What could be better than a thick, juicy steak, with a caramelized crunchy crust? A flavorful, well-cooked steak is the crowning jewel of any backyard barbecue, high-class dinner, or special occasion home-cooked meal – unless you follow a vegetarian diet, of course. And we all know that the best way to cook a great steak that is bursting with juices is to sear it, right?
Well, not exactly. The Guardian reports that though this method of “steak searing to lock in juices” is recommended by chefs the world over, searing meat will not in fact actually lock in its juices.
Steak Searing Science
At first glance, it seems like science would be on the side of searing steak to lock in juices. One could assume that a quickly cooked “seal” on each side of the steak would prevent any moisture from escaping. However, this is not what happens. A piece of uncooked steak is full of water from the muscle cells. This moisture is what is commonly referred to as the juice of a streak. When a steak is seared over high heat, these muscle cells are transformed, but they do not close or clot or behave in any other manner that would cause a seal. In fact, the satisfying sizzle of a searing steak is all the proof you need that juices are being lost during the process: that sizzle is the sound of evaporating moisture.
How To Sear A Steak
Just because steak searing doesn’t literally seal in juices doesn’t mean that its not a great way to prepare steak. The fast, high heat used for searing creates a very delicious flavor and crust, not to mention a robust and desirable color. Begin with a steak that has been allowed to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes so the muscle is relaxed. Season the steak with salt and pepper or any other seasoning you desire. Add about two tablespoons of vegetable or peanut oil to a pan, then turn it up to high heat. When the oil is rippling, carefully add the steak. Cook on one side for about 2 minutes or until it has browned, then flip and repeat. To insure that the steak is cooked through, you’ll likely need to put the steak in the oven on medium heat for about 6 minutes for medium-rare steaks.
Searing a steak might not necessarily mean a more juicy steak (in fact, the process can be drying), but when done right, the delicious caramelized crust and amazing flavor will give the appearance of a more juicy steak.
- “Should you sear steak?”, The Guardian
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