Sous vide is the best technique for evenly cooked steaks with the correct doneness. However, as it is a gentle water bath procedure, sous vide steaks will look pale, boiled, and unappetising. The quick fix: reverse sear your steaks after sous vide.

Cooking steaks using your sous vide machine is a two-step process. First, cook them at a precise sous vide time and temperature. Second, sear the steak on a hot pan or grill to create a delicious, brown crust.

But which steak cut is ideal for sous vide? How long should you sous vide and sear your steak? Are there other ways to achieve a beautiful dark crust?

I know. Every stage should be precise when there’s a prime-grade steak on the line. So, in this guide, let’s learn more about the reverse searing process and the steps to cook the perfect steak.

Why Sous Vide and Reverse Sear Your Steak?

Understanding a two-step cooking process for steaks seems too complex for a home cook. However, it’s also the technique that significantly reduces the risk of overcooking or undercooking an expensive cut of meat.

If you’ve tried cooking steaks the traditional way, you know that when you start, it’s hard to walk away.

As your steak cooks, you have to watch it like a hawk, constantly poking it with a meat thermometer to make sure you’re getting the desired results.

It’s a rather stressful, hit-or-miss process. Sous vide is a more stress-free cooking technique with a higher success rate.

With sous vide, you put the steak in a vacuum bag, cook it in a temperature-controlled water bath at a set time, and then forget about it. Once done, you can freeze the steak or sear it right away.

Traditionally, we sear the steak first before cooking it to the proper doneness. However, if you sous vide your steak and then sear it afterwards, that is reverse searing.

When you reverse sear after sous vide, your pale-looking steak gets this appetising brown crust that contrasts beautifully with its soft, melt-in-your-mouth interior.

Reverse searing gives your steak a distinct charry, butter-like flavour, too. Lastly, searing the steak leaves delicious drippings on the pan that you can turn into a rich gravy.

Summing up, you sous vide your steak to get a cooked but soft meat texture, then sear it for improved appearance and flavour.

Different Types of Steaks on a Wooden Table

Steps in Reverse Searing Sous Vide Steaks

For this step-by-step guide, note that you’ll need an immersion circulator or sous vide machine, a pot or vessel for cooking the meat, and your steak in a vacuum-sealed bag.

Also, you’ll need a cast-iron skillet or stainless-steel pan to sear on the stovetop. I’ll also cite other alternatives at the end of the guide.

Here are the steps for proper reverse searing.

1. Select the right steak cut and thickness.

The choice of steak cut is up to your preference. Choose a ribeye steak if you prefer well-marbled meat, or go for a flank steak if you want something leaner.

T-bone and porterhouse steaks are perfect for a more balanced protein-and-fat ratio.

How thick should your steaks be for sous vide and reverse searing? A 1.5-inch-thick (3.8 cm) steak is best. There is little risk of overcooking steaks with this thickness during searing.

You can go thinner or thicker than 1.5 inches, though. Just make sure to apply the proper cooking time and temperature adjustments.

2. Know the ideal sous vide temperature and time.

Your sous vide machine should have a cooking guide with recommended times and temperatures. You can follow the recommendations from your manual or refer to this general sous vide temperature and time ranges for 1.5-inch-thick steaks.

Fatty steaks: ribeye, T-bone, porterhouse

Doneness Sous vide temperature range Sous vide time range
Rare 49-53°C 1 to 2.5 hours
Medium rare 54-57°C 1 to 4 hours
Medium 57-62°C 1 to 4 hours
Medium well 63-68°C 1 to 3.5 hours
Well done 69°C and up 1 to 3 hours


Lean steaks: top sirloin, strip, tenderloin

Doneness Sous vide temperature range Sous vide time range
Rare 49-53°C 45 minutes to 2.5 hours
Medium rare 54-57°C 45 minutes to 4 hours
Medium 57-62°C 45 minutes to 4 hours
Medium well 63-68°C 45 minutes to 3.5 hours
Well done 69°C and up 1 to 3 hours


3. Set up and preheat your sous vide cooker.

Clip your immersion circulator onto the water-filled cooking vessel. Then, select the cooking temperature based on your preferred steak doneness.

Let the water bath reach the ideal temperature before putting your steak.

4. Add your steak seasonings and aromatics.

While your water bath is preheating, generously season the outside and edges of your steak with salt and pepper.

Next, slide it into an appropriately sized vacuum bag. You can also add some aromatics, like rosemary or thyme.

5. Seal the bag and cook your steak.

Use a food vacuum sealer to extract air out of the bag and seal it. You can also use a zip-type or resealable bag for sous vide cooking.

When the water bath is ready, drop the sealed bag into the pot, set the timer, and allow your steak to cook.

6. Remove the steak from the bag.

Once time is up, use your kitchen tongs to remove the bag from the pot. Allow the steak to cool down slightly before sliding it out of the bag.

Transfer it to a plate lined with paper towels, then pat both sides of the meat dry. If you’re not eating the steak yet, allow the bag to cool, then store it in the freezer.

7. Reverse-sear your sous vide steak on the stovetop.

Sous vide steaks are moist and tender but lack the golden crisp crust that makes them extra delicious.

For a mouthwatering steak exterior, preheat your heavy cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet on high heat. Add enough vegetable oil or any oil with a high smoke point to coat the bottom of the pan and wait until smoke starts to appear.

Next, lower the heat to medium-high and gently put your sous vide steak on the hot skillet. Sear the steak for about 30 seconds, then flip to sear the other side.

At this point, you can add a tablespoon of butter to get that charred exterior and flavour.

Alternatively, skip this step and add the butter towards the end instead.

For extra flavour, you can also throw some aromatics into the hot pan, like sprigs of rosemary, crushed whole garlic cloves, or sliced shallots. Tilt the pan a bit to start basting the top of your steak with butter.

Continue flipping every 30 seconds until you get the golden-brown crust.

Don’t forget to sear the sides or edges of your steak as well.

8. Rest the steak and serve.

Transfer your steak to a wire rack to cool down and rest. Resting time should allow the steak juices to settle inside the meat and not pool onto your cutting board while slicing it.

In the meantime, prep your side dishes, set the table, and bring out the wine glasses.

When ready, re-crisp your steak by reheating the leftover juices and fat in the pan. Allow it to sizzle before pouring it over the steak. Then, serve and enjoy your reverse-seared creation!

Reverse Sear Steak After Sous Vide on a Skillet

Other Ways to Reverse Sear Your Sous Vide Steaks

Here are a few other reverse sear methods to give your sous vide steaks a nice crust.

1. Grill searing

Grilling is one of the preferred searing methods for steak because the charcoal gives the meat an added smoky flavour. Also, grilling outdoors means you don’t have to worry about your kitchen smelling like seared steak.

To start, light up your charcoal and wait for it to turn white hot, which should take around 10 minutes. That way, you get a perfectly brown crust on your steak without overcooking it.

You can also use the grill cover if you have one for faster pre-heating. Next, set the grill grates, ensuring it is clean and slightly oiled.

Set the steak on the hot grill and allow it to sear for 30 seconds. Using a long pair of tongs, flip the meat to sear the other side.

If the charcoal grill flares up, use your tongs to transfer the steak to the cooler side of the grill and wait for the flames to subside.

Continue with the searing and flipping until you get your desired results. Brush melted butter on top and serve your steak immediately.

2. Broiler or air fryer searing

Both cooking appliances generate high heat from above. Preheat either to the highest temperature for about 5 minutes.

When ready, transfer your sous vide steak to an oiled baking pan or spray cooking oil onto the air fryer rack. Sear for 5 minutes, then flip to brown the other side.

Repeat if necessary for deeper browning, then top your steaks with compound butter.

3. Benchtop griddle or panini press searing

These machines have top and bottom heating elements for faster searing and even browning. Also, you can press down their top to ensure constant heat contact.

Start by allowing the panini press to heat up at maximum temperature. Wait for the warm indicator to light up before putting your steak inside.

I like this technique because it produces very little smoke, which is excellent when searing steaks indoors.

Allow the meat to sear for about 1 minute, then check and sear further until you get a beautiful crust.

Top it with compound butter.

Man Garnishing Steak for Dinner

Final Thoughts

It used to take a lot of skill to confidently cook steaks to perfection. However, now that we have immersion circulators, cooking ribeye or tenderloin with the correct doneness is as easy as pressing the temperature and time buttons.

The techniques above to reverse sear your steaks after sous vide are simple and doable, too.

There’s no need to be a chef or go to a steakhouse often to enjoy a good steak. With sous vide, you can have your juicy steaks any time and cook them like a pro.

Ready for your at-home Friday steak night? Check out these best sous vide machines to get started.