Reverse Sear for the Win!
Simple equation of: Meat + Heat = Awesome. Yes, but there are some other things at play here. The equation comes out to be: Meat + (rate and intensity) Heat = Awesome, more or less. Scorching hot direct radiant heat is great for caramelizing the outside, creating a desired sear, and getting the fancy grill marks. However a piece of thick steak will get over charred and become well done on the outside while leaving the inside raw, leaving a bitter outside and cold inside. Indirect heat, or placing steak along side of the heat source, utilizes convection heat which slows the cooking process. Smoker grills use this style of cooking because it gives time for the heat to slowly work, allowing for more of the meat to be cooked to desired doneness. However it does take a long time, and getting a sear is difficult.
Reverse Sear embraces both styles of heating; convection and radiation to give your steak the largest amount of your desired sweet spot and a beautiful caramelized sear. Now, I can understand why some would say, “Why would you go through this whole process? My method works great.” Let me explain.
Wildgame is LEAN. Marbled fat in meat can act as insurance, to add moisture to a steak. Where a beef ribeye can handle longer periods of direct heat, venison backstrap cannot, leaving your veni gold overdone and dry. Cooking lower and slower extends your window of sweet spot cooking.
Speaking of sweet spot cooking. Reverse Sear lessens the “bullseye” effect of a steak. When cooking over direct heat, the outermost layer will be well done, and then a ring of medium, and a ring a medium rare, then finally a center spot of rare, resembling a bullseye. Reverse sear allows you to get add heat slowly, allowing the middle to come to desired temp, before the outside has exceeded that desired temp range. Leaving a consistent cook throughout the whole steak.
Sous vide is still expensive. What was once only attainable by restaurants, water immersion cooking, called sous vide is now available in the home kitchen. Set the temp on the machine or wand and the water stays consistently at that temp. Allowing for precise control, and prefect desired doneness. The only drawback is the price for one of these units is still a couple hundred dollars for a quality unit. Reverse Sear can give you similar results without an expensive purchase of a specialized tool.
Reverse Sear can be used on not just small cuts, which prevent from over cooking, but can be used for larger cuts to ensure proper cook all the way through. Using a probe thermometer or thermo-pen, a whole haunch could be cooked to medium rare with the same technique as a tenderloin.
Oh, and seeing how you are already searing in a pan at the end, you might as well make a pan sauce using those stuck on bits. Little bit of stock, little bit of cream, touch of mustard, salt and pepper, and you are adding extra distance to an already home run piece of meat.
What follows is a 9 step breakdown of doing a Reverse Sear. The basic idea is oven before pan, leave it to me to over complicate it. My bold statement is this, follow these steps and you will not be sorry, in fact you will start using this method more and more and get really good at it. I can’t say it will change your life, but bets are that you will post your outstanding results for everyone to see. Just make sure you hashtag Huntavore when you do.
- Sheet Pan
- Wire Rack
- Probe Thermometer/Thermo Pen
- Cast Iron Pan or Grill
- Preheat oven to 300F
- Season the cut of venison with salt and pepper (or whatever you like). I like to put the salt and pepper on a plate and roll the venison in it, get good coverage.
- Place wire rack on the sheet pan, then set the meat on the rack. Let the meat come up to room temperature.
- Once meat is at room temp and oven is preheated, set the whole thing in the oven. Time will depend on size of the cut or thickness of the steak.
- First thermometer check the center of the meat at 20 minutes. Based on how close your internal temperature has gotten, and how fast its rising, adjust check times. PRO TIP: I set a timer or I tend to check too often. “If your lookin, you ain’t cookin.”
- Pull the meat 5 degrees before your desired doneness. The current heat in the meat will finish the cook as you rest the venison or steak (5-10 minutes).
- As the meat rests, get your grill or pan hot. Add oil or butter (personally I add both) and then set the meat in the center. Give each side 30-45 seconds to let a good sear form. Make sure to hit the edges as well. HEADS UP! Steam and smoke will be a factor here, nothing to be alarmed about.
- Baste butter and oil over the top as the bottom sears. Remove from heat. Total sear time as little as 1-2 minutes depending on how you desire your sear.
- Slice, plate, serve, be a hero!