How to Sear a Steak (or any piece of meat)

The signs of a properly seared steak

The signs of a properly seared steak: even golden brown crust, no gray or dull spots, no black or burnt bits

This tutorial explains how to properly sear a steak (or any piece of meat, really).  Hopefully, this will help beginners who read this post to become better cooks.  For more information about some of the finer points of searing, please check this blog entry.

Lots of foods that are high in protein (a steak, for example) are better when they are seared.  This is not to say that this is the only way that these foods should be cooked, but searing results in a lot of great flavors.  Too much searing and you get burnt food, so care should be taken in avoiding this by paying attention, watching your food and flame, and by using your nose.

To sear:

1)  It is first necessary to ensure that the surface of the food is dry.  Wipe off any excess moisture from the food (especially if it has been washed or rinsed under running water) with a paper towel.

2)  Salt should be added for seasoning, but probably not pepper, since pepper can burn easily and create bad flavors.

3)  Prep a pan by placing it over medium-high heat for several minutes, depending on the pan*.  Cast iron pans are excellent for searing.  Clad pans are also excellent.  Otherwise, any heavy guage pans will do**.

4)  Add oil to either the hot pan or to the target food.  Rubbing oil to the outside of the food you are going to sear is probably the better choice***.

5)  Introduce the food to the pan.

6)  Don’t touch anything.

7)  Wait for about two minutes, depending on how hot the pan was, how cold the food was, etc.

8)  The food may stick to the pan if it has not finished searing yet.  Proteins love to stick, but as foods sear, proteins coagulate and release from the pan.  Check if you are unsure.  The surface should be a deep brown but never gray or dull.  If it is, or if there are parts that are not browned, proper searing has not been achieved (probably due to either water or the fact that the food has not had enough time to brown).

9)  Repeat the searing on all the sides you wish to sear by flipping your food with tongs.  Searing is best done on fresh metal, so flip onto a clean part of the pan if you can help it.

*  Cast iron is a pretty bad conductor in comparison to other common metals used in making pots and pans.  Thus it takes much longer to heat up than a clad pan.  The benefit of cast iron is that once it gets hot, it tends to stay hot.  Thus, it can dish out some serious hot loving to any steaks or fingers that touch it, so be careful — always use a dry side towel to grab hot pans.

**  Generally speaking, the heavier the pan is, the more heat the pan can hold onto.  This is very important in searing food, since as soon as the food hits the pan, it absorbs a ton of heat from the pan.  If the pan has a lot of heat to give, searing is enhanced, thus heavier pans produce better sears.

***  If oils heat up too much, they start to smoke and produce off flavors, since the chemical composition of the oil is compromised.  The “smoke points,” as they are called, of different fats vary from oil to oil and fat to fat.  In general, animal fats have a lower smoke point, so refined vegetable oils might be a better choice for high temperature searing.  Canola oil is a good and economical choice.

Advertisements

2 Responses to “How to Sear a Steak (or any piece of meat)”

  1. […] Restaurantouring I’m an omnivore, Goddamnit « How to Sear a Steak (or any piece of meat) […]

  2. […] will also need to know how to properly sear a steak, and it wouldn’t hurt to understand why searing is important for your […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: