Cooking, like art, requires finesse.
Certain dishes require special techniques to attain the best flavour it can have, and much of this is achieved with the proper control of heat.
There is a dance at play when cooking. Professional Chefs know the importance of heat control to achieve different sensory nuances such as texture, flavour and visual appeal.
Heat control is one of the most critical skills of a Chef for it enables him to execute various cooking techniques as well as prevent fire accidents in the kitchens.
When you hire Chefs, whether, for a short term hire or permanent hire, you need someone knowledgeable in the application of heat, moreover, you need someone who is also disciplined enough to execute them consistently.
Consider this as part one of the several techniques done to demonstrate heat control, starting with:
Searing is a procedure of browning the exterior of the food being cooked, usually as a partial step of within a cooking process.
The food surface is caramelized using a high temperature. The goal is to achieve a brown crust which provides a deep savoury flavour for most proteins. This is what is considered the Maillard Reaction, a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar when high heat is applied. This gives browned food its distinctive flavour, which, together with any pan juices that result from the process is what enhances the dish.
Here’s how the best searing results are achieved:
Food items to be cooked should ideally be patted dry and at room temperature.
The desired crust formation happens when the food item is placed in direct contact with high heat. Searing will not occur if the food is frozen or when there is still moisture present since the fluid will create steam. In addition to that, the moisture will cool down the pan and cooking oil, and it will take longer to achieve a good sear.
Use a paper towel to dry off any protein before seasoning,
However, according to a method from “Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking” cookbook, a steak frozen for an hour, can be seared and finished off in the oven at low temperature. And in a video adaptation from the New York Times, co-author Nathan Myhrvold, mentioned that the method could be done even on frozen hard steak ( with longer cooking time in the oven). I imagine that he could be referring to a frozen steak with the surface already devoid of ice crystals since it can be challenging to sear a frozen steak when you can’t get contact for searing due to it being frozen and inflexible. But do check out the video and let me know what you think of it.
Salt the food item just before searing.
In the same principle as above, you want to prevent steaming.
A simple combination of salt and pepper can be enough to achieve flavourful seared food. However, be mindful of the reaction of salt to meats in particular. Salt draws out moisture and will require the meat to be patted dry again because if this is not done, the moisture/ liquid that beads up on the surface of the meat will pool in the pan during the searing process. This pool of liquid will instead steam the food instead of sear.
Use clean pans made for high heat cooking.
The best kind of pan to use is stainless steel or cast iron skillet because of their ability to conduct heat fast. They can also tolerate very high temperature, which will provide even and rapid searing. This is the reason why it is not advisable to use nonstick or enamel lined skillets or pans because the coatings can be damaged.
The meat needs to get direct contact with the clean metal surface of the pan. This is why it is essential to clean or deglaze the pan in between batches. A sticky brown glaze called the Fond builds upon the bottom of the pan during searing. Scrape off these tough bits from the previous batch and set aside and wipe off with a dry towel or use a new pan if necessary and if you have time to spare. After the last batch is seared, the pan can be deglazed with any cooking liquid for sauces.
Use a thin layer of a neutral oil with a high burning temperature.
Examples of oils with high burning temperature or high smoke point are Safflower, Peanut oil, Sesame Oil, Grapeseed, Sunflower, Soybean and Canola oil. These are the kinds of oils that can handle screaming high heat, approximately around 450F (232.32C). They will not disintegrate before you even have time to sear properly.
What does this mean for the food?
Oil that is heated beyond its smoke point will add an undesirable burnt flavour. Not only that,the beneficial nutrients in the oil are also destroyed, and the process of overheating can even create harmful free radicals.
Don’t overcrowd the pan.
Protein expels liquid when it cooks. If you crowd a pan, the combined liquid will not be able to evaporate and will steam instead of sear.
If possible, cook in batches or arrange in a single layer, an inch or so apart.
Do not disturb.
A good searing could take up to 10 mins and as the food item is searing, leave it be. Avoid flipping it prematurely. When meat first gets in contact with the pan, it sizzles and is stuck. Cook it undisturbed until one side is browned. A critical reminder here is that once searing is done, it is easy to lift it off the pan. No wrestling has to happen.
If the fond or glaze begins to look very dry or a burning odour begins to develop, heat should be lowered while additional oil is added.
RELATED READ: One Simple Secret for Boosting The Flavour of Food
Much about cooking involves building flavour. Searing provides sensory delight in most dishes. It adds a more flavourful profile to an otherwise bland protein. Searing involves steps that are beyond merely heating a pan and browning the food item. And when you hire Professional Chefs, you’ll be confident that they have this technique pat-down.
That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!
Ciao for now,