By Steven Raichlen, The New York Times

The quest to cook the perfect steak has been a challenge since slabs of meat were roasted over fire. But what constitutes a great steak?

It should take you through a complex strata of textures and flavors: dark crust, rosy meat, tenderness balanced by chew. You want a steak you can sink your teeth into. There should be a perfect ratio of meat to fat — and there should be blood. Without those luscious steak juices, a steak would be merely delicatessen roast beef.

Tri-tip delivers all of that. A cut popularized in Santa Maria, California, and the surrounding area, this crescent-shaped steak from the bottom of the sirloin slices like brisket and eats like steak, with a rich, beefy flavor. But like all thick cuts, it poses a challenge: Grill it directly over high heat as you would a strip or skirt steak and you risk burning the exterior while leaving the center undercooked. Cook it low and slow, as you would brisket, and you lose the caramelized crust.

Enter reverse-searing — an ingenious grilling method that combines the low and slow smoking of traditional barbecue with the high heat charring practiced at steakhouses. It takes the guesswork out of grilling steak, rewarding you with a juicy, perfectly cooked slab of beef every time.

With this simple two-step process, you first cook the steak slowly — for 30 minutes or so — at 250 degrees, the temperature used by pitmasters to barbecue brisket. Once you’ve warmed the center of the meat to 110 degrees, you rest the steak on a platter and raise the grill’s heat to a searing temperature of 600 degrees. You then char the exterior of the steak directly over the fire until sizzling, crusty and dark brown, bringing the meat’s internal temperature to 125 degrees (for rare) or 135 degrees (for medium-rare).

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