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Reverse Sear- High Heat Start or Finish?


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Curious about thoughts on starting vs finishing a reverse sear on high heat.  I've only used the low then high approach thus far, and the results have been good, but wonder about the opposite.  For context, I do the low heat on the KJ and high heat on the gasser (faster for me to get to temp and more convenient), so I don't have a concern about trying to get the KJ temp down.


Assume a reasonably thick cut (at least 1.5"/4 cm), high heat at least 500F, low heat 225-250F.


Pros and cons of one method vs the other? 

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Searing first is often referred to as a forward sear. It is the traditional way and favored by many. 

It used to be believed that you needed to sear first to seal in the juices. Now searing is done before or after cooking with great results. 

Some say forward searing is easier to avoid overcooking. 

Try both and lettuce know! 

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Forward sear as you describe above works great with frozen steaks. Sear good on both sides with high heat and then use low indirect heat to get it up to final temp. If they're thawed already then just searing at hi temps finish them off to my liking. 


I've done reverse sear, forward sear and and forward sear from frozen with no real difference as long as I don't overcook

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Forward sear is by far the best. When searing the meat starts out cold so the sear doesn't do any cooking just searing. When you pull the meat at say 130* since it came from a low temperature there is almost no carry over cooking. Your serving meat done to the temperature you pulled at. Better wall to wall MD rare.


With reverse sear  the meat is already in the 130* range when you start the sear so the sear does do a little more cooking. You also get some amount of carry over cooking since your last temperature was 400*+. The carry over cooking must be compensated for. Also you tend to get a larger gray line under the sear. 


The only real negative of forward searing is you really need more than one grill to accomplish this. You stated you have that problem solved. I forward sear 100% of the time for any steak 1" or over. Less than 1" and I just sear to completion. 

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  • 3 months later...

I'm just starting to learn how to do this on my KJ, so I appreciate any advice.  So to cook a fresh or completely thawed over 1" steak to rare, with a sear, should one forward sear on a grate or platter close to the coals first, and then move it up to the top grill and cook to rare, or ?

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I take a 1 1/2' (at least) steak and cook at 180* with abundant smoke, until 115* internal, then finish in a ripping hot cast iron pan, 30 seconds per side, 4 times.  You probably can't get your kamado to run this cool ( I use a pellet smoker) so just settle low and slow.  You won't get as much smoke flavor, but it'll be good.

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I used to always use the forward sear.  It was good and works just fine.


However...I feel the reverse sear works better for giving me a steak that is more MR all through the steak.  The forward sear seems to be more MR in the center with more doneness around the MR center.


Maybe its the confirmation bias of that being what I expected...but that is how I find it.


I also find the reverse sear easier to do with one grill.  Lower heat to start...pull steaks while very very rare.  Then crank the vents open to get it up to heat pretty quick for the sear.  Doing the opposite and getting it cranked up high...would be a pain to go backwards to cook it on lower heat.

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Reverse sear to me is just far more controllable.  Either sous-vide then into the cast iron or onto the fire, or low/slow/smoke up to desired temp and then the fiery finish.


As mentioned, without two grills, going forward sear is a bit trickier with a ceramic kamado or without a larger two zone area.


For "fast" cooking, I'll do forward searing though....onto the super hot flame to sear up, then move it off the direct heat...but I find the results not as predictable and usually more "cooked" area near the edges.- 

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8 hours ago, WI/TN said:

The forward sear seems to be more MR in the center with more doneness around the MR center.


6 hours ago, SmallBBQr said:

 I'll do forward searing though ... I find the results not as predictable and usually more "cooked" area near the edges.- 


Thank you folks.  I will try the reverse sear.  I definitely am wanting to keep my steaks rare all the way around.

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18 hours ago, KJKiley said:

For grits and shins I may try both methods simultaneously this weekend, eliminating as many variables as possible.  If I do, I'll post the process, pics and my (and more importantly, my taste tester's) thoughts.

That would be a great test.  Please let us know what your findings are.

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So this is my completely/mostly unscientific run at this topic.  My goal was to eliminate as many variables as possible.  The plan:

-        Ideally time the cooks so both the reverse sear (RS) steak and forward sear (FS) steak finished at about the same time

-        RS steak off the KJ at 125 for sear

-        FS steak of the KJ at 135 to rest


I started with a couple of SRF 8 oz filets; rubbed both with Primal Palate Steak Seasoning and let rest overnight.



I set the KJ to 225 and added a few chunks of hickory.  While the temp came up and stabilized I fired up the gasser and let it stabilize just north of 550. 


I put the RS steak on the KJ and started the FS steak on the 550+ cast iron for ~ one minute per side and about 30 seconds on the edges (~3.5 minutes total), then added the FS steak to the KJ. 


I pulled FS steak at 135 and let it rest.  I wasn’t sure how the timing would work out between the two, and ended up pulling it about 10 minutes before the RS steak hit 125.  Not surprisingly, the forward sear gave it a good temp headstart, so it ultimately got to rest a bit longer.  I was busy with the RS steak and failed to get an internal temp after 5 minutes.


I pulled the RS steak at 125 and followed the same sear plan.  It hit about 130 internal after the sear, and was just over 135 after resting.




Personal observations:

-        Both steaks had a uniform internal cook; good medium rare for both

-        The RS steak had a slightly better crust; assumption is because the FS steak hit the cast iron while cold vs the hotter surface of the RS steak

-        My taste tester/wife enjoyed both, but didn’t note any discernible difference between the two (while also noting she apparently isn’t a big fan of Wagyu)

-        I liked both, and thought the FS steak was noticeably more tender; not a great data point since it was two different steaks so maybe two different cows, but just my observation




Not sure which way I’ll go in the future, and may try more iterations to see if I can repeat the results.  In any case, I’ll be eating steaks off the KJ.   :good:

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