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Why not sear steaks first?

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  • mstruth
    Club Member
    • Sep 2017
    • 56
    • Maitland, FL

    Why not sear steaks first?

    I apologize if this question has been previously answered 5,000 time (I did read the existing info on free site, etc.).

    When grilling a thick beef steak, what is the drawback to initially searing it and then moving it to lower indirect heat? Seems that working in that order would allow the steak’s internal temp to be more readily monitored. Thanks!
  • Polarbear777
    Club Member
    • Sep 2016
    • 1347

    The main advantage is that if you slow cook first, the surface is dry and your sear is faster so the sear affects the internal temperature even less. The front sear takes longer because of evaporating moisture before you get the Malliard reaction. This can create an over cooked layer under the crust.


    • hoovarmin
      hoovarmin commented
      Editing a comment
      Well said
  • shify
    Club Member
    • Jun 2017
    • 284
    • Westchester County, NY

    Not sure why any cooking approach would impact your ability to properly monitor the internal temp. The reverse sear approach generally results in a better sear and a smaller gray band of overcooked meat between the medium rare (or whatever) center and the surface of the meat


    • Attjack
      Club Member
      • Aug 2017
      • 3219
      • Primo XL
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      If it's at all on the thin side I'll front sear. Like these elk steaks from last night were tiny. There was no way I was going to reverse sear these. If it's thick I'll usually reverse sear. Either way works fine though. Do what works for you.

      Click image for larger version  Name:	20190809_192441.jpg Views:	2 Size:	670.5 KB ID:	728330


      • mstruth
        mstruth commented
        Editing a comment
        That looks awfully tasty regardless of how you prepared it!

      • ofelles
        ofelles commented
        Editing a comment
        You've gone and made me hungry damn it. That looks so good.

      • Murdy
        Murdy commented
        Editing a comment
        mmmmmmmmm, Elk, haven't had Elk for a few years.
    • KenC52
      Charter Member
      • Jun 2015
      • 62
      • Pittsburg, Texas
      • Weber One Touch Silver (22.5), Weber Performer, Weber Jumbo Joe, Weber Smokey Joe (which I made into a mini-WSM), Weber Q 120, Akorn Kamado.
        Maverick ET 733
        Favorite Cook - Texas Smoked Brisket (or pastrami with Amazing Ribs directions)

      Watched Michael Symon test an idea that someone sent to him, searing a frozen steak in a screaming hot iron skillet. I know that to some freezing a steak is sacrilege and I don't plan to get into that debate, however I did try the same thing but using my weber smokey joe and a full load of charcoal. Let the charcoal get to max temp (with bottom and top vents wide open) before putting on a 1.25 inch CAB ribeye that I had frozen just for this test. Turned out wonderful, for me. I say "for me" because I like my steak extremely rare (some call it blue) and it is hard to get a steak that rare and still get a decent crust on the outside.


      • mstruth
        mstruth commented
        Editing a comment
        KenC52 Oddly enough tonight I was reading about grilling semi-frozen and dry-brined thin pork chops so they don’t overcook before picking up color and sear.

      • mstruth
        mstruth commented
        Editing a comment
        KenC52 Also, by chance are you a cowboy action shooter - i.e., your profile pic?

      • KenC52
        KenC52 commented
        Editing a comment
        Not Cowboy Action Shooter, but I do own several lever action rifles and single action revolvers. Pic was taken in Hot Springs Ark. while on our honeymoon
    • Huskee
      Pit Boss/Manager
      • May 2014
      • 13899
      • central MI, USA
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      I've switched a couple years ago to doing exactly what you're asking. It's called front sear. It's my method of choice for steaks & burgers. I sear to whatever level pleases me then slow cook indirectly up to my target temp. I personally feel I have better control over the final temp instead of zooming past it during a reverse sear.


      • hoovarmin
        hoovarmin commented
        Editing a comment
        Dude you just rocked my world. I thought I had it all figured out.

      • jfmorris
        jfmorris commented
        Editing a comment
        I've had my last couple of reverse sear "cold grate" method steaks come out well done, when I was shooting for medium rare, all during the sear step. It was still tender as it was prime beef, but I will have to try the front sear next time.

      • Old Glory
        Old Glory commented
        Editing a comment
        You are making me think. Stop it. It hurts. I always worry about shooting past temp. Especially if my searing coals are not as hot as they should be and it takes a bit longer to get a crust.
    • mountainsmoker
      Club Member
      • Jun 2019
      • 1465
      • Bryson City, NC

      My wife hers so rare that I wound not have time to reverse sear. So I don't do mine either. Don't notice a gray edge on my rare to med. rare steak. We usually only do ribeyes.


      • RonB
        Club Member
        • Apr 2016
        • 11043
        • Near Richmond VA
        • Weber Performer Deluxe
          Pizza insert
          Smokenator 1000
          Cookshack Smokette Elite
          2 Thermapens
          lots of probes.

        I always front sear, and my wife sez I am now making the best steaks ever. I flip every minute after an overnight and uncovered dry brine. I don't take the steaks out of the refrigerator until the grill is hot.

        Reverse searing leads to greater carry over cooking than a front sear. That makes it harder to hit your target temp - well, at least for me. The temp rise during the hot n fast portion is much quicker, so I do that first while the steak is still cold so it will have less effect on the inside of the meat.

        AT least that's my story and I'm stickin' to it...


        • Mudkat
          Club Member
          • Feb 2017
          • 2116
          • At a river near me, MD
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          Side note: The beauty of this place is you can ask a question that's been asked 5001 times and no one get's their pantaloons in a bunch. We'll just answer your question. Or say something silly so no apology neccessary.

          P.s. now I have front sear my frozen steaks.


          • HawkerXP
            HawkerXP commented
            Editing a comment
            Exactly, you front sear. I reverse sear. Somebody else doesn't sear at all. All good!

          • holehogg
            holehogg commented
            Editing a comment
            See you guys are taking this very SEARIously

          • new2smoking
            new2smoking commented
            Editing a comment
            Ok, holehogg. Just had to get a Dad joke in there! Hah!
            Last edited by new2smoking; August 11th, 2019, 09:40 PM. Reason: Misspelled hole hog
        • binarypaladin
          Club Member
          • May 2017
          • 261
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          Front vs reverse depends on the meat thickness for me. I do thin stuff front and thick stuff reverse. (Admittedly, the cuts I front sear only get seared.) Most pro-reverse guides tend to state the technique requires thick cuts.

          I’m actually surprised to see a lot of regulars preferring front searing. I’ve never had an issue with carryover when reversing. I tend to let the meat rest before the sear though. A lot of videos show people getting the coals heated before the steaks come to temp. I take some of the hot coals from the slow cook to start the fire for the hot stuff so I don’t start my fire till I take the steaks out of the cooker.

          This brings me to another point, it’s easier to start a cook at a lower temperature and switch to inferno in my opinion. If you’re using one cooker and running charcoal, reverse is very convenient. This is probably more of a driving factor than anything else.

          Cold, wet meat takes on smoke better. So if you’re smoking during the slow stage, in my experience, reverse picks up smoke flavoring better. This is, by far, my favorite way to do a steak.

          I also sous-vide a lot which pretty much requires reverse searing if you want a crust.

          Time to rest before searing and how long you sear in front vs reverse will also affect things differently. I typically only sear 2 minutes on each side flipping every minute. By the time the meat is heated and patted dry, it won’t take much to finish it.
          Last edited by binarypaladin; August 10th, 2019, 08:13 PM.


          • Henrik
            Henrik commented
            Editing a comment
            What he said. The wait/hold before searing is crucial in my opinion. I call it “wait for the dip” (1 deg down in temp). When that happens I know the steak is ready to sear.

          • binarypaladin
            binarypaladin commented
            Editing a comment
            Nice to hear a kind of hard rule to fall back on. I've never really measured. It's nice to pull the steaks off and know I have time to finish the potatoes and veggies or whatever. (Or wait for late guests, lol.) I'm not even overly strict with my sear times. It's about a minute per side, but I'll add 30 seconds here or there until I like the look of the crust.

            I absolutely love cold grate + reverse sear.
        • Donw
          Club Member
          • Jul 2017
          • 2120

          When my wife cooks steak up to about and inch and a half thick she sears in a cast iron skillet and then finishes in the oven. They turn out fantastic. Anything larger and we go for reverse sear.


          • mstruth
            mstruth commented
            Editing a comment
            Same with my wife - small splash of olive oil in the pan, simmers fresh cut thyme and rosemary in the pan, removes the stems and proceeds as you describe.
        • Dadof3Illinois
          Club Member
          • Jul 2017
          • 574
          • Southeast Illinois

          I have found front searing seems to be what everyone in our family likes best. Not to say a reverse sear isn't great also but we seem to prefer the front sear best. Plus it seems to fit my equipment better also. I like using my 26" weber. I'll buy 4-2"+ thick ribeyes, fill a chimney 3/4 full and get it going as hot as I can. Then set a grate directly on the chimney, then sear each steak one at a time. Once all the steaks are seared on all sides I dump the coals in my slow n sear with a few extra unlit coals and a chunk of wood. Now is when i season the meat so it doesn't burn. Then set the steaks on the indirect side and let them go until 125-130 internal.


          • Potkettleblack
            Club Member
            • Jun 2016
            • 1797
            • Chicago, IL
            • Grill: Grilla Original / Weber Genesis EP-330
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            I front sear on weekdays. I used to do a front sear, oven cook and if I had better kitchen ventilation, that’d probably be my winter steak method.


            • TripleB
              Club Member
              • May 2017
              • 373
              • La Crescenta
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                BBQ Guru ATC
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              Front sear.....never heard this term before, but this the way I always grill my steaks, Tri-Tip, prime rib. As mentioned by others, I feel I have better control. Especially with TT. Get the caramelization I want ( on the front end), then move it over to finish indirect. I’ve never done a reverse sear.


              • bardsleyque
                Club Member
                • Oct 2015
                • 539
                • Snoqualmie Wa.

                I've been reverse searing (thick)steaks with mostly fine results,but now I'll try front sear on my next steak night.




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