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Searing Meat does NOT "Lock in the Juices"

post #1 of 49
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A great blog post here with credited information which dispells the myth of searing...

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post #2 of 49
I've heard this before, and yet...
Meat that's been seared certainly not only tastes better, but feels juicier.

I don;t know what happens when meat is seared and when meat is cooked over low flame, but my experience with eating at other people's houses is this:
The many unexperienced cooks whose houses i've eaten at who put cold pork chops or steaks in a cold pan and then turn the heat on low, end up with a pan full of water. Where did that water come from? When i sear the meat i don;t end up with a panful of water.

I can come up with some possible explanations:
  • Maybe in the end, the water in the meat that's been seared has evaporated rather than leaked out into the pan, and it;s lost anyway. (This is good enough reason to sear it, since who wants boiled steak?)
  • Or maybe the outside of seared meat loses more juice (it certainly is drier on the browned sides) BUT it may also be that the inside is juicier, and that would account for the better texture and flavor and experience of juiciness. So maybe there is less overall water, but in the unseared meat the water is distributed evenly, so that the experience is that it's less juicy while in seared meat the outside is drier but the inside is more juicy, giving a better experience of juiciness, since you bite through the outside and get to the juicy inside part.
"Juiciness" is an experience, not a criterion that can be measured. We eat for the experience, not for what someone can measure with an instrument. If you dry out the outside and the inside, though smaller, has more juice, it might make the whole piece seem juicier, while if the moisture is distributed evenly, and the inside is the same as the outside, it may contain more moisture, but it certainly feels drier.
And who cares if it is drier, since we eat for our feel, our subjective experience. It may be drier on the whole, but the inside is definitely juicier.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #3 of 49
Hence the use of a sauce.
post #4 of 49
Searing is a concept/theory and not an absolute. As Siduri pointed out the meat "feels juicier" because in a very real sense it is. Searing, like cauterizing, does help close the pores of the meat and allow a good bit of juice to be retained during cooking. But if your expecting the meat to be sealed like a water balloon and basically "explode" with juiciness when you stick your fork in it.....then you'll be disappointed.

The same concept is true for allowing the meat to rest for some time. The juice is not held back like a dam holds water. There will always bee some juice to seep during the resting process.

Also don't forget that like the menu says.............. "The Chef is not responsible for meat cooked above the temperature of Medium. Order at your own risk." This rule is not a concept and is an absolute.;):D
post #5 of 49
If you want a great, scientific explanation, check out Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking for a worthwhile explanation. I might have to disagree with "Searing, like cauterizing, does help close the pores of the meat and allow a good bit of juice to be retained " in that the 'hiss and sizzle' you hear when applying heat is mositure coming in contact with a hot surface under the force of pressure. Check out page 112 in the first edition for the whole story.

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Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

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post #6 of 49
When you sear the meat, the surface loses a lot of moisture. A more definitive test would be to measure moisture content on the outside and in the center.
post #7 of 49
Searing is an absolute. It creates a Maillard reaction crust on the surface of the meat. The crust TASTES good.

Also, we like a piece of meat that's well-browned on the outside and barely pink in the middle. It sure looks better than one that is gray through and through.

The quality of "juiciness" is a result of other factors. Some of which have to do with the way temperatures drive the meat's liquids away from the heat. Also, some have nothing to do with the moisture content of the meat, but with texture and taste. Now, that's subjective.

BDL
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post #8 of 49
Here's the thread with Harol McGee. He addresses it nicely.
http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/open-...-not-sear.html
In short: searing gives you flavor. It does nothing for "sealing" anything.
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post #9 of 49
Don't get me wrong I'm all for searing. Has been a favorite techinque since........ I can't remember when. Probably the first thing I learned after "how to boil water".

Boar_d_laze, It might be that I could have been able to use different wording but "absolute" has always come to mind when trying to convey a point when it's one of those things that's not perfect and doesn't always perform exactly the way most are led to believe. Subjective came to mind but then it's really not. Maybe it's sort of the cusp between the two.;) Although, like I said in my original post, if you're expecting the meat to be sealed like a water balloon and basically "explode" with juiciness when you stick your fork in it.....then you'll be disappointed. You are correct. There is certainly a plethora of variables when performing searing. Thickness, cut (strip, rib, round when talking beef) seasoning, temp of product, temp of pan, recovery of temp when product is added, temp while cooking, processing, etc, etc. :roll:

Jim, I will stand by my statement that to sear is, or maybe should is a better choice, be considered......a form of cauterizing. Granted it's not living tissue with a pulse but if you have ever had to cauterize a wound or grabbed on to that pan handle that sat too long over the flame.....you get the same sizzle as you would raw meat on the pan.Maybe I'm reaching here but that's the gist of the explanation I was given so many years ago:look:

I don't know Mezz. Don't mean to sound adversarial about another's point of view but ya know we were al taught that Pluto was a planet that is until last year. I still have a hard time subscribing to the thought process it's not. Sometimes too much thought can be put into something. Not saying that it's right or wrong since the article makes sense. But............ then again......................who am I to contest it.:D
post #10 of 49
My 2 cents . . whether searing "seals" it or not, cooking meat at a temperature above the boiling point of water makes a big difference. You can't do that if there's water in the pan. Water will keep the cooking temperature lower until it's evaporated.
post #11 of 49
Water requires latent heat to evaporate. If you bring water to the boiling point, it will stay at that boiling point (212 F at sea level), until the water is boiled away. If water isn't allowed to accumulate in the pan, your cooking temp can be higher.
post #12 of 49
Yeti,

Your reasoning begs many questions. Not saying that you can sear meat in a pan with a significant amount of water, but:

Can the temperature of the pan itself be higher than the BP of water with water present in the pan?

If so, how much higher

If a sufficiently high temperature to sear a given piece of meat in a dry pan, would energy transmitted by contact conduction in a wet pan sear or not?

If not, why not?

BDL
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post #13 of 49
All depends on how much water is in the pan. If there are a few spots of water, those spots will be at water's boiling point. The metal of the pan may be at a higher temp, but where there's water it's not as hot.

If you are stir frying something, and the liquid is sizzling as it meets the pan, you are probably cooking at a higher temp.
post #14 of 49
Heat to a cut of meat in a pan will exceed water's boiling point easily if it's a really hot pan. It just has to be more than enough to evaporate any liquid that comes out of the meat.
post #15 of 49
And I think that's the basis of searing meat, the cooking temperature!
post #16 of 49
I found this for you guys. I know Wiki has a bit of a bad rap sometimes but this stuff is pretty accurate.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Searing (or pan searing) is a technique used in grilling, roasting, braising, sautéing, etc. that cooks the surface of the food (usually meat, poultry or fish) at high temperature so that a caramelized crust forms. A similar technique, browning, is typically used to sear or brown all sides of a particular piece of meat, fish, poultry, etc. before finishing it in the oven. To obtain the desired brown crust, the meat surface must exceed 300 °F (150 °C), so searing requires the meat surface be free of water, which boils at around 212 °F (100 °C).[1]
It is commonly believed that searing locks in the moisture or "seals in the juices" of the food. However, it has been scientifically shown[2] that searing results in a greater net loss of moisture versus cooking to the same internal temperature without first searing. Nonetheless it remains an essential technique in cooking meat for several reasons:
  • The browning creates desirable flavors through caramelization and the Maillard reaction.
  • The appearance of the food is usually improved with a well-browned crust.
  • The contrast in taste and texture between the crust and the interior makes the food more interesting to the palate.
Typically in grilling the food will be seared over very high heat and then moved to a lower-temperature area of the grill. In braising, the seared surface acts to flavor, color and otherwise enrich the liquid in which the food is being cooked.

The belief that searing meat "seals in the juices" is widespread and still often repeated. This theory was first put forth by Justus von Liebig,[2] a German chemist and food scientist, around 1850. The notion was embraced by contemporary cooks and authors including Auguste Escoffier.
Simple experimentation can test the theory: cook two similar cuts of meat, searing one first and not the other. Weigh the end results to see which loses more moisture. (The Food Network program Good Eats carried out such a test in episode EA1H22, Myth Smashers.) As early as the 1930s, such experiments were carried out; the seared roasts lost the same amount of moisture or more. (Generally more, since searing exposes the meat to higher temperatures.)
In short, the meat created by searing is in no way waterproof. Moisture in liquid and vapor form can and does continue to escape from a seared piece of meat. For this reason, searing is sometimes done at the end of the freezing process to gain the flavor benefits of the caramelization as well as the benefits of cooking for a greater duration with more moisture.

Hope that helped! Lol :D
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post #17 of 49
Are you guys up for an experiment!!

Here is an interesting twist (cooking technique) in the searing steak debate:
khymos.org

Luc H.
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post #18 of 49
The article is very interesting but I'm not so sure there's enough information to truly qualify the stated results.

Different meat cuts have variables that need to be addressed and included.
Tenderloin has a different moisture/protein ratio than sirloin, especially the top cap (coulot).

I believe there is a direct corelation between moisture levels and shrink during cook. Fat content and marbling dispersion also come in to play.

The internal cook temp is also a variable. MR vs MW will certainly produce different shrink levels and percentages.

Also, the amount of moisture/humidity surrounding the meat while cooking will contribute to differing results as well, along with the cubic space to meat ratio.

Think about putting one single ribloin in an alto sham, vs loading it with nine whole loins. The shrink percentage is much higher for one than it is for nine. (I know this for a fact). The reason for this is that the moisture needed for creating a 90%+ humidity level (required by the FDA for low temp roasting) comes from the loin itself.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not so sure that the information about the effects of searing on shrink levels is conclusive.

Cat Man
post #19 of 49
If this thread were started thirty years ago, it might make some sense to keep arguing against those who believe "the conventional wisdom, 'searing seals in the juices.'" But, is there anyone on the planet who still argues that Liebig and Escoffier were right as a matter of science? That was debunked long ago.

It seems to me we're talking about the right ways to handle certain meats. Searing is all about surface texture and sweetness -- in other words the Maillard reaction. It's not about saving some measurable quanta of meat juice. It's interesting to note that in the sous vide "experiment" described in the above link, the person conducting the test did sear the meat -- if only after it was cooked. Otherwise the steak would have appeared unpalatable and its taste would have been wildly compromised. That is, no sear = looks bad + tastes bad.

What have we learned from a positive standpoint? That we can combine searing and slow-cook ing? Sorry, already knew that. How long have we been pan-roasting? That we can slow cook first and sear afterwards? Knew that too. It's been common barbecue technique for putting some surface interest on "low and slow" cooked meats, especially problematic surfaces like chicken skin, since long before I was born. And I'm middle-aged.

Of more interest to me would be a discussion on the benefits and liabilities of "resting" meat after cooking. Now that's misunderstood!

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post #20 of 49
BDL
I too would be interested in learning more about the resting process.
While I practice it, I'm not really sure of the true benefits.
I'm also perplexed, to a certain degree, why many chefs insist on bringing lamb to room temp before cooking as well. Personally, this freaks me out a little, just from a simple food safety standpoint.

Cat Man
post #21 of 49
I don't care how much the meat WEIGHS nor how much water is ACTUALLY in it,. what concerns me is how it FEELS, that is my EXPERIENCE of juiciness. if it's an illusion, who cares, i eat for taste and feel and not to please a scientific instrument. Now, that said, let's try the taste test!
In my small way, i've done the taste test many times at houses of people who put the meat in the cold pan and then turn on the heat. It tastes dry. I'd have to be convinced that it actually tastes juicier to give up searing. Now true, the test i refer to is not scientific, and the meat cooked like that lets out moisture and ends up boiling in the pan, which makes it tasteless and dry. But who has tested it scientifically, but with their own taste and texture experience, rather than with a scale.?
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #22 of 49
Here's what I want to see. Take two pieces of meat. Sear one and not the other. Cook to the same temperature. Measure moisture content internally. This will avoid weighing the obviously dryer seared part of the meat.
post #23 of 49
kuan,

It's been done many times. Searing does not prevent moisture loss. Other, but not all, cooking methods are more effective at keeping the moisture in. However, the quanta of liquid in one piece of meat compared to another is not necessarily determinative as to which is the better steak.

BDL
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post #24 of 49
So how did they control for the seared part of the meat which was obviously dry, or drier?

Seriously I don't know how you can control for that short of taking a core sample.
post #25 of 49
kuan,

Sorry. I misunderstood you. The question you asked relates only to the interior portion of the meat, and I responded based on a mis-reading in the belief that you asked about the entire steak -- exterior and interior.

I don't know whether the measurements that interest you have ever been taken. However, based on experience -- a well seared steak is preferable to one which has been cooked in another way. If handled correctly, such a steak will certainly seem juicy. To the diner, her subjective experience is everything, and to he*ll with absolute moisture content.

Regarding combining slow cooking with browning -- it's not particularly important which is done first. In fact, if smoking is part of the process, it's better to smoke first because partially cooked meat will not take on smoke as well as cool, raw meat.

BDL
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post #26 of 49
My question to you food scientists is this: when i've seen people cook meat by putting in the cold pan then heating it, the pan gets filled with water. If the pan is hot before the meat goes in it doesn't.
how do you explain that?
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #27 of 49
Hi Siduri,

Before I answer your question can you answer this one:

What will happen if you place a paper cup full of water in a 500F oven?
a) the cup will burst into flames in less then 30minutes and water will spill everywhere
b) the top edge of the cup will burst into flames
c) the water will boil and the cup will stay intact

Luc H.
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post #28 of 49
I'm thinking the cold pan method just lets you see the moisture before it evaporates, but the hot pan is sizzling away the moisture so you don't see as much

Cat Man
post #29 of 49
Excellent answer!!!!

(btw the cold pan method is a method I never heard about)
Luc H.
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post #30 of 49
Luc
I don't know any experienced cooks who would start in a cold pan either (unless you were cold smoking of course) and in certain cases would add to the risk of foodborne illness because of more time in the danger zone.

This is a bizarre, yet intriguing thread.

I think the answer to your question about the water in paper cup is....(could be wrong but...)

the water will evaporate long before the cup burns. I think the cup would ignite only once the humidity got low enough inside the oven. I am also assuming there is no heat conductor other than ambient air, meaning oven rack etc)
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