Sous vide cooking is like magic in the way that it makes cooking accessible, easy, and delicious in a way that most people only experience at high-quality restaurants. Like magic, it can turn the most inexperienced chef into the hero of every dinner party that consistently turns out delicious food course after course. With that being said, there is one drawback to sous vide cooking that needs to be addressed.
Sous vide cooking cooks meat thoroughly while maintaining all the moisture that makes meats and other food products so delicious. Drying meat out is what makes frying, and cooking in the oven a dangerous prospect for many. The drawback with sous vide cooking, however, is that sous vide does not produce the delicious brown crust that forms on the outside of meat that is so essential to the cooking process. It would be a problem, except that there are a huge variety of ways to fix this issue, and still produce meat that is exceptional in both taste and aesthetics.
Here to help is a guide to searing your meat to ensure that you, your friends, and your family all get the perfect meal every single time. But wait, if you haven’t already, make sure you check out our best sous vide buying guide first, so you better understand all the terminology!
It cannot be overstated how essential drying your meat before you searing it is to all of the below methods. If you do not thoroughly dry your meats before you sear them, moisture will prevent the meat from properly browning. It’s one very simple very quick step that will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run. So, just always remember to dry your meat before you sear it.
Pan searing is probably the most obvious way to sear, and that is for good reason. It is often times the simplest and most effective method. Heat the oil of your choice in the pan on your stovetop.
When the oil is heated (but before the smoking point) add the meat to the pan.
Let the meat cook for 45 to 90 seconds on each side. It really is as easy as that. Once it’s cooked remove from the pan and appreciate the beautiful brown crust around your steak.
The oven might seem counter-intuitive to some, but it is actually an excellent means of quickly cooking your meat to give the perfect outer layer of brown crust that we are looking for. It is also potentially simpler than even pan searing.
To start, preheat your oven to 500°F. Once the oven is preheated, place the meat on the center rack of the oven and close the door. Using the oven light, or else taking quick looks like opening the oven, check the meat frequently until you see the brown crust that you’re looking for.
Warning: do not leave the meat in the oven for longer than you need! If put in for too long, the meat will dry out and your meal will surely disappoint.
So it’s the summertime, and you want to enjoy your backyard and use your grill, but you still want the delicious quality of the sous vide cooking with all of its simplicity? Not a problem.
You can use your grill to sear your meat, too. Crank your grill up to the highest setting and keep the lid closed to ensure that it gets as hot as possible.
While the barbecue heats up cover your meat in a thin layer of oil. Once the barbecue is at the desired temperature, add the meat to the grill and cook on each side for anywhere from 45 to 90 seconds.
Like the oven, it is essential that the meat not stay on the grill too long, or else it will dry out.
Another method that works is the sous vide torch. It’s a quick and easy way to get that brown crust, and it’s just a matter of using the torch on both sides and meat evenly as possible to get that brown layer.
When done correctly, the crust will be there in a snap, and you will be free to enjoy your meal. Be careful, however, if you overdo it you will burn your meat and that would be a disappointment for everybody.
The final option is probably the one that would not occur to most people, and that would be frying.
Frying is perfect because it will cook the outside, but ensure that the inside remains completely moist, and keeping moisture is the most important consideration of searing sous vide cooked meat.
Heat the oil to approximately 375°F, and cook the meat in the oil for 30 to 90 seconds.
More than ever before, it is essential that the meat be dried. If the meat is wet it can be dangerous, and potentially cause the oil to spit.
So come after all that you’re still concerned that searing your meat will dry out the meat and defeat the purpose of using sous vide cooking in the first place.
Rest assured, when done properly searing will not in any way shape or form dry out your meat after sous vide cooking.
With that being said, there is one more step you can take to prevent drying out meat, and that is cooling your meat before you sear it.
By throwing it in the fridge, or even freezer for a very brief time, you will ensure that only the outer most layer cooks, and the inside stays moist just the way you like it.
One more thing, it is worth noting one quick trick that I can produce for outstanding results.
Before you sear, take your meat and simply coat the outside with a thin layer of flour or corn starch.
The outer layer of flour or corn starch will not only add flavor to the meat, but it will also make forming the brown crust we’re all looking for that much easier.
That’s it! Now you are perfectly prepared to cook meat using your sous vide cooker from start to finish. Experiment with all these different methods until you find the one that is right for you, and puts the perfect finishing touch on all your meat.