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How To Reverse Sear a Tomahawk Steak in an Oven and Cast Iron Skillet

reverse sear tomahawk steak with perfect crust

Want that edge-to-edge even doneness on your next steak topped with decadent compound herb butter, but just not sure how to achieve it without a grill? Maybe you don’t own a grill, or your grill is buried under three feet of snow.

Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here, I’ll show you step-by-step how to get a steakhouse-quality steak without ever leaving your kitchen. Add to that, I’ll give you five reverse-sear tips for success.

perfectly seared tomahawk steak resting before serving

In fact, I’m going to go so far as to say that by following this guide, you’ll turn out a better than steakhouse-quality steak. Steakhouses, for the most part, cook steaks using an incredibly high heat broiler, sometimes called a salamander. 

While the high temperature broiler is a great method for thinner cuts of steak—more on that later—it’s not great for thinner cuts.  

medium rare tomahawk steak, sliced

If you’ve watched many of my Instagram stories, you’ve seen me using this technique countless times on the grill. Bringing the same concept indoors, I’m showing you how to make use of the oven and a cast iron skillet to simulate as closely as possible the outdoor grilling experience.

It’s a damn dirty shame, but I recognize not everyone has access to a grill. However, anyone with an oven and a cast iron skillet can reverse sear steak. Cooking steak in an oven requires time, but it’s easier than you think to get great results.

reverse seared steak with a pat of herb butter on a cutting board

What Is a Reverse Sear?

You may have heard in the past that you should sear a steak first, to “lock in the juices” and then let it come up to temperature slowly. Under the right circumstances and with the right equipment, that method is effective. 

That said, most people don’t have the equipment needed to sear fast and hot enough to make this method work well.

sliced medium-rare steak

The reverse-sear method, quite simply, is the reverse of searing a steak first. Instead, reverse searing meat is the method of bringing the temperature of the meat up slowly and evenly in a low-temperature environment, around 225 °F.

Then, after a short rest, introduce the meat to very high direct heat to create the Maillard reaction that’s responsible for the charred crust that’s oh so delicious.

How Hot Should a Cast Iron Skillet Be for Searing Steaks?

You’re looking for at least 500 °F, but preferably 650-700 °F  if you can get there. Don’t worry about the pan. Quality cast iron can stand up to those temperatures without risk of material failure. 

steak and knife on cutting board

What Are the Benefits of Using the Reverse-Sear Method?

For an in-depth look, check out my blog on the benefits of reverse searing. It’s very informative, if I say so myself. In short, this method serves two distinct purposes.

First, it’s a foolproof way to achieve that perfect coast-to-coast doneness without overcooking the outside of the meat. 

Second, you get to eat a piping hot steak because you don’t need to rest the steak at the end of the cook like you do when using other cooking methods.

Should All Steaks Be Cooked Using Reverse Sear?

NO! I love this method of cooking, but it’s best served for cuts of meat that are at least 1.5 inches thick.

While this post features a massive tomahawk steak, reverse searing is ideal for any thick cut of meat. Like this giant porterhouse for two for example.

porterhouse standing on edge, thick, raw, and ready to cook

Another great use of this technique is for roasts. Like this prime rib, for example, and all of them can be done using the techniques I’m sharing here using an oven and a cast iron skillet.

The reverse-sear method is also highly effective for cuts like filet mignon. The filet is a  notoriously difficult cut of meat to cook perfectly, based on its shape and thickness.

medium-rare beef sliced, close up shows texture

If I’m cooking a steak cut to a more standard thickness, or any piece of meat that’s cut to less than 1.5 inches thick, I don’t use the reverse-sear method. For the thicker cuts of steak though, or even these thick cut maple-glazed pork chops—the reverse-sear method is highly encouraged. 

5 Tips For Reverse Searing Using a Cast Iron Skillet And Oven

The Skillet: It’s a myth that cast iron heats evenly. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Cast iron heats extremely unevenly so, to ensure as even as possible heating, place the cast iron pan in the oven with the steak and allow it to preheat before putting it on the burner.

The Exhaust: The downside to this method is the smoke created from cooking at such high temperatures. Before you start searing, open the windows and crank the exhaust fan above your range. Or be prepared for your smoke alarm to start screaming at you.

The Lip: If you’re using a smaller cast iron skillet, be conscious that the bone of a large steak like a tomahawk is going to hang over the raised edge of the skillet. This may prevent some surface area of the steak from contacting the pan. If you have a cast iron griddle, that works well for the giant bone-in steaks.

The Flip: Cast iron cools quickly when a cool, or even warm food is placed on its surface. So, when flipping the steak, don’t flip it directly onto the same spot in the skillet. Instead, always place it in a new spot in the skillet that will be much hotter. 

The Fat: Because we are searing at such high temperatures, don’t use a low smoke point oil like olive oil in the skillet. Instead, use beef fat trimmed from the steak. It provides great flavor and has a much higher smoke point than olive oil. 

OK, enough talk. Whatdoya say we get to this tomahawk?

Reverse-Seared Tomahawk Steak Recipe

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 70 minutes 

Ingredients
1 tomahawk ribeye steak
2 tbsp compound herb butter
1–2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste (or your favorite steak rub)

How To Reverse Sear a Tomahawk Steak in an Oven and Cast Iron Skillet

Step 1: Remove your steak or steaks from the refrigerator and allow it to warm up slightly to room temperature for about an hour. Starting with a steak that is closer to room temperature helps with the even doneness we’re striving for. 

steak on a cutting board, seasoned with salt and pepper

While the steak is warming up, cut just a sliver of the fat from around the edge of the steak and place it back in the refrigerator. We’ll use that later.

Step 2: Season liberally with kosher salt and pepper, or your favorite steak rub. Insert a reliable leave-in thermometer into the thickest portion of the steak.

Step 3: Place the cast iron pan in the oven and preheat the oven to 225° F.

Step 4: Place steak on a cooling rack, and place the rack in a baking sheet. I cover the baking sheet with foil just to cut down on the cleanup later.

steak on baking rack in oven

Step 5: Place the steak in the oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 122 °F; about 45 minutes, depending on the size of the steak. (This is the timing for medium rare; cook to your desired temperature.)

Step 6: Remove the steak from the oven and let it rest while continually monitoring the internal temperature on the leave-in thermometer. Temperature should peak at around 129–130 °F (usually about 7–8 minutes).

Step 7: While the steak is resting, place the preheated cast iron pan over medium-high heat on the stove. Then, place that sliver of fat we removed earlier into the pan and allow it to render down. This is what we are going to sear the steak in.

Once the steak’s internal temperature has peaked and starts decreasing, add a sprig of rosemary to the rendered beef fat, and crank the heat under the cast iron pan to max for one to two minutes.

Step 8: Place the cooked steak directly onto the scorching hot skillet, flipping every 30 seconds for about 5 minutes total to develop that dark crust. 

reverse sear steak using a cast iron pan

Step 9: Remove the steak from the cast iron pan and top with room-temperature compound butter. Slice and serve immediately.

sliced medium rare steak with crust from the Maillard reaction

You probably won’t have leftovers, but if you do, they make great philly cheesesteak sliders.

reverse sear tomahawk steak with perfect crust

How to Reverse Sear a Tomahawk Steak in an Oven and Cast Iron Skillet

4.33 from 141 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Course: Entree
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 Tomahawk Ribeye
  • 2 tbsp compound herb butter
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste (or your favorite steak rub)

Instructions

  • Remove your steak or steaks from the refrigerator and allow it to warm up slightly to room temperature for about an hour. Starting with a steak that is closer to room temperature helps with the even doneness we’re striving for. 
    While the steak is warming up, cut just a sliver of the fat from around the edge of the steak and place it back in the refrigerator. We’ll use that later.
  • Season liberally with kosher salt and pepper, or your favorite steak rub. Insert a reliable leave-in thermometer into thickest portion of the steak.
  • Place the cast iron pan in the oven and preheat the oven to 225° F.
  • Place steak on a cooling rack, and place rack in a baking sheet. I cover the baking sheet with foil just to cut down on the cleanup later.
  • Place steak in oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 125° F; about 45 minutes depending on the size of the steak. (This is the timing for medium rare; cook to your desired temperature.)
  • Remove steak from oven and let rest while continually monitoring the internal temperature on the leave-in thermometer. Temperature should peak at around 129–130°F (usually about 7–8 minutes).
  • While steak is resting, place the preheated cast iron pan over medium-high heat on stovetop. Then, place that sliver of fat we removed earlier into pan and allow it to render down. This is what we are going to sear the steak in.
    Once the steak's internal temperature has peaked and starts decreasing, add a sprig of rosemary to the rendered beef fat, and crank the heat under the cast iron pan to max for about a minute.
  • Place the cooked steak directly onto the scorching hot skillet, flipping every 30 seconds for about 5 minutes total to develop that dark crust.
  • Remove steak from the cast iron pan and top with compound butter. Slice and serve immediately.

Notes

Want that edge-to-edge even doneness on your next steak but just not sure how to achieve it without a grill? Maybe you don’t own a grill, or your grill is buried under three feet of snow.
Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here, I’ll show you step-by-step how to get a steakhouse-quality steak without ever leaving your kitchen.

Tried This Recipe?

Share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #unitedbyflame and let us know how it was!

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