What Does It Mean to Sear Meat?

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Searing meat improves its final color, texture and taste

Searing is a useful cooking technique for any kind of meat: beef, lamb or pork. When done correctly, it improves the appearance, texture and flavor of meat. However, timing and temperature are both key to successful searing.


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The idea of locking in juices by searing meat has been widely discounted by food experts. Instead, according to current knowledge, searing meat caramelizes the sugars and amino acids present through the brief application of high heat. This process of searing or "browning" is technically known as the Maillard reaction, which adds better color and surface texture to the finished product and lends additional flavor to the meat.


To sear meat, you should allow it to sit out at room temperature for a few minutes before proceeding. Natural juices are more closely bound with meat fiber under low temperature; letting the meat warm slightly will allow it to "relax" or gain a more flexible state and the moisture to move from the fiber into the muscle tissue.



Sear meat on a grill, in a broiler, or in a frying pan. The searing process takes only a few minutes. Season the meat lightly with salt, pepper and any other dry seasonings before you start. The searing will integrate the seasoning with the meat surface. This adds flavor to the outer surface, which will gain slightly harder texture than the interior of the meat.

Pan Prep and Heating

If the meat contains fat trim, or has fat marbleing, don't add anything to the pan. For leaner cuts, add a small amount of vegetable oil to the pan before adding the meat. Olive oil smokes too quickly, as does butter; use corn, canola or peanut oil instead. Add the meat when the heated pan begins to ripple the oil.



As soon as one side of the meat is completely browned, turn it over. Sear the other side and remove the meat from the heat. The meat is now ready for roasting, grilling, adding to a soup or stew, or other preparation at a lower temperature. You can use any of the juices left in the pan for a sauce.