4–5cm) steaks will do. I’ve also had great success with big-boy picanhas and tri-tips. In fact, reverse searing larger cuts is a great way to serve tasty steak starters for bigger crowds of people. Just sear them off, slice them up, season and serve.