Searing is a technique used to cook meats at a high temperature until a caramelized crust forms. Caramelizing, or the “Maillard Reaction,” is the process during which the natural amino acids and sugars move to the surface of the meat and create flavor compounds.
What to Sear
Thicker cuts of steaks, poultry and fish are great options for searing. Swordfish steaks and scallops are good choices for seafood. And all tender steak cuts always work well.
Room temperature meats help muscle fibers absorb juices for better flavor. Pat your meat dry, even if you’re using a marinade, so the meat doesn’t steam instead of sear. Spray a little cooking oil on the grates to keep your food from sticking.
Make it Hot
Heat is the answer to searing. You’ll need temperatures of 400 degrees and above. They key is to hear the piece of meat aggressively sizzle when it hits the grates. Many grills come with a sear burner that gives you the direct heat that’s perfect for searing. But you can still create that heat with either a charcoal or gas grill.
How Long to Sear
Sear your steaks or seafood for no more than for 2-3 minutes on the first side. Flip your meats over for another 1-1/2 minutes on the other side. You’re looking for a crisp brown crust. Don’t flip your meat too soon. You can lift the corner of your steak or seafood to see if the crust has formed and only then should you flip it. Once you’ve seared both sides, move the meat to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking with indirect heat.
Get a Reading
For safe internal temperatures, make sure you use a meat thermometer because the outside will be brown but the inside can still be very rare and not cooked to safety guidelines.
How to Sear the Crosshatch Marks
Once you’ve got the basic method of searing down, create those beautiful professional crosshatch marks with the “10 o’clock, 2 o’clock” method. Put your meat on the grill as though you are looking at a clock striking 10. Put your piece of meat over that imaginary clock at 10 and put it on the grill. Leave it for about 2 minutes. Then turn your steak to the 2 o’clock position and continue searing for another minute or two. That will give you that professional looking diamond-shaped pattern.
Searing on a Charcoal Grill
Pile your charcoal about two to three inches from the cooking grate, and you can get temperatures over 500 degrees.
Searing on an Infrared™ Grill
Tru-Infrared™ cooking systems will give you the perfect searing temperatures. First use the sear setting or high and then lower the burner to finish cooking.
A sear burner is a separate section of a gas grill that has an infrared plate to create extremely high temperatures. Sear your steaks on the burner and then move them to a cooler section of the grill to cook them thoroughly. You don’t need to close the lid while the steaks are searing
You can also use a pan searing method, where you place a cast iron pan on the grate and sear your meat in the pan. Use a little oil to coat the pan and wait until it’s thin and bubbling, but not burning or smoking.
Tip: Salting your meat’s surface will help create a great crust.
Tip: If you use a marinade, use a paper towel to dry the meat before putting it on the grill. Drippings, especially water, can cause steam to form, which turns the meat gray and will not allow it to sear.