Searing with Authority–Becoming a Maillard Expert | Test Kitchen Boot Camp

(upbeat music) – Hey guys, Dan Souza here coming to you live from my home kitchen. Welcome to session six of a ATK Bootcamp. I’m glad you stuck with us this far. This is the beginning of week two, which is your advanced training, and we’re gonna dig deep in on searing today. It’s an incredibly important cooking skill to have, knowing how to sear everything from steaks to scallops to broccoli. Today we’re gonna focus in on the protein. So we’re gonna do some steaks and some scallops, two of my favorite things to sear. We’re gonna look at a few different techniques, some that I really love, all kinds of good stuff like that, just kinda give you the inside scoop on how I like to do it at home using lots of stuff that we developed at ATK and Cook’s Illustrated.

I’m gonna get a ton of grease and splatter all over my kitchen just for you. So, I’m glad you’re here. Let’s dig into this. (upbeat music) So at its most basic, searing is nothing more than just applying high heat to the exterior of a food in order to change its appearance, it’s texture, and its flavor but it can have a massive impact on how tasty something actually is. So searing, we most often think of it as a piece of protein, like a steak or a chicken breast in a hot skillet on the stove top. So that’s definitely searing, but the brown marks that you get on an nice grilled piece of meat, that’s also searing. You could also sear in the oven, so at really, really high temperatures. Essentially what you’re doing is changing the exterior of the food in order to make it more delicious. So the main reason that seared food is more delicious than unseared food is all thanks to the maillard reactions. So these are the browning reactions that are named after Frenchman Louis Camille Maillard and I got that name right, which is amazing.

Maillard was a scientist famous for other things but the food world, he is all about these browning reactions and they’re pretty incredible. So they start with pretty simple building blocks in order to achieve maillard browning, all the amazing flavor and aromas that come from that. You basically need protein, which breaks down into its building blocks known as amino acids, and you need simple sugars. So when those two are both available and in the presence of high heat, we get this incredible cascade of changes that produce hundreds of new flavor and aroma compounds.

Now the interesting thing about the Maillard reactions is they can happen really, really rapidly at high heat or they can happen really, really slowly at low temperature. So most often in the kitchen when we’re cooking something we’re looking for the really rapid high heat Maillard browning, and the reason is we’re mostly trying to have this happen at the exterior of our food. So we want really high temperatures and we wanna get great browning and we want the interior of the food to be cooked less.

So, we’ll take steak for our classic example here and we want a gorgeous, gorgeous, browned, crisp, flavorful crust but we want it to just be at the surface. We’re not looking for the meat below the surface to be cooked any more than whatever our desired temperature is. So let’s say it’s medium-rare. We want as much of that steak to be medium-rare as possible and then a gorgeous sear on the outside. So, the way that we normally achieve that is with high heat and rapid Maillard browning. So I wanna show you two methods.

(upbeat music) The first one that I’m gonna walk you through is called the reverse sear method and it’s really cool. So it’s basically separating out the two tasks that you have at hand. You want a beautiful seared exterior and you want a nicely cooked interior. So one of the first steps to getting a nice dry steak, which is gonna sear a lot better, is to pat it really dry. So I’ve got a nice rib eye here and you can see that it’s pretty wet right, coming right out of the package, wherever you get it from the store, it’s got a lot of moisture on the outside. And so a nice dry kitchen towel like this, you could also use paper towels for it, and we’ll just pat it really, really dry. I keep a lot of kitchen towels on hand. Just throw ’em in the wash afterward so you don’t have to waste paper if you don’t want to, and you can see, we got a fair amount of liquid right off of that.

So we have a much dryer steak. So to start the reverse sear steak, you want a wire rack sitting in a rimmed baking sheet like this, I’ve got my rib eye, which I patted nice and dry with those paper towels, and I’ve got some kosher salt here. So I’m just going to season this guy up. Now seasoning nice and high up like that gives you good even distribution. This steak is already nice and dry and you see that salt clings beautifully to it.

Awesome, okay, so now I’m gonna take this and go into a 275-degree oven and we’re gonna go until it reaches about 90 to 95 degrees in the center and we’ll take a look at the outside, it’s gonna get really nice and dry. I’ve got my steak out of the oven here. So this guy hit about 90 degrees in that 275-degree oven and I just want you see it’s nice and dry on the surface. It’s also warmed up, it’s kinda warm to the touch here, it’s about body temperature. It’s gonna sear a lot faster because it is both dryer and warmer. So, I’ve got that here, I’ve got my 10-inch carbon steel skillet here, and I’ve got neutral oil. So this is canola oil. Any kind of veg oil works. You’re looking for a neutral refined oil. What that allows you to do is it has a higher smoke point so you can heat the oil up to a higher temperature before it starts to break down and produce off flavors or anything like that.

So, we don’t need a lot here. Rib eyes are a pretty fatty steak and they’re gonna release a lot. This pan’s pretty well seasoned, so it’s not gonna stick a lot but a little bit helps. Basically, it makes good contact between the pan and the food. That’s always important in searing and so it kinda acts as that interface there. Great, so I’m gonna get this pan over high heat and what we’re looking for is the oil to just start smoking. So that’s right at the top of its temperature range. For something like canola it’s probably in the 425 to 450-degree range, which is super, super hot. This steak is almost cooked to the perfect degree on the onside. So we’ve got 95 degrees. After the searing it’ll climb the rest of the way up to about 125 medium-rare, which is what we’re looking for. So our goal here is really a super fast sear on both sides and then get it out of the pan and let it rest.

So, we’re looking for maybe a minute and a half on each side and in this case really the faster is the better. We don’t wanna cook too much below the surface. We’re pumping just a little more heat into the exterior, get that awesome Maillard browning, and then we’ll let it finish cooking off the heat through carryover. So my oil is just starting to smoke. You can kind of see it wisping off in the back here, so that is good to go. So we’ll get our steak, which is nice and dry here and go right in. (steak sizzles) So while it’s in there searing away I’m just gonna blot a little bit of extra moisture off the top here. There’s a little bit more that sits underneath while it’s in the oven like that.

(steak sizzles) And so while it’s searing, it’s also a good idea, you know maybe halfway through, so if we’re going for a minute, minute and a half, about 30 seconds through to lift it up and let that oil kina redistribute underneath. It has a tendency to pool in little places and you’ll get kinda uneven browning. All right, let’s take a look. That’s some nice browning right there. So you can see that nice and close, gorgeous browning all over. We’ve got a couple little gray spots here so I might kiss that a little bit more in the oil but I’m gonna get the other side first.

(steak sizzles) You can see that browned incredibly fast, right? That warmer surface on the dryer meat, perfect, perfect formula for fast Maillard browning and a great sear. So I’ve switched out to a clean wire rack here so when I take this out I can bring it over here and let it rest. That’s lookin’ really nice right there. We’re gonna go back on the other side for just another second. (steak sizzles) Then once more on this side. Oh yeah, you can see that is just gorgeous browning all over. And nice on that side now too. Just look at that beautiful sear all over the surface there. We got it on both sides. The interior is nice, it’s coming up to temperature. We’ll let this rest for about 10 minutes and then we’ll take a slice and we’ll dig in.

The final cooking with all seared food and most food that comes out of a hot environment is gonna be carryover cooking, and that’s gonna happen completely outside of the pan. And carryover cooking is a phenomenon that I think confuses people a lot of times but it’s actually pretty simple. In any hot cooking environment you’re pumping a lot of heat into the exterior of the food and then heat will continue to move. So if you take it out of the pan, really hot regions of the outside, that heat will start to move into the food more and more so it will basically be cooking for longer than when it’s in contact with the environment. And carryover cooking, it’s not gonna be the same every single time. It’s gonna really depend on the heat of the environment, so how hot that oven is or how hot your skillet is, and then the size of the food. So if you have a really big roast and a really hot oven, you’re gonna see some pretty massive carryover as it flows through there.

All right, so it’s been 10 minutes and our guy, you can see, has let out some liquid here during that rest, which is great, comes out here, it’s not gonna come out on the plate, which is awesome, and during that time it came up to about 128 degrees internal temperature using one of these guys here, a Thermapen. Super fast reading, so it’s awesome. So we’ve got about 128 degrees, which is a really nice temperature. So let’s get this onto the board. There are really two major muscle groups to think about with a rib eye, and they’re actually really different.

They eat really differently and I like to separate them out and serve them kind of side by side so people can try both. I have a preference for one, which I’ll explain as I get into it. So we basically have what is the eye muscle here. So we have a rib eye and this is the eye of it here. And this one just happens to have a huge one of it but this is the rib eye cap on this side.

And so you actually often see like a little natural separation you know, and if they’re on a grill and they’re moving around a lot you can get some major separation there. So, I like to separate the two and we’ll take a look at the textures, they’re quite different. So the rib eye here is much finer textured meat. It’s more on par with I think a strip steak, in my mind. It’s a little bit fattier and richer but it’s pretty finely textured. So, you can see we’ve got really beautiful nice cook all the way through. That reverse sear method is awesome for just making sure that interior is super evenly cooked, almost edge to edge. I’ll slice this guy up here. This is our rib eye cap. This has more fat in it and it often browns even better. You can see the browning on this one is really, really awesome. And so you can kinda see how the texture of the rib eye cap is much more open, it’s much looser where this is a much more finely textured steak.

And in general, I really like the steaks that are open textured like that, like sirloin steak tips, boneless short ribs have that a little bit too versus the finer ones. It’s totally a preference thing. I love doing a little finishing salt. So this is a really big, flaky salt. They’re little pyramids. So this is like a Maldon or a Jacobsen salt that are great for that. So I just do a little on there and go in. That’s really, really good. That open texture of the rib eye cap is just so satisfying. That crunch of the salt is awesome. Go in for, this is the eye muscle, so a little finer textured.

I’m not gonna say no to the rib eye muscle either. They’re both awesome. That’s the reverse sear. It’s a great method to have in your toolbox. (upbeat music) The second steak technique that we’re gonna go through is what I call the slow sear or frequent flipping method and this is really, really different than the reverse sear. It actually breaks a ton of conventional kind of steak or searing wisdom in that you are starting the steak in a cold skillet. So just at room temperature, the skillet is there, you haven’t heated it at all, and the steak goes right in. I’ve got my trusty 10-in carbon steel skillet here and there’s just a tiny slick of oil in this that I essentially wiped out. You could do this with a nonstick pan as well, and for that you really don’t need any fat at all.

We’re gonna rely on the fat in the steak rendering out to provide all of the cooking fat that we need. Keeping the fat content really low in the skillet, so just keeping just a little bit of oil in there means that we’ll have a lot less smoke and splatter, and that’s one of the cool things here. If you don’t have a hood and you don’t wanna kind of make a mess of your stove top this is a really cool technique. So, I salted this ribeye here probably about three hours ahead of time and let it hang out in the fridge uncovered.

You can see the surface gets nice and dry, which is awesome, and that’s gonna help us a lot when we get into the skillet here. You can also season after cooking it. So you can put it in completely unseasoned and then season afterwards and when we slice it we’re gonna hit it with some salt too. But let’s get this guy in the skillet. I’m actually gonna put it directly in this skillet here without any additional heat or oil at this point. So it’s a cold skillet, room temperature basically, which looks really, really crazy. Okay great, so I put this on medium-high heat and we’re gonna cook for about two minutes on the first side and when you flip it you’ll see I maybe have a little bit of browning but it’s not going to be super pretty. What we’re trying to do is just line up the cooking of the interior and the browning of the exterior. So we’ll go two minutes here, we’ll flip, another two minutes, and then we’re gonna bring the heat down to about medium and let that go, again flipping every two minutes.

Okay, so it’s time for our first flip and you can see, like I said, not super pretty right? We’ve got a little bit of browning over here where there’s more fat in that rib eye cap, but a lot of gray area in the middle here too. So we’re gonna do another two minutes on this side and we’re basically just building up layers and layers of browning on this steak as we cook. So, it’s just gonna get better and better looking while that interior comes up to temp. It’s been two minutes, so we’ll do another flip.

(steak sizzles) Then we’ve got some browning and lots of little gray spots there. So I’m actually gonna drop the heat down to medium at this point and we’ll keep cooking, flipping every two minutes until we have a gorgeous brown crust and the interior registers around 115 or 120 and then we’ll take it off and we’ll let it rest. Time for another flip. So another two minutes and then we’ll flip again, and we flip. (steak sizzles and upbeat music) This is the first time it’s starting to look actually like something you’d wanna eat.

There’s still little gray spots there but we’re getting much better overall browning. And we do the flip. (steak sizzles and upbeat music) ooh, that’s starting to look good. And this is like the best visual for seeing how much more fat there is in the rib eye cap. It’s one of the reasons why I love that cut so much. So we’re going a couple more minutes here and then we’ll flip again. More flipping. (steak sears and upbeat music) I’d eat this one, I’d eat that. And another flip. (steak sizzles and upbeat music) That is beautiful. I don’t know if you can see splatter wise, but there’s maybe a tiny bit over here but really, really minimal splatter. This whole thing can take about 12 to 15 minutes so you can just grab your steak from the store, bring it home, go right into your skillet, no preheating the oven or anything like that and it’s not quite as evenly cooked.

It never will be as that reverse sear method but it’s still really nice and we’ll check out the inside too. (steak sizzles and upbeat music) Okay, so this steak is temping out at about 110, 112 at this point. So I’m gonna take it out and let it rest. I’m gonna have this guy maybe a little bit shy of medium rare. So let’s get it out of the skillet. So this guy will rest for about 10 minutes. It will carry over to just shy of probably medium rare and then we’ll slice it up and eat.

There you go, a beautiful, slow-seared, frequently flipped rib eye. All this needs is our trusty coarse salt on top. (upbeat music) All right, now it’s time for some seared scallops. Now, scallops are probably the perfect protein for searing. They’re basically built for it. They have tons of protein, obviously, but they’re also really rich in sugars and as we talked about, the Maillard reaction you need protein and simple sugars combining with high heat to get that awesome, awesome flavor. So, scallops are kind of ready made for it and that’s why you see them seared so often. It’s just an incredible way to cook them and it’s a great technique. It looks fancy and awesome and everyone is always pumped to have seared scallops but it’s actually not a difficult technique to pull off. So I have some absolutely gorgeous dry sea scallops here and by dry I don’t mean that they weren’t in the water at some point.

It’s a reference to the fact that they have not been treated with any chemicals during their processing to help them hold onto water. So there’s one in particular called sodium tripolyphosphate that really keeps them kind of pristine white and helps them hold onto a lot of moisture. The issue there is that you’re obviously paying for water at the price of scallops when you buy them but then the bigger issue is when you get them home and you try to cook them, they’ll release a lot of that water into the pan and it’s really hard to get a good sear on wet scallops.

So, wet scallops and dry scallops and you wanna ask for dry scallops at the store and if you’re buying them frozen they really shouldn’t say anything but scallops on there. Getting rid of any moisture now means that we don’t have to boil it off in the pan which takes all the energy out of the process and doesn’t allow you to get that fast sear, and here we need a really fast sear. These guys are not very big. We wanna get browning on one side and then we’ll flip ’em and finish ’em in kind of a cool way.

So there’s not a lot of prep but I did wanna show you one thing that you wanna remove. There’s this little side muscle on the main muscle here that you wanna pull off. You can see the muscle there, you can see it kinda hangin’ off on the side there. It’s a different texture. Just using my pairing knife, pull it away. It kinda pulls away and maybe at the end just do like a little cut and take that off.

So you got the beautiful scallop and you got that piece. Yeah, you can definitely eat this. If they’re gorgeous fresh scallops like these, you can just pull your camera up and pop it in your mouth. Delicious, so good. So now we’ve got all of our beautiful scallops free of those little muscles on the side there. Take some more paper towel, press it on top, and then I’m gonna let these guys hang out for about 10 minutes and then we’re gonna be ready to sear.

Okay, so I have four of my scallops here that are nice and dry. You can see they’re even a little bit sticky to the touch. I got rid of all that moisture on there, which is great and I’m just gonna season them up. I have some kind of finer salt here that I like to use for seafood sometimes but you could obviously use kosher salt as well. You could also go with black pepper here if you want, white pepper, whatever you wanna do. I’m just gonna go with salt this time. So we just want a little bit of good oil in there and I’m gonna put it over high heat until it just starts to smoke.

We’re gonna get really, really high heat for these guys so we can sear and get a gorgeous brown on one side without overcooking them. So I’ll get that goin’. I’m gonna finish these guys with a technique called butter basting. So, I’ve got a few tablespoons of unsalted butter here that I’ve cubed up. I’ve got a nice big spoon. So usually this is kind of a serving spoon with a nice wide cup to it there and so once I flip them over, I’m gonna add the butter, flip them over, slide them to one side, and then I’ll just baste the butter as it browns over the top of them. It’s an awesome technique for really kind of reinforcing your sear. So as all the protein that came off the scallops starts to brown and all the butter browns because of all the protein that it has in there.

So you got Maillard reaction from that browning butter, as that all happens you’re just basting that over the top and that hot fat continues to brown the scallops and you deposit the brown butter flecks on top of it. But this whole operation is gonna take two minutes on the first side, we’ll flip it, and we’ll baste for another minute or so, so very, very fast once you get going and so you always wanna have your plate ready for where it’s gonna land. Have your whole setup ’cause it’s gonna move like that. We are smokin’ hot in this skillet here so I’m gonna go in with my gorgeous scallops. Oh yeah. (scallops sizzle) So we’re gonna let this go for about a minute and a half to two minutes until they’re just seriously gorgeously browned on the bottom and every now and then you can go in and just give ’em a little pick up, make sure that oil is distributed.

Always a good move when you’re searing. (scallops sizzle) All right, beautiful. So we’re gonna pull this down a little bit here. There we go, gorgeous. Turn the heat down a bunch. We’ll get our butter in. We’ll get our gah-lick in, we are in Boston, and we baste. Ah, it smells so good. That guy needs a little bit more browning so I can concentrate on him. All right, so again, we wanna get it out of the pan so it doesn’t continue cooking. See that beautiful sear. Ah, that is gorgeous. Some of that brown butter on it. They’re still delicious. Love scallops. That crust is crispy, super brown, really intense, delicious. So that’s a ton of awesome searing stuff. Steak and scallops, is there anything else in this world that we even need to sear? The answer is yes, obviously. There’s so much out there. These same principles though will apply really across the board to so many things.

I wanna show you the ultimate sear on the entire planet and it happens outdoors and we’re gonna go do it right now and it’s called smash burgers. Give me this apron. Let’s do this. (upbeat music) We’ve got our 36-inch wide griddle here, been crankin’ over high heat so it’s got tons of heat to give to the meat and then we’re gonna smash some burgers on here, get awesome contact, and get some really incredible browning. So, let’s get started. We’ll start off with our beef. This is a good spot. Boom, right there, boom, right there. (burger sizzles) Give it a quick salt, a quick peppa, and then we smash. (hamburger sizzles) All right, so now we’ve created awesome contact between the griddle and the burger. There’s not much oil on it, just a tiny, tiny bit so that it sticks and you want it to stick so that it doesn’t contract and that keeps that awesome contact with the griddle there. We’re gonna cook this until it’s almost all the way cooked through on top and you’ll see that.

And on one of these, this back one, I’m gonna get a little diced onion on there (hamburger sizzles) and just press that into the meat. All right, I can see tons of browning around there. I can see through it and they’re almost all the way cooked so we’re gonna use a super sharp spatula here and go right underneath. Loosen it all over.

I’ll flip this guy first. Look at that browning. That is a sear. That’s just all flavor. (hamburger sizzles) All right, so as soon as that goes over we hit that with a nice piece of cheese. (hamburger sizzles) Loosen all over and boom, oh my god that looks good. Get that on top there, gorgeous. A second piece of cheese. Then we’re gonna go in with our bun. So this is a nice soft potato bun. Put the top on like that so it’ll start to stick to the cheese. Go with the bottom bun that way and then as that onion is creating all kinds of juices and steam and we’ve got a little smoke, we’re gonna cover it and let all of that come up around and soften that bun so we get something that is just pillowy and soft. The only texture you’re gonna have in there is that crispy browned beef and maybe a little bit of the onion. But otherwise it’s soft and squishy and so good. It’s like dining at a fancy restaurant and they have like the cloche that they pull off except it’s better than that because it’s a smashed burger underneath.

All right, let’s take a look here. Oh yeah, you can see that cheese. The American cheese is just turned into basically another sauce. That looks awesome. So then what I’m gonna do is a little bit of special sauce on top. I like mine with a lot of ketchup. Bring my plate over. All right, so here’s the magic. We go underneath, make sure we scrape real nicely, so get it all up, go underneath, we’ll come over, bun goes on the bottom. Ah, look at those caramelized onions. And that goes on top. And here it is next to my head for scale. You can see all that nice browning in there. Gotta get a bite. It doesn’t get much better than that. I said I like scallops, that’s like one of my favorite bites ever. I was lying. It’s a smash burger. I love searing, love searing, burger. So there you have it. That is my session on Searing with Authority as part of the ATK Boot Camp.

It’s not exhaustive. It’s actually really personalized and now that I’m thinking about it, it’s really just steak, scallops, and burgers but sometimes that’s all you need and all you really wanna eat. But the principles that we talked about apply to so many other foods. So I hope this encourages you to get out there, make a mess out of your kitchen just searing everything in site.

Maybe you’ll buy a griddle. Maybe you’ll smash some burgers tonight, but I know what you’ll definitely do is hit me up with questions in the comments section below and I’m happy to answer anything you got as long as it’s all super positive feedback and mentions of trying to make me president in 2020 and offers of free smash burgers. As long as it’s that stuff, we’re good to go. Awesome, thanks guys. Thanks for joining me at home. I hope you learned a lot and happy cookin’. (upbeat music).

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