Myth 8: Seal Juices into Meats by Searing

Let’s forget floods tonight and talk about cooking.  If you are a cook, and cook meat, then you are bound to have heard this, “Seal in the juices by searing meats before you cook.”  For the non-cook, what does this mean?  It means basically to fry or expose the outer layer of meat to high temperatures before baking, or continuing to cook it.  My family does it, and so do my aunts.  I thought it made sense.  You cook the outer layer first, so that the raw juice would not be able to come out.  It’s like one of those know hows that gets passed down from generation to generation.  Lifehacker says this is not so.  Here’s why.

The article says that this was first proposed in the 19th century by a German chemist called Justus von Liebig who said that applying very high temperatures to meat would create a “sealed” layer of cooked meat through which liquid the inside meat would not be able to escape. (Wow, I didn’t realize this would go back so long ago!)

Anyways, there is a problem with his experiment in that he compared the liquid and nutrients from a piece of meat that was submerged in cold water. It was then heated, simmered.  This was compared to a dry piece of meat which was applied to an extremely hot surface.  If you think about it, of course the fried meat would be juicier than the one boiled to death..

That’s not all, another book called “On Food and Cooking” by Harold McGee compares a seared piece of meat and un-seared meat cooked identically.  He says that the seared piece of meat actually retained fewer juices than the un-seared piece!  Searing, according to him, has no effect!

There goes my belief in sealing in the juices.  What this tells you is to question what you hear and what you are told.  Just because a good cook tells you something, it may not always be true.

When you hear a good tip, try it yourself and see what works best.  Searing, I think, may have an added benefit in that it gives the meat a little more taste than if it had not been seared. The crispy outer layer 🙂   As for the juices?  You have to just test it yourself.  Let me know when you find out! Happy cooking!

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