Cooking meat well is something that takes practice. There’s a knack for getting that perfect golden color on a chicken breast and making those dark grill marks appear on a steak. While a nice color on a piece of meat looks nice, more importantly, that color basically translates to flavor.
A good sear is required to form that beautiful crust on a roast, and searing should be the first step when preparing meat for a one-pot meal, including a braised dish.
When you sear a piece of meat, the sugars in the meat are caramelized. The result is delicious and that sear on the meat also helps to keep the moisture inside.
The good news is that searing meat is easy as pie and it involves a few universal steps which you’re about to discover.
How to get a perfect sear on pork or red meat
• Take the meat out of the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature before cooking it. Don’t leave it out for more than an hour.
• With a paper towel, pat the meat dry to remove any moisture from the surface. That moisture can interfere with the searing process.
• Drizzle the surface of the meat with a small amount of regular olive oil (don’t use extra virgin for cooking) or melted coconut oil and season with pepper and sea salt. Give the meat a nice little massage so that the surface is evenly coated.
• In a dutch oven or oven-safe pan, heat your butter, ghee, or coconut oil to medium-high. When a drop of water sizzles when it hits the surface of the pan, you’re ready to add your meat.
• Put your meat in the pan, fattest side down.
• Don’t make the mistake of flipping your meat too soon. That’s what makes it stick to the pan. Leave the surface of the meat on the hot pan until the meat is nice and deeply colored, and it doesn’t stick when you move it. Sear all sides of the meat, including the ends and sides if you’re dealing with a roast.
• For beef or pork roast: when the crust has formed, go ahead and add your liquid or any other ingredients you add to your recipe.
• For a steak: searing a steak properly may cook it enough for your preference if you like a rare steak. Leave it in the pan a little longer if you like it cooked more, or finish it in the oven at 400 degrees.
• For pork chops: searing alone probably won’t cook the meat thoroughly. Finish in the oven at 400 degrees or keep it in the pan until it’s done.
How to get a perfect sear on a chicken breast
• Wash your chicken breast and pat it dry. Drizzle a bit of melted coconut oil or regular olive oil on the chicken and season with pepper and sea salt.
• Follow the same directions as above, with regards to heating the oil in the pan.
• When the pan is hot, put the breast in and keep the surface of the chicken in contact with the pan until it’s nice and brown. Do not flip it before it’s ready! When a crust has developed and the meat no longer sticks, flip it over.
• The searing process won’t necessarily cook the chicken through, so if you need to give it more time in the pan, turn the pan to low and add a little bit of liquid before covering the pan. That heat will continue cooking the meat without burning it or drying it out. You could also finish it in the oven at 400 degrees.
Practice makes perfect!
Before you get cooking, let’s talk about the pan you’re using. Nonstick and Teflon pans are toxic. Do not use them. If you heat them too high, the fumes could actually kill a small bird in your kitchen. Use a stainless skillet, preferably one with a copper bottom for best heat conduction. Cast iron will work too.
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Great blog post, full of very useful tips. One issue I noticed, however, is that you recommend washing the chicken – why is that? Here in the UK the Food Standards Agency has recently run a very high-profile campaign to say that you must not wash chicken under any circumstances as not only is it not necessary for hygiene purposes but also because there is a very high risk of the water drops contaminating kitchen surfaces leading to food poisoning.