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Searing Is Tasty, but not a good seal

posted Oct 28, 2011, 1:34 PM by C Compton

Searing seals in the juices. How many times have we heard that from chefs and grilling gurus alike?  So many times that it has become gospel even in the face of overwhelming evidence both scientific and anecdotal. Stick with me for a moment and lets see if I can change your mind if only a bit.

Think about your own grilling for a moment. Have you ever seared a steak?  I bet you have. When you took it off the grill for a short rest what was on the plate at the end?  Juice!  You know why?  Searing does not seal in anything.

I have seen side by side tests with 2 steaks weighed before and after where this notion is discounted. One steak was seared and then finished the other slowly brought up to the same temperature. The one that was cooked slow had less drainage from the resting and had lost less of its weight to the cooking process. Further evidence that searing seals in nothing.

So I would like to submit an alternative phrase. Searing is tasty. It is. The low and slow steak might have been juicier, but it had less flavor. This is because the seared steak had that wonderfully delicious crust that is the result of the maillard reaction. The high heat browns the natural sugars in the meat and that my friends is about as tasty as it gets. It doesn't have to happen up front though.

There are two methods that are becomming very popular for protein preparation. Sous Vide & reverse sear. Sous Vide is the French word for slowly cooking in a hot water bath. Some call it hot tubing. It is easily accomplished if you have an immersion circulator. Anyone here an Iron Chef? I didn't think so. It can also be done in your sink with a few common items and some careful temperature control. I have never tried this, but I have seen many successes.

I prefer the second method. Chris Finney says he invented it and I believe him. He also says he didn't patent "The Finney Method" and others have laid claim to his process. His method calls on both processes to get a perfectly cooked steak and great flavor. I like it because it is easy to do with most any grill so anyone can do it.

Start by seasoning your steak and place it on an indirect low grill in the 225 degree range. A little smoke can be added here. A probe thermometer should be in the side of one of the steaks. Cook it low and slow until it reaches 100 internal temperature and then take it off to rest while the grill is brought to the hottest temp you can achieve-- 550 should be sufficient. This generally takes about 30 minutes, but thickness and starting temperature are big factors. Once the grill is hot place the steaks back on to create that delicious crust. If the grill is hot enough this should only take a couple of minutes per side for mid rare. Longer if you prefer medium. Let the steaks rest for a few minutes whilst you split and butter that baked potato and then enjoy your delicious steak.

A great steak is a real treat. I hope this helps in some small way to make your next one a little better.