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Thread: So much trouble browning/searing meat page

  1. #1
    Corvidae's Avatar
    Corvidae is offline Senior Member
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    So much trouble browning/searing meat

    Hey, so Ive been playing around with a lot of fun new recipes, which is going pretty well. Im loving all the new meat recipes im learning, but Ive come across a stumbling block: browning meat. Im apparently terrible at it. Ive read books and blogs but I just cant seem to get it right. I usually get that grey "anemic" look to the meat, and sometimes there are some brown bits in amongst the grey, but the grey is the standard look.

    And I seem to be doing everything right:

    - I have a cast iron skillet that I let get REALLY HOT before putting the meat on
    - I let the meat come to room temperature
    - I blot the meat dry
    - Sometimes I put some seasalt on the meat to pull out further moisture, and blot it dry again

    So I dont know what the confounding variable is. Am I leaving it on too long? Not long enough? Should I use more oil/fat/butter or less? Any ideas?
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  2. #2
    duckmama's Avatar
    duckmama is offline Senior Member
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    You're doing a lot of things right: cast iron, room temp, dry meat, high temp. It's possible you need to just let it go a little longer. Sometimes it takes longer than you think to get that yummy crusty sear on it. Have patience, let it go a little longer, just keep an eye on it - don't walk away!

  3. #3
    Rivvin's Avatar
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    Sometimes this crazy need to have STUPIDLY HOT PAN is not always the best idea. The meat can cook before any kind of crust forms, especially on thinner cuts.

    Try putting your cast-iron on medium heat (settings 6 of 10, for example) and let it warm up for 10 minutes.

    Put some butter in the pan, a good pat of it, and then place your meat in. Yes, your meat will cook a bit more slowly but I think you'll find your crusts come out better.

    I'm not saying the blast and burn method is not a good method for steaks, but there are other alternatives

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    I'll concur that off the info provided, you seem to be doing the right things, and will disagree with Rivvin about medium heat: for thinner cuts, overall cooking time is the determinant factor. Browning, regardless of thickness, requires high heat. I can't speculate on a 1-10 scale, since every stove is different, but I'd nudge it higher than 6/10 on my own, more likely 7 or 8.

    What happens when you sear a cut of meat to brown it is called the Maillard reaction. For a proper browning to occur, as noted, all surface water must be removed or vaporized, and temperatures of over 300F must be reached. It is possible that you have blotted the surface moisture off, but that the meat is not completely at room temperature: that would cause a sudden decrease in the pan's temperature and lead to slower cooking, causing greyness.

    Another factor is how much meat you are cooking in your pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. Let me repeat. DO NOT overcrowd your pan. This is my best guess as to why you're not achieving proper sear. Overcrowding will definitely drop the temperature in the pan and cause the meat to slowly release moisture so that you wind up almost boiling it. If you are cooking a lot of meat, use a couple of sturdy pans (stainless also works well), or better yet, cook in batches. Keep the oven on warm (depends on what kind of meat; I will usually turn to 180F and then shut it off after a few minutes) and keep the cooked meat there until ready to serve.

    Another trick is, as Rivvin notes, to add some fat at the last moment. I never add fat and heat it along with the pan, but for example, for cast iron seared steaks or chops, I will heat the pan and just before adding the meat, drop in a small dollop of bacon fat, putting the meat down as soon as the fat renders and is a bit jumpy, almost smoking. If you do add fat, remember that a little goes a long way, unless you enjoy spatters of fat hitting you in the eye. Which I do not.

  5. #5
    duckmama's Avatar
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    Great information Finnegans Wake! Thanks! I can still hear Julia Child in my head saying "don't crowd the pan!"

  6. #6
    Corvidae's Avatar
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    @Duckmama: will it got from grey to brown? I was under the impression that you got either-or

    @FWake: I definitely havent been crowding the pan, cause ive mostly just been cooking one steak or roast for myself at a time Ill try adding the bacon fat later, i think ive mostly been putting it in as soon as I put the pan on
    "Since going primal, I've found that there are very few problems that cannot be solved with butter and/or bacon fat."

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    I'm fascinated by this. It sounds as though you are doing the right things. Do you have gas or electric? I have gas, which cranks some nice heat, but electric can be more uneven and tempermental. How aggressively do you season? I'm sort of a purist, so usually it's just kosher/sea salt and nice fresh cracked black, but I do season the meat well. Not that I'm killing it with salt, but I'm not shy. How long do you allow the meat to come to temperature? For me, I'd say an hour is about right, if I can. If not, 30 minutes is probably minimum.

  8. #8
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    hmm. how strange. this may seem fairly obvious but i have to ask: are you putting a lid over the pan? if you are, don't. also, how big is the slab of meat relative to the pan? try cutting the meat in half, turn the heat on medium and let it heat up for 5-10 min, add a little fat, and put the halved meat on the pan. you should get a decent sear that way.



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    put the meat in the hot pan and DO NOT TOUCH IT. don't move it around, don't flip it, LEAVE IT ALONE for at least a minute.

  10. #10
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    Add some oil.

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