Here is the inside scoop, secrets, pearls of wisdom, and other stuff that will turn you into a super-chef who can offer gourmet meals to crowds without breaking a sweat. As a bonus, you will be able to provide off-the-cuff dissertations on a variety of highly detailed cooking issues to educate your friends and to bore otherwise innocent partygoers into a state of stupor.

Searing and Browning Food

Lets face it, "searing" is fun. It involves heat, smoke, browning, an occasional fire, and mushroom clouds of enchanting smells. What's not to like?

What causes food to brown?

There are two processes to know about when it comes to browning food. The first reaction is carmelization, where sugars breakdown from heat, like in crème bule'. The second is the Maillard reaction, pronounced "May-yar" that involves proteins combining with sugar to make new compounds. A key point is that the Maillard reaction requires temperatures in the range 280 to 330 degrees F. This means that any food surface containing water cannot brown. Water absorbs heat as it is converted from liquid to steam. For example a wet paper towel will not catch fire until the water has been boiled off. When a raw steak hits a hot pan, the surface quickly rises to 212 degrees at which point water in liquid form is converted to steam. The temp cannot go above 212 until the heat absorbing water has boiled off. After that the temp can increase to the level needed for browning to occur. If the steak is thin, it may be overcooked by the time that browning can occur.

1. Start with a dry surface. This can be done with paper towels, air, or pre-cooking.

2. Avoid oils or fats with a low smoking point. Smoking means the oil is breaking down and also getting near its ignition point. At the smoking point Acrolein is produced, a chemical with a piercing, disagreeable, acrid smell. Acrolein is toxic and is a strong irritant for the skin, eyes, and nasal passages. Sounds yummy! My rule is if it smokes, start over.
Smoking Points of cooking oilsghee

Safflower oil 510°F

Peanut oil 450°F

Clarified butter (Ghee) 450°F

Corn oil 450°F

Canola oil 400°F

Sesame oil 350°F

Extra-virgin olive oil 350°F

Butter 350°F

3. Use high heat. How do you know how hot the pan is? Easy, get one of lasergrip infrared thermometers for < $20 on Amazon. You point it at the pan and it tells you the temp. No guessing or burning, they look cool, and they show your guests that your are kind of a big deal in the kitchen world! It isn't accurate enough to check your kids for fever but it can be used for cheesemaking, pizza baking and many other cooking activities Infrared thermometer

4. How to get it right? I typically use clarified butter if I want a nice brown crust on food. You can clarify it yourself, or you can get a jar of Ghee which makes it easier to have at hand and it lasts a long time. Check the temp of the pan so it is near but not at the smoke point and make sure the food is dry on the surface

seared pork

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