Searing (or pan searing) is a technique used in grilling, roasting, braising, sautéing, etc. that cooks the surface of the food (usually meat, poultry or fish) at high temperature so that a caramelized crust forms. A similar technique, browning, is typically used to sear or brown all sides of a particular piece of meat, fish, poultry, etc. before finishing it in the oven. To obtain the desired brown crust, the meat surface must exceed 300 °F (150 °C), so searing requires the meat surface be free of water, which boils at around 212 °F (100 °C).
It is commonly believed that searing locks in the moisture or "seals in the juices" of the food. However, it has been scientifically shown that searing results in a greater net loss of moisture versus cooking to the same internal temperature without first searing. Nonetheless it remains an essential technique in cooking meat for several reasons:
- The browning creates desirable flavours through caramelisation.
- The appearance of the food is usually improved with a well-browned crust.
- The contrast in taste and texture between the crust and the interior makes the food more interesting to the palate.
Typically in grilling the food will be seared over very high heat and then moved to a lower-temperature area of the grill. In braising, the seared surface acts to flavour, colour and otherwise enrich the liquid in which the food is being cooked.