Years ago, we discovered that one of the best ways to produce a rib-eye, filet mignon, or strip steak that was rosy from edge to edge was to “reverse sear” it. Since then, we’ve also applied the technique to roasts, bone-in chicken breasts, and even cheesecake. Now, we’re using reverse-searing as an incredibly effective way to cook a thick burger to perfection.
Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter
The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.
What Is Reverse Searing?
Reverse searing is simple: It involves slowly and gently cooking food in a low oven, and then searing it in a ripping hot skillet (or sliding it under the broiler) to develop a deeply browned crust.
The Ultimate BurgerTake a deep dive into achieving burger greatness. The Ultimate Burger covers updated classics, regional favorites, homemade everything (from meat blends to pretzel buns), and craft-burger creations, plus fries and other sides and frosty drinks.
The technique gives the cook great control over the interior temperature of meat and avoids the development of a gray band just beneath the crust. And because the hot oven dries out the surface of the meat, it rapidly and evenly browns when it hits the hot skillet.
What Are the Benefits of Reverse-Searing a Burger?
Just as it does for steak, reverse-searing yields two main benefits over the traditional sear-first method.
- First, slowly raising the burger’s interior temperature in a low oven allows you sous vide–like control over its exact level of doneness.
- Second, the oven dries the surface of the burger, allowing you to create a thick browned crust far more quickly than if you seared a freshly formed patty at the start. This means the meat right under the crust doesn’t have time to overcook, and the interior of the burger will be evenly pink and juicy.
How to Reverse-Sear Burgers
1 . Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Set rack in rimmed baking sheet and spray with cooking spray.
2. Form 80 percent lean ground beef gently into 8-ounce patties 4 inches wide and just under 1 inch thick. Season well on both sides with kosher salt and pepper.
3. Evenly space up to 6 patties on rack and place baking sheet on middle rack of oven. Cook until instant-read (or leave-in probe) thermometer inserted into center of one burger reaches 120 degrees for a medium-rare burger, about 40 minutes. (Cook to 125–130 F for medium to medium well, and 130–135 F for medium well to well done.)
4. Remove burger(s) from oven and tent loosely with foil. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until just smoking.
5. Add burgers, press gently into skillet with thin-bladed spatula, and cook until deep-brown crust develops on both sides, about 1 minute 30 seconds per side. Top as desired and serve immediately.