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Let’s talk pan searing techniques! (Beef, cast iron pan, oil, Sous vide, reverse sear)

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  • PhotoJoseph
    Club Member
    • Aug 2015
    • 61
    • Ashland, OR

    Let’s talk pan searing techniques! (Beef, cast iron pan, oil, Sous vide, reverse sear)

    Hey fellow meatheads! I couldn’t find a good general discussion in the forums about searing, so I figured I’d start one. Let’s discuss and share our searing techniques, and see what we can learn from each other! It’s such a critical part of the process, especially when doing Sous vide, and I know we’re all here to get better, so let’s get started!

    Here are some of my methods — and questions — about what I do and could possibly do better.

    If I’m going to SV a steak, it’s because it’s a thick one, like the 2” ribeyes that I’m about to put in the bath. I can’t say unequivocally that it makes a difference, but what I do is double-sear it. I’ll sear it a lightly before going into the bag, then again after to finish it. My theory is that the juices that the meat will ultimately “marinate” in while in the SV will have more flavor if they have the benefit of the sear. Of course when the meat comes out, it’s all soft and squishy, so back onto the sear it goes for a finish.

    First, pan heating techniques. I just read an article on Bon Appetit that said to “let your pan start to warm on the burner over medium-to-high heat, and once it's warm (but before it's hot), add enough oil to well coat the bottom of the pan”. This seems totally contradictory to what I do, which is actually what prompted this post. I get my pan as screaming hot as I can — which is about 800F — and sear on that. One of the questions to me has always been about the oil. I use avocado oil, which imparts no flavor and has a very high smoke point of 500F, which is obviously still well below where my pan is. I splash just a little oil in the pan immediately before putting the steak on (and of course it smokes like mad), and really the only reasons for it are to help it not stick, and to get a more even sear, especially into the crevices of the meat that don’t make direct contact with the pan.

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    I use cast iron, and I’ve just been experimenting with a pan vs a flat griddle. The problem I’ve always had with the pan is that it looses temperature too quickly, and takes too long to get back up to temp when flipping the meat. My wife suggested using two pans and alternating so they have time to re-heat up (genius) but I don’t have two pans big enough, and decided to try the griddle. Turns out the center of the griddle (between the two burners) gets the hottest, at a little over 800F. I also noticed that it loses less temp while the meat is on (it dropped to the low 700s, while the cast iron pan dropped to about 650), so I’m thinking this is a good option to use now.

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    I used to not put black pepper on the steaks before searing because I know that it becomes bitter when burned, but someone on this form years ago schooled me that this is actually what you want; that this bitter taste is part of what makes such a good steak. I have to say I agree and have done it ever since. In the case of this Sous vide, I did not put pepper on for the first sear, but will pepper it when it comes out of the bath, before going back on the pan.

    So, there’s the questions I want to compare to others…

    1. How hot do you get your pan?
    2. What kind of oil (if any) do you use?
    3. What technique do you use to ensure an always hot-enough pan (not losing too much heat between sides)?
    4. Do you double sear, in the front and in the rear?

    Thanks everyone, and I hope we can all learn a thing or two!
  • Jerod Broussard
    Moderator
    • Jun 2014
    • 9871
    • East Texas
    • Pit Barrel Cooker "Texas Brisket Edition"
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    #2
    1. Smokin' hot, literally
    2. Whatever oil is available
    3. I flip often and move the steak amongst the pan surface
    4. I prefer to pre-sear if I am going straight out the bag to the pan. If I am chilling and indirecting that dude I don't bother.

    Comment

    • texastweeter
      Club Member
      • Jul 2017
      • 2938
      • Republic of Texas

      #3
      1) Screaming hot
      2) Bacon grease or tallow
      3) I move the meat around in the pan (use a pan with 2x the size of the steak)
      4) Hot tubs are for getting drunk and having sex in, not cooking meat.... (no offense to all you HTTM people out there, just not my cup of tea, kinda like blood sausage) Use the reverse sear and a smoker/grill/oven.

      Comment


      • Jerod Broussard
        Jerod Broussard commented
        Editing a comment
        If you are not careful on a steak it can taste more pot-roasty than anything.

      • ssandy_561
        ssandy_561 commented
        Editing a comment
        I'm not a fan of SV steaks. It is great to heat up left over BBQ with though. To me it's the only way I'll heat up left over pulled pork or pulled chuck roast.

      • CaptainMike
        CaptainMike commented
        Editing a comment
        I'll have to remember to never get drunk and hot tub with you.
    • jgreen
      Charter Member
      • Oct 2014
      • 2722
      • Winnipeg Manitoba Canada
      • Cookers:
        Broil King XL
        Broil King Smoke
        Weber Kettle 26
        Grilla Pellet smoker
        Capital 40 natural gas
        Napoleon Pro 22 kettle

        Thermometer:
        Maverick 733
        Thermapen (ok..4 thermapens)
        Thermo works DOT (or two)
        Fireboard (probably my favourite)
        Thermworks Smoke (or two)

        Accessories:
        SnS (original, plus and XL)
        DnG pans, 6 or 7 of these
        Vortex
        Grillgrates
        and, maybe some other toys as well

      #4
      Preference to sear directly over charcoal, but I agree with a higher heat oil like avocado and move the steak around.

      Comment

      • ssandy_561
        Charter Member
        • Apr 2015
        • 1316
        • Central OHIO

        #5
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ID:	499157 Last time I did a steak it was a 2" boneless ribeye. Threw it cold onto my Weber that was running at 225. Brought it up to 112 degrees. I let it rest for 10 minutes while I fired up my Blackstone Griddle. Put a little vegetable oil down and pressed down and seared for a minute each side.

        Comment


        • texastweeter
          texastweeter commented
          Editing a comment
          Look at that crust!!! Sign me up!

        • Jerod Broussard
          Jerod Broussard commented
          Editing a comment
          Even crusty the clown would be jealous of that!

        • CaptainMike
          CaptainMike commented
          Editing a comment
          Done and done.
      • fzxdoc
        Founding Member
        • Jul 2014
        • 5260
        • My toys:
          Weber Summit Charcoal Grilling Center (WSCGC) aka Mr. Fancypants
          Pit Barrel Cooker (which rocks)
          Weber Summit S650 Gas Grill
          Weber Kettle Premium 22"
          Weber Jumbo Joe Premium 22" (a weird little 22" kettle mutant on 22"-long legs) (donated to local battered women's shelter.)
          Camp Chef Somerset IV 4-burner outdoor gas range


          Adrenaline BBQ Company's SnS, DnG and Large Charcoal Basket for WSCGC
          Adrenaline BBQ Company's Elevated SS Rack for WSCGC
          Adrenaline BBQ Company's SS Rack for DnG
          Grill Grate for SnS
          Grill Grates: five 17.375 sections (retired to storage)
          Grill Grates: six 19.25 panels for exact fit for Summit S650 gasser
          2 Grill Grate Griddles
          Steelmade Griddle for Summit gas grill

          Fireboard Extreme BBQ Thermometer Package
          Fireboard control unit in addition to that in the Extreme BBQ Package
          Additional Fireboard probes: Competition Probes 1" (3) and 4" (1), 3 additional Ambient Probes. 1 additional Food Probe
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          Maverick ET 73 a little workhorse with limited range
          Maverick ET 733
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          Grill Pinz
          Vortex (two of them)

          Two Joule Sous Vide devices
          VacMaster Pro 350 Vacuum Sealer
          Instant Pot 6 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker
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          A-Maze-N tube 12 inch tube smoker accessory for use with pellets

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          Shun Classic 8" Chef's Knife
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          Shun Classic 3 1/2 inch Paring Knife

        #6

        1. How hot do you get your pan? 700 to 800 degrees. Anodized aluminum (Grill Grate Griddle) on my gasser.
        2. What kind of oil (if any) do you use? Avocado oil for the same reason you do.
        3. What technique do you use to ensure an always hot-enough pan (not losing too much heat between sides)? Use a large, evenly heated, super hot griddle and move the meat to a new spot when you flip it. On final sear I also sear the edges.
        4. Do you double sear, in the front and in the rear? Yes, with pork chops and with beef steaks.

        Kathryn

        Comment

        • Frozen Smoke
          Club Member
          • Nov 2017
          • 1528
          • Northern Mn

          #7
          For thick steaks I like to put in smoker at 250 until a IT of about 118. Add more oak sticks to the fire to get those flames leaping and sear on a grill over the open fire until I hit about 128 or so. Perfect every time no oil needed with this method and the fresh cracked black pepper has a chance to release it's oils while in the smoker.

          If doing indoors I get my cast iron pan hot. Don't know the temp I never measured it but I know when it's hot enough. I use grape seed oil which has a high smoke point and a neutral flavor. Sear on each side until I get the crust I want. Then move the whole pan into the oven set a 400. I usually will flip once while in the oven. Monitor your temps until you hit the temp you like. Usually 10 to 15 in the oven will do it depending on the thickness of your steaks.

          Comment

          • fracmeister
            Founding Member
            • Jul 2014
            • 1350
            • Sprang, TX
            • Dances with lemmings

              (and smokes on a Yoder 640, raises bees and shoots a .408 WIndrunner) "come la notte i furti miei seconda"

            #8
            As hot as I can get it over the propane burner on cast iron. Some oil that gets hot and then some butter just before I add the steak. Big CI pan so I have some new space to flip to.

            I am seriously considering a searzall and/or heat gun as an experiment.

            Comment

            • CaptainMike
              Club Member
              • Nov 2015
              • 2545
              • The Great State of Jefferson
              • Weber Summit Charcoal Grill w/SnS and DnG (Spartacus)
                Old school big'ol Traeger w/Pro controller (Big Tex)
                2 W22's w/SnS, DnG (1 black, 1 copper) (Minions 1 and 2)
                20+ y/o many times rebuilt Weber Genesis w/GrillGrates (Gas Passer)
                20 x 30 Santa Maria grill (Maria, duh)
                Bradley cabinet smoker (Pepper Gomez)
                36" Blackstone griddle (The Black Beauty)
                Fireboard
                Thermoworks Smoke and Thermapen.

              #9
              I always finish SV beef steaks on a blazing charcoal grill. Never tried a pre-bath sear, but wiil give it a go now.

              Comment

              • Polarbear777
                Club Member
                • Sep 2016
                • 1793

                #10
                1. How hot do you get your pan?

                I prefer direct over charcoal either a grill or a chimney about 1” or so from the coals. A grate will easily reach 800 that way so I move the meat constantly to avoid grill marks or I use a metal skewer and forego the grate.

                If using a pan I target 700-800F.

                I also really like the “fat-flash” for things like shoulder or brisket. After cambro hold, I heat up the oil to heavily smoking around 400F then slowly and carefully pour over the meat. Flash fries the bark/crust. Don’t want to overheat the oil or it ignites as it’s dispersed through the air which is rather exciting, but not as effective

                2. What kind of oil (if any) do you use?

                In a pan always avocado but I add it after the pan is hot and get the meat in before the oil smokes away.

                For fat fat flash I use the trimmmed brisket or pork fat.

                3. What technique do you use to ensure an always hot-enough pan (not losing too much heat between sides)?

                I have a 15” CI pan or several sizes of “baking steel”s so plenty of room.

                4. Do you double sear, in the front and in the rear?

                Never double

                almost always rear only sear. Unless it’s a wok cook and that’s a 750F wok so that probably counts as a front sear.

                Comment

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