How to Reverse Sear on a Smoker

The reverse sear method is one of the most popular grilling techniques, especially when you consider it wasn’t even a thing ten years ago. It produces expertly grilled meats, like Bourbon and Brown Sugar Pork Chops.

This process starts by smoking or slow-roasting the food until it is close to being done and then finishing the food over direct, high heat. The reverse sear takes a bit longer but holds several key advantages.

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1. Gives the cook a bigger target for cooking to the right temperature. Imagine your target temperature is a manhole cover on the road. Is it easier to stop on top of that manhole cover if you are going 25mph (low and slow) or going 65mph (hot and fast)?
2. Tenderization – Calpains and cathepsins are enzymes that make meat tender. They get more active in warmer temps up to 105°F for calpains and 122°F for cathepsins. According to On Food and Cooking, time spent in those warmer temps serves as an accelerated aging process (McGee 144)
3. Juicier food – Less time spent at high heat means the muscle fibrils squeeze out less of their water.
4. Allows time to develop a light smoky flavor.
5. Let’s you cook the interior of the meat perfectly while getting the ideal color on the exterior.
The Process
1. Oklahoma Joe’s Smokers® are ideally suited for this acclaimed technique. You can smoke the meat in the cooking chamber and then finish it over hot wood coals in the firebox. Here is the basic process for using the reverse sear technique.
2. Slow-roast or smoke your meat until it reaches an internal temperature of about 7-10 degrees Fahrenheit less than your desired final temperature. So, if you are aiming for a medium rare steak (internal temperature of 135°F), you will take the steak off of the grill about 125-128°F.
3. Rest your meat. This rest is the step that many folks miss. Food keeps cooking for a bit when you take it off of the grill; it’s called “carry-over” cooking. You need to wait until the internal temperature has risen to its maximum off of the grill and began to fall.
4. Sear the meat. Do this directly over the hottest coals that you have, and it should only take about 1 minute or less per side. The food is already cooked, you are just putting color and flavor on it through the Maillard reaction.
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