The reverse sear remains one of the most reliable ways to cook a thick-cut steak to perfection. This technique of gently cooking a steak in a low oven, then searing it over high heat, is one we’ve touted for over a decade now, ever since former Cook’s Illustrated test cook J. Kenji Lopez-Alt employed it in his 2007 recipe for thick-cut steaks.
There’s a lot to love about the reverse sear. The gentle heat cooks the meat more evenly and with this jump-start on cooking (we take the steak out of the oven when it reaches 95 degrees), it’s not in the hot pan long enough for a gray band to develop underneath the crust. And the technique results in a better sear, as the oven dries out the meat’s surface and allows the exterior to rapidly, deeply brown. One more thing: The majority of the cooking is hands-off.
But there’s no need to reserve this strategy for steaks. Over the years, we’ve used the reverse sear on chicken breasts, roasts, and more.
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How to Reverse Sear Chicken Breast
Bone-in chicken breasts roasted at a high temperature may have crispy, brown skin—but it often conceals dry, bland meat. On the other hand, cooking at a lower temperature keeps the meat juicy but leaves the skin pale and flabby. Reverse searing captures the best of both worlds. Here’s the method:
1. Apply salt under the skin to help the meat retain moisture.
2. Poke small holes in the skin to drain excess fat.
3. Bake the breasts at 325 degrees until the breasts reach 160 degrees.
4. Sear the chicken until it is well-browned and crispy on both sides.
Sauces and Seasonings for Reverse Seared Chicken Breast
Pan-Seared Chicken BreastsExposing boneless, skinless chicken breasts to a hot pan often yields dry, leathery meat. But what if we did most of the cooking in the oven?
How to Reverse Sear a Roast
Beef tenderloin is a showstopper that you don’t want to overcook, so the reverse sear is a perfect cooking method candidate. We’ve devised a recipe for reverse seared Chateaubriand that eliminates the ring of overdone meat just below the crust and gives the roast a ruby coloring from edge to edge. Here’s the basic method:
1. Sprinkle roast evenly with salt, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
2. Pat the roast dry, sprinkle it with pepper, and spread unsalted butter evenly over its surface. Transfer roast to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet.
3. Roast at 300 degrees until the meat registers 125 degrees for medium-rare, 40 to 55 minutes, or 135 degrees for medium, 55 to 70 minutes, flipping roast halfway through cooking.
4. Sear in a hot skillet until well browned on four sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Let rest for at least 15 minutes.
Classic Roast Beef TenderloinThe classic approach to roasting this prime cut sacrifices juiciness for crust. Why settle for anything less than perfection?
How to Reverse Sear . . . Cheesecake?
OK, so this one isn’t exactly a reverse sear: But when my colleague Andrea Geary was developing her recipe for Foolproof New York Cheesecake, she had reverse searing in mind.
Traditional methods for New York cheesecake call for starting the cake off at a high heat, then dropping the temperature. The problem with this method? Success is dependent on the oven temperature falling at a very specific rate: too fast and your cheesecake will be soupy; too slow and it will be burned, cracked, and grainy.
So, just as we had with steak, Andrea decided to flip the traditional course of action: She bakes the cheesecake at the lower temperature for three hours, then finishes it at 500 degrees. This creates the proper burnished top, but without the risk.