Searing Meat Is A Delicious Lie
Thanks to Skillshare for supporting this episode
Cookbooks, TV chefs, home cooks — we’ve
all heard somewhere
that we should sear meat before we cook it
to “lock in the juices.”
Funnily enough, that reasoning is completely
but you should still sear your steaks!
This misconception has been around for a really
This idea might have gotten some traction
in the 1840s
thanks to Justus von Liebig, a German chemist
who wrote about
the benefits of searing meat in his book Researches
on the Chemistry of Food.
And we’ve actually known this to be untrue
for quite some time.
For example, it was debunked in research published
back in 1974.
The results of that study showed that
searing actually causes meat to lose more
moisture, not less.
In a sample of 12 seared cuts of meat and
12 unseared control samples,
the ones that got a blast of heat first lost
slightly more moisture — around 3%.
Similar experiments have been conducted over
in the lab and in the kitchen, with similar
Some experiments have shown no difference
in moisture loss,
while in others, non-seared steaks stayed
a bit more moist.
Either way, there’s not a huge difference
in searing first vs not.
It’s pretty clear that it’s not helping
to keep a steak juicy.
And honestly, if you look at the surface of
a steak you might notice
that it doesn’t look particularly leak-proof
after it’s been seared.
These things do tend to sizzle.
Muscle tissue contains long filaments called
Heating damages these fibers and causes them
to lose water over time.
The extent of water loss varies, and temperature
plays a big part.
Higher temperatures contribute to higher moisture
especially above 60° Celsius.
Which corresponds to about medium doneness.
So if searing doesn’t lock in juices, why
do we find this myth so hard to let go?
We might think that seared steaks are juicier
because they taste better.
We know that fat and flavor contribute to
our subjective impression of juiciness.
On top of that, browning meat leads to Maillard
and they create a ton of flavor.
The French chemist Louis Camille Maillard
described the reactions in the early 1900’s.
A Maillard reaction sequence begins with the
reaction of a sugar and an amino acid.
After that, there are a bunch of different
ways the reaction can proceed,
depending on factors like temperature and
And it’s not just one reaction.
Many small chemical reactions are occurring
at the same time,
producing new flavors, smells, and creating
the browning color
we associate with cooking meat, as well as
many other foods.
So when meat is seared, the Maillard effect
creates a bunch of tasty flavors.
But it doesn’t “lock in juices.”
That might explain why this myth has had so
much staying power.
Searing might not do what we think it does,
but it is a good idea.
A delicious, delicious idea.
If all this talk of juicy sizzling meat is
making you hungry,
well, you are probably not a vegetarian.
But also, maybe you’re in the mood to roll
up your sleeves and get cooking yourself.
So maybe you’d like to check out a culinary
course over on Skillshare.
Like butcher Patrick LaFrieda’s course Beef 101,
where he tells you how to source and prepare
individual cuts of meat.
You know, in case we REALLY put you in the
mood for steak.
There are over 25,000 other courses on Skillshare,
so you’re likely to find
something that matches your interests, from
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