To sear or not to sear – that is the question.
Whether ‘tis juicer or tastier on the tongue
The claims and counterclaims of outrageous bloggers
Or to take forks against a sea of evidence
And, by opposing, end them. To taste, to eat
Apologies to Mr. Shakespeare but I’ve been experimenting with searing meats and digging around regarding the ‘science’ of searing meat and it is like entering a debate on whether the earth is still round.
Only one point seems to be universally agreed upon: searing meat at temperatures above 310F/154C will brown the meat. . Browning is also known in food nerd circles as the Maillard reaction, so if you want to show off, you can say, “Oh my dear, you have achieved a lovely Maillard reaction on my steak this evening.” This will however result in your dear one cutting you off from any further sips of wine.
Where the nerds circle like angels on the head of a pin is whether or not searing ‘seals’ in juices or actually results in a drier piece of meat. Frankly, I don’t think that’s the issue. What I enjoy is the contrast between crust and the meaty middle and I don’t care if its scallops or steak, I want crusty crunch on the outside and soft on the inside. Sort of how I like my man to be, but that might be too much information.
If you like to sear here are some guidelines:
1) Use a heavy pan. If you use a lightweight, flimsy pan you will scorch not sear. The lightweight pan concentrates heat in small areas and doesn’t let the heat spread evenly. That heavily used pan you see in the photo was my grandmothers pan and it's been in constant use for probably 75 years.
2) Preheat the pan until it is really hot. I use my handy dandy infrared digital thermometer. Try not to put the meat in the pan until the temp reaches around 450F/230C.
3) Use a dry pan; don’t put any fat in the pan. Here is where I’ve been experimenting and I’ve found that no, you don’t get stickage at high temps and you run the risk of adding too much fat and then the meat steams instead of sears. When the meat hits the pan, resist the temptation to move it. Let it do its thing and form a crust. Once you have the crust, you can freely flip the meat.
4) It’s gonna make smoke. Santa, if your are listening, I’d like a better
5) Once you’ve seared both sides…turn down the heat! In my cast iron pan, with say a 1 ½” thick steak, I can now remove the pan from the heat, cover it and it will continue to cook. We like our meat pretty rare, so you’ll have to experiment with this technique to find the best way to cook meat to your liking.
6) If you want to pretend that you grilled the meat, take a metal skewer and heat it mad hot in the oven. Using gloves, remove the skewer from the heat and press it into the meat, essentially branding it like they did in old western movies. I can’t imagine anyone actually doing this, but at least you know you can.
Parsley: take the leaves from 5 or 6 stalks of fresh parsley
1 good-sized clove of garlic
3T butter (you won’t really need this much, but it tastes great on chicken, pork, scallops, so you may as well make a little extra)
Place the 3 ingredients in a little blender and whirrrr away until you have a smooth green butter.
Preheat your searing pan.
Generously salt the steak.
Sear, let it rest, and place a chunk of the parsley butter on top of the steak. Done to perfection. Some roasted or boiled potatoes on the side will soak up all the extra juices quite nicely.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And, by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep⎯