Before we get started, allow us to make one disclaimer: if you like your steak cooked to more than medium, you shouldn’t even try searing your steak. Why? Well, because you’ll end up with a charred piece of shoe sole that resembles the taste of dry beef. The secret to a perfectly-seared steak is to start it at a high temperature to sear the surface and then lower the temperature to finish it off. Pork chops, chicken, and roasts all benefit from searing, although maybe not the way you think.
The Maillard reaction
Browning, also known as the ‘Maillard reaction’ or in layman’s terms, caramelization, is caused when you heat sugars and amino acids together. This reaction occurs in meats heated to temperatures between 300 to 500 degrees F. This reaction is what causes that very tasty and wonderful crusty surface in meat that gives it that great, well-cooked flavour. Without this browning, a steak just doesn’t taste the way a perfectly-seared steak should.
Charring is a big No No…
Charring is when the surface of meat breaks down completely leaving only carbon. This typically happens on a grill where the meat meets the metal. In other words, charring is bad. Not only doesn’t it taste good, but charred meat is carcinogenic. Charring can occur when the meat comes in contact with something more than 500 degrees F – or if you overcook it. Of course, a certain amount of charring is inevitable, after all, you’re putting raw meat in contact with very hot metal.
So, what is searing?
By definition, searing is to cook something hot and fast to brown the surface and to seal in the juices. Yet, many of the leading cooking experts agree that searing doesn’t ‘seal in’ juices. Surprisingly, sealing in juices just doesn’t work and is not the real goal of searing. Searing is a process of cooking that creates the crusty surface texture most people find appealing and the caramelized sugars that give us that steak flavour we want.
How do you get the right sear?
The first rule of thumb when it comes to searing, is not to be timid. Just because that pork chop has started to brown doesn’t mean that it’s time to turn it over. Look for a dark brown colour before you flip and not just a nice golden colour, ideally it’s a darkish brown. This browning is what’s going to give that perfectly-seared steak the flavour and texture you’re looking for. If you sear for the flavour and not the juices and don’t overcook, you’ll get a great piece of grilled meat.
The process needs to start before you light the fire…
You must have a good clean cooking surface. This allows for even contact between the meat and metal. You can oil the cooking grate, though with fattier meats you needn’t do so, but if you do oil the grate you need the right oil with a high smoke point. Safflower, canola and sunflower oils break down at much higher temperatures than olive oil or lard. Remember that once the oil breaks down it produces smoke and a bad flavour.
As you’ve probably realised by now, getting the perfectly-seared on a juicy chunk of meat isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Be sure to follow our next blog for the second part of this guide. Better yet, if you’re craving for a great steak, why not book a table at your favourite steakhouse in Malta, Sciacca Grill?
To treat yourself to the best steak in Malta with delicious food and a fantastic atmosphere, book your next table at Sciacca Grill in St Julian’s or Valletta. For reservations, visit our website or call us on +356 2123 7222.