Let me begin by saying, you’ll still need a cast iron pan. I know. And you’re probably asking, “Well, what’s the whole point of air frying if you’re still going to pan sear.” I say this because I’m obsessed with meat crust, as obsessed as I am about bread crust. The fervent need is equal parts Maillard respect and taste. Reverse searing gives you tender centers and mega crust by drying out the exterior before the final sear. Commonly, seasoning like salt bae is done after the steak has been pan-cooked to avoid burnt pepper, a flavor I actually enjoy. With this two-step method, the results are crispy fat and an almost creme brûlée cracking crust when you hit that bad boi on a cast iron. Any of the gristle or fat is well rendered, super tender and the temperature is perfect throughout.
First, what in the world is reverse searing? For those of you who are just really into sous vide (I’m not one of them), the intent of evenly cooking at slow and low temperatures in a moist environment to achieve a properly cooked protein is similar in reverse searing. The biggest difference is the cooking happens in a dry environment. Hot air that circulates directly over the meat creates a slightly tighter, dryer exterior but with the proper resting, it makes it easy to sear.
We’ll begin with the meat. I have a rule when it comes to steak – no thinner than your largest knuckle. We’re talking big bois, around 2 inches and up, or get outta here. Consider this when selecting your steaks, especially when it comes to high fat marbling like say, a wagyu New York Strip or a fat quality ribeye. Marinating your steaks is an option here as well since the exterior moisture won’t matter, but I always prefer a simple salt & pepper or steakhouse blend. In fact, I’ll season the night before to dry brine. In the end, you’ll be adding most of the flavor in the final sear and baste. Most chefs prefer to bring the steaks to room temperature before cooking them. The glory of reverse searing is the ability to begin the cooking process at any temperature the steak might be at, and only your cooking times will increase. (Surprisingly, I’ve even done them from frozen and it’s not too too bad :/)
Invest in a great thermometer. Thermopen, Taylor oven probe, whatever, as long as they read accurately and quickly. The key to reverse searing is in the temperature reading and not necessarily time. You’ll want to stop the reverse searing stage when the center of the steak reaches 90-100f degrees if you like it rare like myself, or 110f for you mid-rare folks.
Last tip, experiment with a lower cost steak first if you haven’t mastered the art of air frying quite yet. I’ve gone through tons of high-cost steaks trying to dial in the right parameters. In the end, the biggest payoff with this method is a more hands-off approach, less of that dirty smoke that annoyingly fills the house, and a great way to try something new. So fancy.
If you’ve never butter basted before, it’s super simple. If you can, use a cast iron or French blue steel skillet. They’re the best conductors of heat if well seasoned and are naturally non-stick creating a gorgeous crust. You want to start with enough butter in the pan to fill a small ladle, or about four tablespoons. Add garlic cloves, fresh herbs, anything you’d like for aromatics to a cold pan and crank it to the highest temperature your stove can put out. Once the butter begins to brown, that’s when you want to add the steaks. You’ll start basting after the first flip, and don’t fuss with the speed of basting, as long as the crust begins to bubble and darken you’re doing it right. For the finish, yank those steaks out of the pan to rest on a rack and deglaze the pan with wine for a killer sauce. Make it velvety with an addition of cold butter and Demi or cream.