When cooking meat, achieving a crispy sear is vitally important, giving your food a nice brown edge.
Cooking in a pan or in the oven gives your meat this crust naturally, but not when you cook sous vide.
This means that you’ll have to sear your ingredients either before or after cooking, but there are plenty of ways to go about this.
What is Searing?
Searing refers to cooking your food at a very high temperature until a brown crust is formed by what is known as the ‘Maillard Reaction’, which is a reaction between the amino acids and reducing sugars.
Searing is important because it creates an enhanced flavour, as well as improving the appearance of your food (especially if it has been cooked sous vide) and creating a greater contrast between the centre and edges of the food, both in terms of flavour and texture.
Ways to Sear
Probably the best way to sear your sous vide ingredients is in a pan. If you make sure to preheat the pan to high heat, you can literally just throw the ingredients in the pan for as little as a few seconds and be done.
A cast iron pan is probably the best way to go as they hold heat and stay hot for a long time, but you can use any kind of pan.
Make sure that you pat your meat dry before putting it in the pan, otherwise, the heat will just evaporate the water rather than actually searing.
You might also want to add some butter to the pan, which can help to develop a better crust, but it’s up to you.
The only downside of this method is that it can produce a lot of smoke, so you might have to get used to turning the smoke alarm off!
One way to try and avoid this is by keeping the heat down just a touch, rather than going straight for the high heat and then turning it down once there is already too much smoke.
If you’re looking for something with a little more flair, how about one of our culinary blowtorches?
But a blowtorch doesn’t just look fancy in front of your dinner guests, it also achieves great results too and won’t overcook the centre of your meat.
While you can use the blowtorch on its own, this can take a long time and it can sometimes affect the flavour with overuse, so it’s a good idea to combine it with pan searing.
This allows you to sear the top of the food with the blowtorch while the pan sears the bottom, then you can simply flip it over and repeat! This also allows you to easily reach the areas that the pan doesn’t touch.
When using a blowtorch be sure to take care not to burn your worktop, perhaps by using a wire rack.
Be sure to hold the torch about three or four inches from the food and keep it moving so that you get a nice even layer.
You could also use your oven or grill to sear your ingredients, by preheating it to a very high temperature.
This works well for larger pieces of meat which you wouldn’t be able to fit into a pan and would take far too long to sear with a blowtorch, although it’s not quite as effective as there’s less direct surface contact with the meat and you could wind up overcooking the centre of the meat too.
What Temperature is Required?
Whichever method you choose to sear your ingredients, the temperature generally needs to be at least 150˚C (300˚F) to achieve the searing process, but the lower the temperature, the longer it will take to reach the desired results.
A lower temperature and longer searing time also mean that you’re going to wind up with a thicker layer on the outside, so a quick, high-temperature sear is recommended.