The Science of BBQ - Reverse Sear

Your grill can do some pretty amazing things. You can use so many interesting techniques to achieve loads of delicious results. What is the best way to cook meat on the BBQ? One of the most versatile techniques you can use is called the reverse sear. You pay a lot of money for the food you eat, whether it’s that perfectly marbled piece of wagyu beef or some gloriously thick-cut pork chops. Why risk ruining a meal by overcooking it, when you can take it slow and bring forth something that is simply divine. This technique isn’t just about how to cook the perfect steak, although it will help you do that. You can use it for chicken, roasts, chops, tenderloin, and even turkey.


What is Reverse Sear?

Reverse searing is when you slowly cook meat until it has nearly reached the desired internal temperature. This can take anywhere from 20 minutes to nearly two hours, or more, depending on the size of the meat. Once at the right temperature, you sear the meat over high heat until a delicious crust forms. Many people use the oven and then finish things off in a cast-iron frying pan, but it is far easier (and uses fewer dishes) when you use your barbecue. The results? Imagine edge-to-edge, perfectly cooked and tender meat, with a toothsome, crunchy outside, and little to no grey-overcooked area between that and the tender meat inside. The only other way to achieve this incredible texture is to cook your meat sous vide.

Also known as the browning reaction, the Maillard reaction is when intense heat breaks down the protein and amino acids on the exterior of your food, which reacts to the sugars present and becomes a crunchy coating of deliciousness on the outside of your food.




How to Reverse Sear

It’s easy to reverse sear, it only takes four simple steps. Follow these steps and you will soon know how to reverse sear like any BBQ Pro.

  1. Salt your meat for a while, at least 1 hour before, up to overnight. Plan ahead and season the night before and set it in the fridge uncovered until you are ready to grill.

  2. Preheat your grill to a temperature between 225°F and 300°F. Anything more and you will induce the *Maillard reaction. When prepping your grill, you want to create a two-zone fire. Do this by either turning on one or two burners on one side of your gas grill or lighting a load of charcoal and banking that charcoal to one side of the grill. This way you have two cooking zones, a direct zone, and an indirect zone.

  3. When the grill is the right temperature, place your food on the “off” or indirect side of the grill. Use a meat thermometer, like Napoleon’s Wireless Digital Thermometer, to ensure that you cook the food to within 10°F of being perfectly cooked.

  4. Preheat your Infrared SIZZLE ZONE™ side burner to high, or the main burners (that are already on) to high – any temperature around 500°F is best. If you’re using a charcoal grill, you can push the lit coals together or add another small load of lit charcoal to the existing coals, and open the air vents a little wider. Sear the meat over high heat until sear marks form. If you have a range side burner, preheat a cast-iron skillet on high, and sear the meat with a little high-temperature oil, like canola, peanut, or safflower oil.



Desired Result

Finished Temp.

Remove for Searing






Medium Rare








Medium Well








Medium Well








Medium Well





150°F - 165°F (held of 5 minutes)

140°F - 145°F



Try this recipe for Blueberry Wild Boar Chops


Why and How Reverse Sear Works

Why does this technique work? How does it produce such delicious results? These two questions are very easy to answer. Salt is very helpful in this whole endeavor. If you read my article about meat myths, you will know that salting a steak is actually very helpful. Salting ahead of time, within 12 to 24 hours of a cook will help dry the surface, which is necessary for a good sear. Salt also denatures protein, meaning that it loosens muscle fibers so that they don’t contract as much when you cook. Salt is molecularly small enough to penetrate meat when it dissolves during cooking, which means it will penetrate and flavor food too.

Remember the thing about fat melting and making meat jello in my Tender Meats article? At low temperatures, connective tissue in muscle fibers will relax allowing more moisture in, instead of squeezing it out causing the collagen to become more like gelatin. Basically, you are melting any fat deposits slowly into the meat. Furthermore, warming the meat slowly through convection means that it will cook more evenly, and the surface will dry off. That leads us to the searing part.

When you are ready to finish cooking with high heat that is where the flavor magic happens. Using intense direct heat, anywhere over 300°F to 500°F+, like you would get from our Infrared SIZZLE ZONE™, you will achieve the Maillard reaction. When the proteins and amino acids react to the present sugars a delicious and crisp crust is formed. This is where the massive flavor of grilled food comes from.


Tips on How to Reverse Sear

These tips will help you get the perfect reverse sear every time. Try them on beef to cook the perfect steak. You can also use this technique on your favorite cuts like chicken, pork, and turkey too!

  • Use the reverse sear to cook meat that is 1½ inches or thicker for best results.

  • The ideal low temp zone is 225°F to 275°F using indirect heat.

  • Set the Napoleon Wireless Digital Thermometer to alert you at around 10°F below the ideal finished temperature of the meat you are cooking.

  • There’s no need to rest your meat before serving.

  • When searing, leave the lid open.

  • It’s actually beneficial to flip the meat often when searing, you get more crust on more surface.

  • When searing, water is the enemy. Water = steam = no crunchy crust.

Get extra bonus delicious points by adding wood chips and smoke during the low and slow cook.



Try the Reverse Sear technique to make the Best Prime Rib Ever.


Try any of the recipes listed above to enjoy the pleasure of the reverse sear technique on your grill. It is the ideal way to cook the perfect steak, but it can be used for so many other meats as well. Though it isn’t ideal for cooking seafood or anything thinner than 1-inch. The reverse sear may just be the best way to cook on the grill. What do you think? What is your favorite grilling technique?

Happy Grilling!