Sear Meat for Flavor
Jennifer IserlohSearing does not keep the juices in as many home cooks and chefs once thought, but it does place a flavorful crisp coating on the outside that no food lover can do without.
Here is a plan for searing the protein of your choice -- chicken, beef or fish. The more you work with the technique, the more often the star of your dinner will turn out perfectly!
Skillet: Pick the Right Type and Size
A good quality skillet can be expensive, but if you are going to invest, home cooks can do most of their cooking with just two, one small and one large. Avoid non-stick pans because studies show that Teflon particles can be harmful if ingested and doesn't do well at the high temperatures you need to really sear your meat or fish. You don't want to crowd the meat, but if the skillet is too large it can cause the meat or the unused part of the skillet to scorch.
Pick the Right Oil
Canola oil is the best oil for high-temperature cooking, hands down, because it has a very high smoking point. I like it because it has a mild taste, is easy to find at your local grocery store and also happens to be a mono-unsaturated fat that can be part of a heart-healthy diet. You can try other oils, but olive tends to smoke and some health experts say high temperatures easily cause the helpful compounds in the oil to be destroyed.
Season your meat or fish with salt and pepper (if using) before it hits the skillet! Seasoning after cooking protein never tastes the same and well-seasoned foods separate the boys from the men, and the girls from the women!
Heat your skillet over high heat and preheat your oven to 400 degrees F for the final "finishing" step. I usually do this for 15 to 30 seconds, to be sure the surface is very hot before adding the oil. While my skillet is heating, my eco-conscious husband has a habit of turning it off to save energy.
Add Your Protein
Sear your protein at least 90 seconds per side. If you try and lift the meat and it sticks, leave it in the pan longer. It means that the proteins are coagulating and when the meat releases easily, then the proteins have seized up from cooking. In the case of fish, choose fish with a skin on it. Score the skin and add it to the skillet skin side down. Depending on the thickness of you fish you can sear 30 seconds to 1 minute for each side.
After you've seared both sides, slide the skillet into the oven and bake 2 to 10 additional minutes -- depending on the protein and its size. Just to give you a very rough idea -- 1-inch-thick fish fillets like salmon bake 3 to 4 minutes, skinless boneless chicken breasts bake around 6 to 8 minutes and a beef fillet bakes for around 8 to 10 minutes for medium pink inside.