To sear a food, such as meat, chicken, fish, and seafood, simply means to brown it using high heat. It's what gives food a rich color and flavor. Some of today's most popular restaurant menus feature pan-seared entrees. This style of cooking is fast so it is also a good option for home cooks. At one time it was believed that searing would seal in the juices; however, studies have found this is not the case. Searing is still invaluable for producing a pleasing appearance and great taste with ease. This technique is also used to brown meats that will be cooked in liquid, such as a pot roast or slow-cooked meat, since these methods will not produce browning.
To get a beautifully browned product, follow these tips:
Follow the steps above, but note that roasts require special care when searing, especially round ones. While you need to keep rotating a roast to make sure all sides get browned, leave each side on the heat long enough to ensure even browning before moving. Use tongs to pick up and hold the roast to sear the short sides, being careful that the roast doesn't tip over and splatter hot grease. Searing a roast browns the outside but does not cook the meat through.
For perfectly grilled steaks and chops with seared lines, pat meat with paper towels to remove any excess moisture before cooking. Preheat grill to between 575 degrees F and 600 degrees F. Reduce the heat on one side of grill to medium-low. This creates two zones: one for direct heat used for searing and the other for indirect heat. Once the grill is hot, sear steaks or chops over high heat for 1 minute on each side, making a quarter turn halfway through. Then move the meat to the lower-heat side of the grill to finish cooking. For more details, check out our slide show on How to Grill Steak to Perfection featuring grilling pro Elizabeth Karmel.