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How to Sear Meat

Know Your Techniques: Searing

Anyone who loves a juicy, delicious meat dish should learn how to sear properly. Commonly believed to "seal in juices" — that's a myth — the process does create a tasty contrast: a flavorful crust and a tender interior. Whether it's used with grilling, roasting, or sautéing, the searing technique improves both flavor and appearance. Not quite sure how it works? Follow these steps to refine your searing strategy:

  1. Pick the right pan. You need a flat, heavy pan that will both retain heat and allow it to be evenly distributed. Plan on using a grill? Make sure you're comfortable with it — you'll be dealing with high, direct heat — and stick to the hot spots for best results.
  2. Prep the meat. Water creates a steaming effect, so it's smart to dry the meat with a paper towel before you begin, then add seasoning to create the flavorful crust. If you're working with a marinade, let it drip from the meat so it's not too saturated.
  3. Pour in oil. Set the pan over high heat and add a thin coat of oil to the bottom. It's best to use oils with a higher smoke point, like vegetable oil, rather than olive oil or butter. When the oil starts to ripple and smoke just slightly, it's time to add the meat.
  4. Be patient. First, be sure that the meat isn't crowded and keep a few inches between pieces. Next, leave it alone. Let the meat sit for a few minutes and once it's browned, use a spatula or tongs to flip it over. If the pan is dry, avoid burning the meat by adding more oil, then allow three to four minutes for the second side to brown, too.
  5. Continue cooking. Depending on the thickness of the cut, chances are the meat will be brown on the outside and nearly raw on the inside. Roast it in the oven or let it simmer on the stove until it's cooked through to your taste.
  6. Remove and wait. Cooking times will vary, but once it's finished, allow the meat to sit for five minutes or so to let the juices redistribute throughout the meat.

Note that some of these steps will vary if you plan to cook on a grill, in which case you'll need to close the lid and trap in heat. Still, the results should be the same: a browned, flavorful crust with a juicy interior.

Do you have any searing tips? Share them in the comments!

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