For years, I used my handy-dandy Slow Cooker to make Brisket, Beef Stew and any number of other slow-cooked dishes. I’d throw the meat, vegetables, spices and liquid all in together and leave it to cook for 6-8 hours. The results were lackluster, but it sure was an easy way to get a meal on the table.
What I didn’t realize at the time is that my dish was pretty flat on the flavor front because I had skipped the most critical step – SEARING THE MEAT before I put it in the Slow Cooker.
Searing – this process of placing your meat in a very hot pan (with a bit of oil) – will create a brown surface that will add tremendous flavor to your finished dish.
While it’s quite simple to do, here are a few guidelines for Searing:
- Bring meat to room temperature and dry it with paper towels to ensure a good crust
- DO NOT OVERLOAD the pan. You need to give your meat space to brown. In fact, if you overload your pan, the meat will boil in its own juices and end up looking pasty and tasting flavorless.
- DO NOT RUSH. Developing that deep brown caramelization on the surface of your meat takes time. But it’s worth it! How much time depends on the size of your piece of meat. Watch it carefully and flip when you see a dark brown crust. Remember, you’re looking for dark brown – not charred black.
- Don’t waste the drippings that are left on the pan after Searing. Add a liquid – wine, stock, etc… – to the pan while it’s still hot to lift up those flavors. Turn it into a sauce for your steak or simply add the liquid to your Slow Cooker.
Whether you’re using a Slow Cooker or simply preparing a steak, I promise that if you sear your meat, your end-product will be much tastier.
For more on this and other tips, please check out My Top Ten Keys to Cooking