Searing meats- why?!


My hat  off to my esteemed foodie friend, Mark Langford, who set me on the course for this particular blog.

I am afraid this is not going to tick any vegetarian or health conscious boxes, and to be honest its not going to click the cheap box either, but it is going to be interesting.

in my glossary I used the term “sear/seal” and Mr mark pointed out some of the scientific inaccuracies with my description. According to Amazing ribs , searing the steak does nothing to make it more juicy but does increase the flavour…….well I had to check, didn’t I!

A different friend  of mine has linked me this. handbook of Meat processing  I HAVE NOT READ ALL THE WAY THROUGH but I am trying, it is fascinating! three hours of reading and my brain is full. But I did find on page 195,  this quote “Hearne et al. (1978) however found greater evaporative and total cooking losses when meat cores were heated at a slow rate compared with a faster rate of cooking”


using 3 sirloin steaks- all 1 1/2 inch thick (within 10% tolerance) and the same weight (again within 10%).

Sirlion give a good blend of hard fat, marbling and muscle. I visually inspected them, and trimmed fat to the same size. My target temperature was 57.3 ºc at the core. This should be a perfect medium rare.

I decided to use three cooking technique

  1. Not searing the meat at all using an oven to raise the temperature
  2.  Using the  “chef” technique very high temperature to get the pan red-hot, then heat the meat quickly and then finish in the oven.
  3. What  most people do,  put a pan on, pop the steak in, bring to temperature  and then cook until done to your liking

I used a digital probe to check the temperature, and I am happy to say, I got them all  to within 2ºc of each other. All steaks were allowed to rest for 2 minutes.


start weight G end weight G weight loss G weight lose %
Oven cooked with no sear. 208 174 34 16.35%
chef technique 231 208 23 9.96%
cold pan cook, no oven 218 191 27 12.39%

This might be a very limited test but this is the result I expected.

When I say as expected, I mean what I have found as a chef over the years, but could not explain.

Which is simply. Cook your whole muscle joints fast and high and rest them for at least two minutes ( five minutes is best).

The explanation to this is a high heat “shocks” the meat and makes it tighten up. Resting it allows the fibres to relax, which in turn allows the juices back into the meat which makes it lush!

The taste  and visual of the steaks were also tried and  were very different. 

dscn0488 with out seardscn0491cold pan no oven

chefs technique

The non seared steak,. bleed all over the plate and was coarse and livery in flavour

The steak cook in the hot pan and then oven was pump and after the rest very little blood escaped and it could be cut without effort. the flavour was meaty and slightly sweet.

Cooked in cold pan and no oven offered a very similar flavour to the chef technique steak, but was slightly drier and the texture was thicker and some effort needed to cut it.

I would look at the bigger roasting joint, but again, experience has taught me that big joints should be reduced in size, not just to quicken cooking times,but also to improve texture and dryness.

To conclude this section, searing does affect juiciness in smaller cuts, but not in larger joints. The sear does add a caramelization to the outside, which will increase the flavour by a lot!

I then  spent an informative but baffling hour looking at sites such as :

Effect of sex and carcass weight on sensory quality of goat meat of Cabrito Transmontano

and also

Phenotypic and genotypic background underlying variations in fatty acid composition and sensory parameters in European bovine breeds.

 I wanted to  find out  if there are other factors that could affect the loss of  moisture. The Answer is  yes.  Ranging from the Hang time, the  cut, where the cut is from on the beast, the age, health and well-being of the animal as well as the size and weight of the beast and not least the sex of the beast, and lastly the actually size of the joint.


I might be misreading these but they seem to say what we, as chefs already know:

1. juiciness is dependant on the water content of a steak and how well used the muscle is.

2. marbling and the link to use of muscles affect flavour.

3. size of the carcass will affect texture.

4. sex of the beast affects both texture and taste.

5. age of the beast affects, texture and depth of flavour.

Plus a lot more but that would be a little too much.

lastly a quote from my friend who gave me a lot of the links and knowledge.

“It starts with good welfare. If you start with a poor product, all the above processes will not make quality any better. So if an animal is stressed to hell with its muscle physiology blasted with adrenalin, cortisol, glucose levels depleted, dehydration etc etc, then the eventual meat quality will be crap. Period.” thanks to JM for this

hope you enjoy this because I enjoyed writing it.




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