Rib steak is my ideal date-night meal because what says “I love you” more than a big hunk of meat?
When cooking large cuts of beef, especially ones that are so simply prepared such as these reverse seared rib steaks, quality is key. Always get the best cut you can find and afford. It’s not all about price though; look for Rib Steak cuts that are dry-aged, prime-grade, and visually marbled. Don’t be shy to have a conversation with your butcher, and, if you are presented with a cut that doesn’t fit your vision, ask if there is something else available.
My Reverse Seared Rib Steak is guaranteed to impress and surprisingly simple to cook. My favorite way to cook a thicker steak is using the reverse searing method. The majority of the cook is very hands-off, so instead of slaving over the stove, you can enjoy a glass of wine with your guests while the steaks very slowly cook in the oven. Once your steaks are just shy of their target temperature, sear them in a very hot pan to get a gorgeous crispy meat crust. Rest, slice and enjoy!
Tips and Tricks
1. Picking your meat at the butcher shop
With something as simple as steak, sourcing the best possible ingredients is paramount. Whenever possible (and if your budget permits) try to source prime-grade, dry-aged steaks (~30 days is ideal). When shopping for steak I look for visually present marbelization in the meat; the more the better. If prime grade or dry aged ribs are not in your budget or hard to source, look for steaks that are nicely marbled. Many times, I’ve seen choice-grade steaks that have wonderful marbling, sometimes they even look better than “prime-grade” cuts I’ve seen, so remember the grading system is not everything. Use your eyes.
Not all fat is created equal, so what is marbling?
Marbling is the white flecks of intramuscular fat in meat which creates a marble pattern, hence the name. Marbling affects meat’s juiciness, tenderness, texture, and flavor. The more marbling the better. This type of marbleized fat should not be confused with intermuscular fat, which is the thick pieces of fat between the muscles. This kind of fat is typically trimmed down and does not enhance a piece of meat. When inspecting meat to purchase, you want to find a cut that has an abundance of little flecks of fat dispersed all throughout the meaty section of the steak.
Nice marbling is not the only factor I consider when shopping for steak. I also look for rib-steaks that have larger endcaps and smaller eyes. To better understand this, there are 3 main parts of the rib-steak. There’s the bone, and attached to that is the longissimus dorsi, aka the large center “eye” of meat which is the meatiest portion of the steak. Lastly, around the eye of meat is the spinalis dorsi, better known as the ribeye cap. The cap is more marbled with fat than the eye, and as beef lovers know, fat is flavor. While the cap, might look chewy and overly fatty, it is the richest, most tender and beefiest bit of the steak. In my opinion, the cap is the tastiest part of the cow.
From an anatomy perspective, rib-eyes are cut from the rib primal which sits right behind the chuck and in front of the strip loin. The cow has 13 pairs of ribs, though only ribs 6-12 are called rib eye, the well marbled and juicy steaks we all know and love. If you have a choice (ask your butcher) try and get your rib-eyes from the front as opposed to the back; the cap will be biggest in ribs 6, 7, and 8, where-as rib steaks 9, 10, 11, and 12 have bigger eyes (and smaller caps). The cap is the best part, which is a shame because in most cases you get very little of it.
Remember, if you’re at the butcher shop, you can visually inspect each piece. Have a conversation with your butcher. Tell them what you like and don’t like, and don’t be shy to ask to see different options.
I like my steak cut into 1.5-2-inch thickness, especially with the reverse sear method. I would not suggest reverse searing a steak less than 1.25 inches thick, but ideally it should be at 1.5 inches.
2. Essential tools
A food thermometer is essential; if you have a leave in thermometer that’s even better. Cooking a good steak requires a precise cook time so you can have a beautifully crusted exterior and perfect medium rare inside. Because rib steaks have a good amount of fat content, they are a little more forgiving than other cuts of beef; however, you don’t want to cook your steak past medium. Cook your steak until the internal temperature reads 5-10 degrees less than your desired doneness (medium rare is 130-140, medium is 140-150) since the residual heat will continue to cook the steak after you finish cooking it.
A cast iron skillet is another essential tool to cooking a perfect steak (especially indoors). Once you’ve cooked your steak at a very low temp in the oven, you want to sear the outside in a very hot pan. Cast iron is a great vessel for this; it can get very hot and retains heat well.
3. Adding flavor
If you have time and plan ahead, I highly recommend “dry brining” or salting your steak 2 days prior to the cook. Along with producing juicier more flavorful meat, dry brining also helps achieve a better surface browning and crust.
It’s hard to season the inside of a steak. Any seasoning you add right before cooking will season the outer crust, but will not penetrate to the inner parts of the steak. Thais is why it’s common to add salt to steak once it’s been sliced and to use various dipping sauces.
Generously adding kosher salt to the steak and letting it rest in the fridge uncovered for several days helps accomplish several things:
First, the salt has time to penetrate deeper into the meat and gives a better flavor to the inner portions of your beef. It helps bring out the natural flavors of the steak.
Second, dry-brined meat comes out perfectly juicy after cooking. Given time, salt will perform its protein-dissolving magic, which allows meat to hold onto its natural moisture during cooking. The salt naturally permeates the beef and breaks down the muscle proteins, tenderizing the steak cut in the process. Moisture is locked into the steak, resulting in a juicy, tender steak.
Third, dry brining helps achieve better surface browning. While you might notice moisture accumulating at the surface of your steak right after salting your meat, this will soon reabsorb back into the meat and the meats surface will be left drier than ever before. The salt allows the muscles to relax and proteins to break down, resulting in the surface of the meat to stay dry even while cooking, ensuring you’re left with a beautiful meat crust.
Remember, dry surfaces brown, wet ones don’t. So when you blast a dry-brined piece of meat with heat, whether searing in a skillet or finishing in a hot oven, you achieve Maillard browning really fast, which means you’re less likely to overcook your food in the quest for a gorgeously browned crust.
4. Letting your meat rest is a crucial step to guarantee a tender and juicy end result
Not much more to say here on this one, but do let your steaks rest for at least 10-15 minutes. This will allow the meat to relax and juices to redistribute evenly back into the steak. If you cut too early, the juices will all run out of the steak.
The Very Best Reverse Seared Rib Steaks
- Oven (electric or gas)
- Cast iron skillet
- Wire rack
- Large baking sheet
- Meat thermometer
- 2 prime grade, well-marbled, bone-in, dry aged steaks (1.5-2 inch thick)
- 1.5 tbsp kosher salt (I prefer diamond crystal)
- freshly ground black pepper (I like the pepper on steak to be a bit coarser, so make sure not to grind too finely)
- 1-2 tbsp oil
- 1 head garlic (optional)
- thyme (optional)
- rosemary (optional)
- non-dairy butter (optional)
- Maldon large flaky salt
Dry Brine the Steak (2 days in advance)
- Very generously season both sides of steak with kosher salt (approx ¾ tablespoon per steak), place uncovered in fridge on a wire rack. Let rest for 2 days.
Cooking the Steak
- Remove steak from fridge and let rest for a minimum of one hour to get to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
- Lightly re-season steak with kosher salt and coarse pepper.
- Place steaks on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet, and then into the oven they go until the internal temperature reads about 120-125°F.
- Pre-heat cast iron skillet (about 5-8 min) until hot. A very hot skillet delivers the best sear.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of oil to the pan, enough to coat the bottom, then add the steaks. Sear on both sides.
- During the last minute of searing, reduce heat to medium, add 2 tablespoons of non-dairy butter, 3 crushed garlic cloves, and a couple sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Baste continuously.
- Let steaks rest for 10 minutes, then slice and sprinkle Maldon salt flakes to interior flesh.