The Science Behind the Sear: Is Searing Meat a Myth?

Searing Steak

If you have ever read a recipe on how to prepare a steak, you undoubtedly noticed instructions to sear the steak. At Rib’N Reef, we know how to prepare a steak that you will savor with the perfect balance of juice and a flavorful brown crust.

Searing a steak means to cook it quickly to brown the surface to seal in the juices. However, many chefs have scientifically proven that searing a steak does not add to the juiciness of a steak. In fact, steaks may lose more moisture after searing compared to roasted steaks. However, that does not mean the searing of steak does not have merit in a kitchen.

Locking in Juice

It is believed searing a steak somehow creates a situation where the juices are locked in. However, this theory was tested by cooking two steaks, one seared and the other not, and the moisture levels were found to be the same.

What Makes a Steak Juicy?

To understand what contributes to the juiciness of a steak, it is essential to understand what happens as a steak heats up. The muscle fibers react by contracting, which releases water. Also, the heat from cooking melts the fat, which contributes to the texture of the steak. If a steak is cooked enough to melt the fat, but not so much it contracts and releases too much moisture, the steak is a perfect balance of buttery and juicy. Many cooks agree that the optimal temperature results in a medium-rare steak.

What Is the Purpose of Searing a Steak?

While searing will not guarantee a juicy steak experience, there are still excellent reasons to sear your steak. The searing of steak creates a distinct reaction called the Maillard reaction, and this adds to the experience of eating a fantastic steak.

The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between the sugars and proteins within a steak. At high temperatures, this effect changes both the color and the flavor of food. This reaction between the protein and the sugar does not just change the color of the food; it also changes the entire aroma and flavor profile, making it even more tempting.

The Maillard reaction is different from caramelization, however. Although it does create browning, caramelization is a reaction of just sugars.

Enjoy Your Steak

It is understood that searing meat does little to lock in moisture and create a juicy steak to enjoy, as only proper cooking can create this sort of culinary masterpiece. However, searing steaks does improve the flavor due to the chemical reaction that takes place between the sugars and the proteins under high heat. If you are concerned the steaks you cook at home will not reach this level, come into Rib’N Reef to experience perfectly cooked steak on our charcoal pit.