Cooking to temperature is an essential technique for anyone who loves to BBQ or smoke food. While it’s tempting to simply set a timer and wait for the food to be done, this approach can often lead to disappointing results because the time it takes to cook food can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, including the size and type of meat, the heat of the fire, and even the weather.
One of the best examples of how cooking to temperature can improve your BBQ skills is the reverse searing method for steaks.
To reverse sear a steak, you’ll first need to preheat your grill or smoker to a low temperature, around 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit (107-121 degrees Celsius). Place the steak on the grill and let it cook until it reaches an internal temperature of around 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit (43-46 degrees Celsius). This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size and thickness of the steak.
Note: I often add a nice block of whisky infused oak for a hit of smoke at this stage
Once the steak has reached the desired temperature, remove it from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile, increase the heat of the grill to high, around 500-550 degrees Fahrenheit (260-288 degrees Celsius). This will create a searing hot surface that will quickly char the outside of the steak, creating a delicious crust.
Once the grill is hot, place the steak back on the grill and sear it for a minute or two on each side, until it reaches your desired level of doneness. For a medium-rare steak, aim for an internal temperature of around 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit (54-57 degrees Celsius). For a medium steak, aim for an internal temperature of around 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit (60-63 degrees Celsius). And for a well-done steak . . . well . . . order yourself a takeaway as you’ve just ruined a good cut of meat!
Once the steak has reached the desired temperature, remove it from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing (against the grain) and serving. This will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the steak, ensuring that it’s tender and juicy.
Note: Resting a steak is also another opportunity to add flavour. I often place a knob of butter on top of the steak and then a piece of hot lumpwood charcoal on top of that to help the butter melt . . . not only does this add some great flavour . . . it creates a little bit of theatre that always impresses.
As you can see, cooking to temperature is essential when reverse searing a steak. By using a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the steak at all times, you can be sure that it’s cooked to perfection every time.
But beyond the practical benefits of cooking to temperature, it also allows you to achieve consistent, delicious results every time. If you’re cooking multiple pieces of meat at the same time, it’s common for them to finish cooking at different times. This can be frustrating, especially if you’re trying to serve everything at the same time. By cooking to temperature, you can be sure that all of the meat will be done at the same time, allowing you to serve a perfectly cooked meal to all of your guests.
In addition to the practical benefits, cooking to temperature can also improve the flavour and texture of your food. By cooking the meat to the desired temperature, you can be sure that it’s tender and juicy, without being overcooked or dried out. This is especially important for low and slow cooking methods, where a long cook time can lead to dry, tough meat if not properly monitored.
Overall, cooking to temperature is a crucial technique for anyone who loves to BBQ or smoke food. By using a meat thermometer, you can achieve consistent, delicious results every time. So next time you fire up the grill, be sure to grab your thermometer and cook to temperature – your taste buds will thank you!