One of the most critical, and often under looked part of the sous vide cooking process is actually searing the cut of meat after taking it out of the water bath. Whether it’s a roast, steak, or even chicken, there are certain steps that can make or break the final product. Today, we are going to dive into everything regarding how to sear your meat after the Sous Vide.
One thing to keep in mind, today we are going to be focusing on searing your food on a cast iron pan. You can find our favorites here – Best Cast Iron Skillets for Sous Vide
Why should we sear our food?
It’s all about the flavor. Searing meat, especially steak, gives it a great crispy texture and flavor. Using a piping hot cast iron pan, or grill for that matter, will give your food that great rich color we are all looking for. It accomplishes this due to something called The Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor. Seared steaks, fried dumplings, cookies and other kinds of biscuits, breads, toasted marshmallows, and many other foods undergo this reaction.
It is named after French chemist Louis Camille Maillard, who first described it in 1912 while attempting to reproduce biological protein synthesis. The reaction is a form of non-enzymatic browning which typically proceeds rapidly from around 140 to 165 °C (280 to 330 °F). Many recipes call for an oven temperature high enough to ensure that a Maillard reaction occurs. At higher temperatures, caramelization (the browning of sugars, a distinct process) and subsequently pyrolysis (final breakdown leading to burning) become more pronounced.
How do we make sure we get the best sear after the sous vide?
There are a few things to pay attention to before searing your food, especially when using a sous vide.
First and most importantly, you want to make sure your cast iron is VERY HOT! I recommend using a high smoke point oil in order to minimize the smoke factor, such as ghee or avocado oil.
Second, it’s very important to make sure your meat is completely dry. I pat everything very thoroughly with paper towels to try and get every little drop of moisture off of the meat or food. If it is not dry, the food will steam on the pan and getting a good crust is difficult.
Third, applying pressure with something like a meat press can also be very helpful.
Fourth, consider using a torch as well in conjunction with the pan. You can find our favorites here –
Finally, I like to rotate my meats every 15 seconds or so and typically will have a total sear time of around 1-2 minutes.
Hope this article helped shed some light on the proper way to sear food after cooking it in the sous vide. You can find our favorite steak recipe here, and our favorite cookbooks here – 10 Best Sous Vide Cookbooks (Reviews Updated 2021)