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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Searing the process of cooking the surfaces of a piece of meat briefly at a high temperature until well browned, before reducing the heat and allowing cooking to finish more gently. There is one good reason for searing meat, which is that high temperatures concentrate the juices that do leak, and encourage a process known as the ‘Maillard reaction’ (see browning, section on sugar-amine browning) which gives a good flavour in the finished dish.

culinary mythology tells a different tale, and states that searing ‘seals the juice’ into the meat, thus producing a moister end result and avoiding the loss of flavourful and nutritious matter. There is, however, no truth in this plausible theory. As McGee (1990) has demonstrated by a series of simple and elegant experiments, juice (water, water-soluble proteins and other substances, and melted fat) leaks from meat during cooking whether it has been seared or not, and experiments in the 20th century showed that seared meat loses rather more weight (through fluid drip) than that cooked at a moderate temperature from beginning to end.