Joe Rogan’s Instagram feed is filled with mouthwatering photos of perfectly cooked axis deer and elk meat. He has mastered the reverse sear method, a simple and foolproof way to cook meat medium rare. Rogan says he learned the reverse sear method from listening to champion BBQ pitmaster Chad Ward on John Dudley’s Nock On Podcast episode 100.
The Reverse Sear Method
Searing meat over high heat to “lock in the juices” and finishing it in the oven is often promoted by cookbooks and chefs as the best way to cook meat, especially steak. A much better way to cook meat is to do the exact opposite. With the reverse sear method, the meat is first cooked in the oven at low heat and finished by searing over high heat.
By cooking the meat low and slow first, the internal temperature will be uniform throughout the cut. The exterior is prevented from drying out which produces a crispier and more flavorful crust when searing. It also makes it easier to avoid overcooking, eliminating the gray ring of meat directly beneath the crust.
The reverse sear method works for different types of meat including beef, elk, venison, moose, chicken and pork, and provides excellent results for steaks, tenderloins, backstraps and roasts. It works best on thicker cuts of meat that are at least one inch thick.
Even without the same expensive cooking equipment as Joe Rogan, it’s easy to replicate his results at home using a barbecue or an oven and a stovetop. The beauty of the reverse sear method is that it can be done indoors, outdoors or a combination of both.
- Pellet grill, barbecue or oven
- Meat thermometer
- Gas or electric stovetop
- Cast iron skillet, grilling pan or frying pan
- Aluminum foil
- Thick cut of meat
- Kosher salt or sea salt
- Black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Grass fed butter or vegetable oil
Step 1 – Season the Meat
Rogan generously seasons the thick cut of meat on all sides with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder. The garlic powder is optional and kosher salt could be substituted with sea salt. Rub the seasonings into the meat.
Step 2 – Cook Low & Slow
Preheat an oven, barbecue or pellet grill to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Rogan uses a Yoder YS640 Pellet Grill. A pellet grill is an electric smoker that can be set to a specific temperature which is maintained by burning wood pellets made from compressed hardwood sawdust. Rogan has previously used a Green Mountain Grills pellet grill and still recommends them. Traeger Grills are also good.
If you’re using an oven, place the meat on a wire-rack in a rimmed baking sheet on the middle oven rack. For gas barbecues, turn on the burners on one side of the grill only. Once the barbecue is done preheating, place the meat on the side with the burners off and keep the lid closed.
Rogan cooks his meat until the internal temperature reaches 120 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. This is about 10 degrees below the final temperature after searing. At the very least you will need an instant-read meat thermometer. Rogan uses the Ivation Wireless Thermometer. A wireless meat thermometer provides constant monitoring of the meat’s internal temperature and sends alerts to a wireless receiver when the desired temperature is achieved. Cooking time should take around 25 to 35 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat.
Step 3 – Sear Over High Heat
While the meat is almost done cooking in the oven, barbecue or pellet grill, preheat a cast iron skillet on high heat. You want it to get it really hot. Add some grass fed butter to the skillet and then add the meat. Sear each side in the skillet for about 45 seconds per side. Make sure to sear the edges as well.
A grilling pan or frying pan will also work if you don’t have a cast iron skillet. Vegetable oil or cooking oil with a high smoke point can be used instead of butter. Alternatively, you could crank your barbecue to high and sear the meat on the hot grill with the lid open.
The goal is to achieve a final internal temperature of around 135 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare doneness. Meat from elk and deer will start to dry out at 150 degrees Fahrenheit due to the lack of fat.
Step 4 – Let It Rest…or Don’t
Once all sides and edges are seared, remove the meat from the cast iron skillet. There is plenty of debate amongst fans of the reverse sear method about whether or not the meat needs to rest. Many believe that there is no added benefit to resting meat and it should be sliced and served immediately. Rogan is in the let it rest camp, preferring to wrap the meat in aluminum foil while it rests for 10 minutes.
When slicing the meat, don’t forget to cut against the grain!
Side Dishes – Eat Your Vegetables
Rogan’s go-to side dishes are kale and jalapenos. He even said his last meal on death row would be elk and jalapenos. As seen below, Rogan sautées coarsely chopped kale and finely chopped garlic with avocado oil in a cast iron skillet. The jalapenos can be sliced and sautéed with the kale, grilled whole and sliced or sliced and served raw. He’s also a fan of pan-fried asparagus in coconut oil and seasoned with garlic salt.