I can't get a good sear.

Maybe someone can tell me what I am doing wrong. I’ve tried to sear sous vide cooked steak and pork several times. I’m making sure to dry off the meat and let it sit for a couple of minutes on top of a thing that lets the juice drip down (so it isn’t sitting in its own juice).

I’m using a cast iron pan and a weber grill. I’ve tried with and without adding butter. I’m guessing the pan isn’t getting hot enough? My gas grill maxes out at 500. I’m heating the pan on the grill for 15 min with the grill hood down. Does anyone know why I’m not getting a good sear?

Thank you for your help. Inor

Hi @inor,

My guess based on your post is that you are not drying the surface of the meat enough. Letting it drip dry for a few minutes will not dry the meat enough to prevent remaining surface juices from turning to steam and preventing a good sear. Try dabbing with paper towels to get it as dry as possible and see if this does the trick!

Good luck!

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There are a couple of threads specifically aimed at searing technique. It takes practice to perfwct but tge process is pretty simple.

Inor, you may not have a 500F surface.

I frequently recommend Community members use an inexpensive contact thermometer to verify your searing surface’s temperature. If you are a big spender an infrared thermometer will be quicker and more precise.

Be sure to thoroughly dry meat surfaces immediately before searing as moisture continues to migrate to the surface after cooking. You should know that most butter contains about 20% water which will produce steam and inhibit browning.

Your attention to detail will yield success.

Do you have any photos of how your sear looks like? What are some of your expectations? I would definitely pat dry as much as you possibly can. And use a high spoke point oil. I’ll link a couple of threads that might be helpful:

Searing For Beginners

Video: The Secret To The Perfect Sear

Thank you everyone for your responses. Before I try again, I will purchase a contact thermometer. I will also dry the meat more and let it sit longer than I have in the past. Question about butter and oil. Is there a reason I can’t sear without either. I’m using a well seasoned cast iron pan on a grill, and the meat doesn’t stick. Which should give the best sear: butter, high smoke point oil, combination or dry pan? Thanks again Inor

Inor, there’s really no need to let the meat sit longer. We are trying to save time for you.

I use clarified butter for its flavour and the resulting seasoned crust. When i am cooking a lot of steaks i make a deep pot of clarified butter and dip the dried steaks just before searing.

I found the contact thermometers deeply discounted at the end of BBQ season clearance sale in my local kitchenwares boutique, Walmart.

We don’t have a walmart near by. I looked on line and only saw non-contact thermometers. I’m thinking before I purchase something online and wait for it to arrive, I’ll try the other recommendations. Can someone recommend how long they think it should take for a cast iron pan to heat up enough on a 2-burner grill. Also I am putting the pan on the grill part, not lifting that and putting it directly on the lava rocks. Thanks again for your help, Inor

I would suggest that the temp of a Weber grill is not sufficient to heat up a cast iron skillet to decent searing temp for 15 mins.

I use a cheap ($20) Lodge 12" cast iron skillet on my kitchen stove gas burner on the highest setting for 15 mins. Remember, cast iron is great for RETAINING heat but NOT so good heating up. You need that puppy SCREAMING hot after a good long pre-heat.

I then add just a little avocado oil (you’re only lubing the skillet surface, not deep fat frying the steak) which will shimmer almost instantly.

Add your dry steak. It should audibly sizzle instantly. I sear a regular 1 1/2 to 2" steak for ONLY 45 secs on side 1, so you don’t cook the interior much more, and then flip to side 2 for the same time. The crust should have a somewhat brownish tint in places. That tells me it’s a good sear.

Good luck on the new cook!

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Thank you for your response. Are you saying that I am better off using my gas stove then the weber grill. I was using the grill because of smoke.

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I am recommending your gas stove over the Weber grill, although a great sear can be attained on a grill with appropriate technique.

The smoke should be minimal because a high smoke point oil will generate little smoke and the quick sear of the steak (45 secs X 2) will not produce that much smoke in your kitchen. Just turn on your oven hood fan.

Good searing!

Frank! My arteries HATE you! :slight_smile: (Now I have to try this! Buttery flavor!!!)
Have you tried infusing the butter with some aromatics? Or is there a reason not to do so of which I’m not aware?

Mirozen, my regrets to your arteries. Let them know there’s conflicting evidence on that matter.

I’ll often sprinkle freshly chopped rosemary and thyme leaves (1:3) on the steaks as they sear when they are just done. That enhances their aroma enough for me. I am also cooking young pastured local cattle with about a month’s age so i don’t want to mask their delicious beefiness.

Tonight I made lamb chops, not steak, and I threw them on my propane grill for <2 min on each side at a relatively high heat. I had the grill preheating for ~10 minutes so it was pretty hot. I didn’t go through any particular effort to dry the meat carefully. The grill was hot enough that I had nice grill marks seared into the chops.

A lot of times it is because people fiddle to much with their food. Dry it off with a paper towel put it down on the hot pan and do not move it for at least 1 minute before flipping it over time it withe a watch a minute can feel like an hour.

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A couple of great methods with one being a little conventional, is to use a searsall (or regular torch as a budget friendly option), or a heat gun paint stripper. You want to get a concentration of zero contact heat, so using a cast iron skillet will render the juices out as it heats up and sit the steak in its juices whilst you sear it, which isn’t ideal. The Searsall has a mesh attachment on a blow torch that spreads the heat out evenly so you get a more controllable sear and reduce scorch marks on the meat. The heat gun is a great option for zero butane taste that you can often get from some torches, but it takes a little longer to achieve the right crust.

For your webber grill, this too is a great method, but the coals have to be white hot and fairly close to achieve the right sear. Too far away it will just try to cook it through like a traditional bbq.

Yes, absolutely. I can’t imagine that cast iron pan getting hot enough on an outdoor grill.

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Sear it straight on the grill.

I pat dry, no need to let it rest, that’s one of the benefits of sous vide. I also use clarified butter for the flavor and higher smoke point. If I’m serious about my sear I’ll use my outdoor infrared grill which I believe gets up to about 650F. I’ll sear each side for about 10 seconds to get a good crust. If I’m cooking indoor then I’ll just a cast iron pan with a very light glaze of clarified butter and target 475 F using a touchless temperature gun. That takes a bit longer and the heat penetrates more than I would like but it gets the job done without having to break out the BBQ.

you might want to look at lodge and check out their carbon steel Skillet. It is thinner than a cast iron skillet therefore it heats up much faster much quicker. Jack Spirko - a good friend of mine who is a great cook started sous-vide about a year ago and has discovered that the carbon steel Skillet it’s much better than cast iron, and he loves his cast iron. But it’s thinner heats up quicker and faster might get you over the hump. If Walmart has it for about 40 bucks