Searing in General

Recently here, there has been a lot of discussion about finishing a piece of meat: searing. As with almost every topic i’ve read, here and elsewhere, there inevitably comes the warning “do not sear in a non-stick pan, you can’t/won’t/etc get a good sear with it.”
Granted, with the popularity of Teflon back a few years, getting a pan hot enough to sear was risky business, with the breakdown of the various chemicals that made the surface nonstick getting into your food. because you couldn’t get these surfaces hot enough without the risk of contamination, it was a poor choice to use to get any kind of sear.
Lately, however, with the more novel coatings (often a ceramic metal alloy), I’m not so sure this holds true.
Everyone touts cast iron, and more recently carbon steel, as the searing medium of choice. They get wickedly hot, hold that temperature, build up flavor with the seasoning, etc.
However, I truly believe that using those 2 materials is really a matter of personal preference. I’ve used a butane torch, a propane torch, a MAPP, a seazall in conjunction with propane and MAPP, cast iron, carbon steel, stainless steel, a non-descript metal pan when I was in the cooking lab (we were never really sure of the materials those pots and pans were made out of: I don’t recommend the mystery metal ones at all :stuck_out_tongue:) teflon (I know, again, don’t recommend them), ceramic, ceramic non-stick coatings, stoneware, and even an aluminum pan once.
Personally, I think butane is too expensive to use and the searzall doesn’t live up to the hype. Sure, you can be a little lackadaisical and not get the “torch taste” but if you’re careful, I find propane and MAPP do the job more efficiently than a searzall, and you get less overcooking. Cast iron and carbon steel do a fine job, but I don’t think it’s any better than a ceramic non stick. Stoneware, ceramic, stainless steel, and aluminum tend to stick and scorch rather than a good sear. Teflon, aluminum, mystery metal cookware: these are pretty crappy cooking materials. A lot of non-stick materials out there, however, do the job of cast iron and carbon steel just fine in my opinion, often for significantly less expense.
I’m not trying ton instigate anything, or provoke anyone. These statements are just based on personal experience of close friends and myself. We all have had our own experiences that lead to our preferred media of cooking, these are just the results of my experiences.
Thanks for reading.


Heh. I don’t know why you wouldn’t have just added that to the “Searing for Beginners” thread, rather than kicking off a new one. :slight_smile:

Agree with everything you said, though agree to disagree on the Searzall. It makes sure none of the gas “flavour” makes its way to the steak…think it’s worth it for that alone.

Having finally worn my Henckel’s stainless/ceramic pan to the point where it’s more sticky than non-stick (about 10+ years…it’s done well for me), I think they’re good for browning in general, but the manufacturers advise against higher temperatures for their use. (at least Henckel does).

The one big advantage that cast iron has over the others is its thickness. You get your pan blistering hot, its recovery time is very short indeed (which is pretty critical if you’re cooking more than one steak). Longevity being the other one…I could see this pan outlasting me. :slight_smile:


I wasn’t sure if it really tied in with the topic of the other thread.
We all are entitled to prefer some tools over others, a our opinions, even if they differ, are every bit as valid.

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Another thing worth mentioning, almost EVERYTHING is personal preference. Cast iron is just a good, easy enough, cheap, “default” starting point. I think that’s more why it gets touted so highly. It’s reliable and easy, whereas you may get turned off if you try to sear non-stick and don’t get a strong enough crust because of lower heat.

I’m biased because I like my cast iron. I’m sure some of those other options are great, though, and wouldn’t say CI is the only option–just a really good starting point to figure out your own preference/taste.


The whole “everything is opinion/personal preference” schtick aside, there are some objective facts that are not simply opinion. For instance, the mass of cast iron skillets give them superior thermal capacity when compared with thinner steel pans, which is desireable for high-heat searing. That doesn’t mean you can’t get good results with stainless/carbon steel…you certainly can. It’s just that cast iron is more capable in that area, especially if you need to sear multiple pieces one right after another.

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I’d agree. There are absolutely physical differences that will affect the outcome and the type and quality of sear you can get. Preference is someone may like the lighter Browning/sear from a nonstick more than from a cast iron. Which isn’t to say you can’t get the same sear from cast iron–but if you only have a nonstick pan that might be all you need.

Me, though? I need a crisper sear than that which is why I love what my cast iron can produce that my nonstick just physically can’t.

The more important point I was trying to make was that the sear is “to taste” and tastes vary, but cast iron is a capable tool to get almost any result if you’re willing to use it properly.

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I’m firmly in the propane camp although I’ve discovered (thanks to the guys at Sous Vide Everything youtube) the Harbor Freight weed killer, or flame thrower as they like to call it. Takes about 30 seconds a side to completely sear the meat. I’ve even adopted this technique for searing roasts that I’m not cooking with sous vide. Saves a lot of smoke in the kitchen. In my case, I can do this year round–I can just push a shovel to the outside grill when it snows and still sear with the flame thrower!

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There’s a “newer” type of (consumer) device that MIGHT just work - a salamander. Check out Twin Eagles “Salamangrill” , Beefer’s XL Chef, or Otto Wilde’s Oven Fired Broiler. There are a few very cheap (and potentially dangerous) imitations as well such as the Namath Rapid Cooker

The Otto Wilde unit was one of the “contestants” in the Sous Vide Everything competition. It did well. But it (and others like it) is expensive and I just don’t have the kitchen real estate to accommodate another appliance!

+1 for the Harbor Freight torch.

Pure searing power. No lie that it sounds like a jet engine. I just wish there was more stuff to burn. Actually looking forward to my front steps icing over this winter. Clearing them is going to be a blast (pun intended).

Thanks. Is there a link or video for the Sous Vide Everything competition? The lift on the Otto Wilde unit seemed a bit chintzy compared to the Beefer and Twin Eagles units, but the Twin Eagles unit only has a single burner…

I hope I didn’t mislead you. The competition was among different searing techniques, not among different salamander ovens. They just had the Otto Wilde unit. Here are two links to the relevant YouTubes. In one they do a side-by-side Otto Wilde vs. SearzAll and in the second they do the final round that compares the Otto Wilde, chimney starter, and flamethrower.

I see a lot of methods here. I would like to offer up another one.

The Chimney of Insanity with the BBQ dragon.

I can’t upload a 2nd picture. I will reply to my own thread with the final product.


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The final product:

Ribeye, rice balls, and a broccoli puree.

It was an image size issue.



no worries, all good, thanks.