Searing is the ultimate step in food preparation. Creating that delicious brown crust, benefiting from the complex chemistry that produces such rich flavors… of course we love finishing food with a good sear. But not when it sticks and rips and leaves stuck-on residue behind. This problem vexes meat lovers and plagues the Carnivore Diet. However, it doesn’t affect only animal based protein. Here are five tips for preventing sticking when searing.
Dry Food (On the Outside)
The outside must be dry when food will be seared. This is for several reasons. First of all, water absorbs a large amount of heat, especially when it boils. Trying to sear wet food involves boiling off the water, which causes a temperature drop and wastes a lot of heat. Secondly, water dissolves many compounds, including protein and sugars from animal based protein foods. Both protein and sugar bond tightly to surfaces. Therefore, they cause sticking. Thirdly, water not only absorbs but transmits heat, such as into the food you’re trying to sear. This causes food to overheat and thus overcook inside. Overcooking not only doesn’t taste good but can destroy needed nutrients, which in turn has bad effects on foodways such as the Carnivore Diet .
In conclusion, take a moment and a paper towel to pat your food dry before searing. It’s worth it.
Meat Lovers, Heat Your Surfaces
In order to sear properly, the food must touch a sufficiently hot cooking . A surface that’s too cool pulls liquid out of the food, and we described above all of the problems that can cause. Sticking is a particular problem when the surface isn’t hot enough. Also, the reactions that produce deep browning and rich flavor happen most quickly at high temperatures. So have patience, meat lovers! Make certain your Cinder plate, grill grate, or other cooking surface has come to full temperature, especially if you’re reverse searing your food and thus need to avoid overheating the perfectly cooked inside.
Salt vs Sticking
Salting your food just before searing it can help prevent sticking. Conversely, salting your food more than a few moments before searing can cause sticking or make it worse. Salt can draw moisture out of the food, and as we’ve already discussed, moisture causes havoc in searing. However, when applied just before searing, salt can interfere with the bonds protein and sugar try to make between the food’s surface and the cooking surface. This interference helps prevent sticking. So to maximize your delicious sear, whether to please meat lovers or feed those on the Carnivore Diet, salt well, but only at the proper time.
A Little Fat, But Not Too Much
There are times when a bit of oil can help avoid sticking. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, more is not necessarily better. A light spritz of cooking spray will cling to the food and block it from sticking. On the other hand a puddle of oil may actually interfere with crust formation, or even polymerize, which can cause sticking in itself. Secondly, choose your fat carefully. Fats with low smoke points may burn, and burnt residue can be not only sticky but persistent and difficult to clean away. A good choice for searing is ghee, which is such a lovely fat we wrote an entire blog post about it. Also, if your food, especially animal based protein, has a high enough fat content, and your searing surface is hot enough, you may be able to sear it in its own fat. However, watch it carefully to avoid burning!
Animal Based Protein and Parchment Paper
Parchment paper has all of the benefits of oil plus some of its own. It provides a physical barrier between the food and the cooking surface. However it is more heat resistant than most oils. Also, it won’t affect the flavor of the food, very important for meat lovers, nor the fat balance and nutritional content, also important for those on the Carnivore Diet. Best of all, when cooking is done you can remove it and all cooking residues, thus keeping your surfaces clean and free of buildup! All that said, parchment, like any paper, is not suitable for use over direct flame.
Essential For Carnivore Diet and Beyond
Avoiding sticking while searing is particularly important for the Carnivore Diet, whose staples are simply cooked animal based proteins. Stuck, torn up, overcooked or burnt food is not the delicious and nutritious fare that helps you sustain your new foodway. However, every cook, from meat lovers to pure vegans, can use tips on how to avoid sticking, scorching, and otherwise damaging delicious food!