Want to cook the perfect steak? Then the reverse sear method is for you!
This article will take you through how to reverse sear a steak in a Pro Q, a type of smoker typically known as a bullet smoker due to its shape. We will also cover off on some of the theory behind the reverse sear and why it is such a great option for cooking that perfect steak.
If you don’t have a Pro Q you should still gain an understanding of the concept of reverse searing and how you might be able to achieve that on your set up.
What is reverse sear?
Reverse sear is a process by which you slowly bring your steak (or other cut of meat) up to your desired doneness via low indirect heat. This is then followed by searing directly over high direct heat to facilitate the Maillard reaction – aka that yummy crunchy stuff on the outside.
You can achieve this a number of different ways including the oven or sous vide but in my opinion BBQ is king because you get added smoke flavour while still achieving perfect edge to edge doneness.
Why would you want to cook your steak this way? For larger steaks in particular, grilling over direct heat can result in extremely uneven doneness throughout, with the outside being well done, the centre being rare and some patches of medium between all of that.
In addition to this, cooking at a high heat your internal temperature is increasing very quickly making it extremely likely you will overshoot your desired result.
By slowly bringing your steak to your desired doneness you can achieve a much more even cook throughout.
What You’ll Need
- 2.5kg of charcoal (this test was done with jarrah charcoal)
- 1 x ribeye at least 1.5inch thick (this one was 6cm or 2.36inch)
- Smoke wood of choice, preferably a chunk (I like cherry for this)
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
Pro Q Set Up
The Pro Q is one of the best tools for the job when it comes to the reverse sear as you have the ability to create a low temperature zone up top for smoking your steak until it gets to temp, then remove the stackers and grill directly over the charcoal.
You would be able to fit about six ribeyes in the Pro Q Frontier which makes it great for entertaining (depending on size each ribeye could feed 2-3 people).
Light a starter chimney full of charcoal*
While that is lighting spread the remainder of your charcoal in a ring around the outside of the charcoal basket.
Pour the lit charcoal into the centre of the ring and place a chunk of smoking wood on top, I chose cherry for this cook.
Water pan: for this cook I filled the water pan approximately one fifth (roughly two litres).
The water pan will diffuse the heat of the charcoal, keeping the Pro Q around 225f. Don’t add too much water though as it’s not a very long cook and the more water you add the longer it will take to get to temp.
All vents fully open.
Don’t get too stressed on temps, anything from 200-250f will get the job done.
*A starter chimney is a large metal jug that allows you to light your charcoal extremely quickly see this guide for more info if you’re not familiar with them.
Time to prep your steak. For a beautiful 940gram ribeye like this, salt and pepper is sufficient.
Just like my burger article I do also quite like the charcoal based rubs such as Hardcore Carnivore black too but if it’s your first time – salt and pepper!
Once your Pro Q is sitting around 225f (107c) put the ribeye on the top shelf and away you go.
With reverse sear we don’t cook for a set amount of time, we cook until it gets to our desired internal temperature which will be 10f or 5c below our final desired doneness.
This ribeye took around 70 minutes to get to my target of 120f (49c)
A note on doneness: even when researching what is considered the standard for rare, medium rare etc I came across a variety of internal temperatures. Find out what works for you.
In addition to this I think you may find your tastes change when you hit that perfect evenness thanks to reverse sear.
For instance the above is apparently a “medium”, but you don’t want that kind of medium steak because two thirds of it is over done instead of medium. But if that pink strip in the middle was edge to edge it might be a different story.
Anyway, for ribeye I like a final internal temperature of 130f (55c), this can probably be considered medium rare but whatever. Your choice internal temp may vary from steak to steak – I find different cuts respond better to certain levels of doneness – but that’s a discussion for another day.
Once your ribeye has reached an internal temperature of 120f (49c) take it off and wrap it in foil while we get our coals ready to sear.
Resting isn’t necessary when reverse searing due to the slow nature of the cook, I just wrap in foil to keep warm while I’m prepping the sear station.
Remove the lid and the two stackers and place a grill on the bottom section of the Pro Q.
You want the charcoal to be HOT, if you hold your hand roughly where the steak is going it should be uncomfortable to hold it there longer than a second or two (don’t touch the grill, dummy). If this means you need to add some more charcoal then do so at this point.
I used a BBQ dragon to really get the charcoal raging, a hairdryer or other fan would also work.
Once hot it’s time to sear your steak – this process is not about cooking but simply getting the colour and crunch (dat maillard reaction) that you’re happy with on the outside. Keep it moving and don’t take too long, we don’t want gross half well done and half pink on the middle steak; we want perfection.
And that, my friends, is why we reverse sear – edge to edge perfection.
Let me know what you think – if you have any questions or ideas you want to talk about in relation to the reverse sear.
Feedback is also appreciated – I definitely said “doneness” way more times than I’m comfortable with in this article!
Next in my reverse sear series will be tri-tip in a Weber kettle so stay tuned.