Trouble with searing

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by koukouvagia, Jan 3, 2011.

  1. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    So I'm making a chicken stew (stifado) and I lightly dusted my chicken pieces with flour and then seared them in my creuset to develop a fond.  The problem I have here and many times when I sear things in any pot really is that I always get a hot spot that burns.  And I mean it burns black.  I can't figure out what's happening, I have a lovely gas stove that seemingly gives even heat I think and I'm using a creuset.  Why do I get a black spot?  I had to take out the chicken, scrape off the black, and then let the pot cool down so that I could clean the pot.  Why is this happening and how can i prevent it?
     
  2. french fries

    french fries

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    Could it be too much flour sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning? Do you carefully dust off the chicken pieces so no flour comes away any longer? I ask because I used to have the same problem, albeit with stainless steel pots, until I realized that I left too much of a flour coating around the pieces of meat. Hope that helps?
     
  3. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    Check your heat.....seems your cooking at too high a temp.
     
  4. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I don't think so, Bubba. You can't have too high a heat for searing.

    KK, the problem might be that you're putting a pot that's significantly wider than the burner. In order to work properly, you have to preheat the Dutch oven slowly, so that the heat evens out. Otherwise you have a much hotter spot right over the flame.

    Some people actually use their ovens to preheat any cast iron, thus assuring even temperature.

    In addition, FrenchFries might have a point. Most people I'm familiar with leave far too much flour on the item that's being seared. You might try this: After shaking off the loose flour, drop the piece in a sieve and gently toss it around. If there's a significant amount of flour sifting through, you know that's part of your problem.

    First time I tried that I was amazed how much additional flour fell off. Now I use a long handled strainer anytime I'm flour-coating, to help assure there's only a light dusting rather than a heavy coat.

    Another possibility is that the pieces were too wet when you dusted them. This creates a paste, rather than the dry flour coating you're striving for. Items destined for searing should be as dry as you can possibly make them. Even those that don't get floured, because if the surface is wet you'll wind up steaming the food instead of searing it.
     
  5. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    I don't think it was the flour.  I left the chicken to dry between 2 thick layers of paper towels and then when I dusted them I shook them off as best I could and then put them on a rack to soak up the flour.  Although it was the flour that burned I did everything I could to make sure there wasn't any extrenious flour on the chicken.  I'll have to try the sieve trick next time.

    The creuset was placed on my biggest burner.  I've been trying to observe all the cookware I place on this burner.  It seems like some of the oil pools to the top right portion of the pot while all the burning happens on the bottom left side.  Turning the head down is not an option.  First of all I'm tryint to sear.  Secondly, the chicken in the top right section seared nicely while the chicken on the bottom left burned to black.  The flame seems to be even but it might just be tilting.  The strange thing is it only happens on that burner because the grate is continuous over the whole stove top.  Its very strange but I can't have this happening every time I need to sear something with flour on it.
     
  6. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    I always go like this, easy and no burning spots; sear the pieces of meat on a very high temperature in a frying pan, just a few at a time, then add them to the Le Creuset pot in which is already gently sweating an onion and/or garlic on low heat. You may have to add a little extra butter to the pan between batches to prevent the grease in the pan to burn. After all meat is seared, add the stewing liquid (wine, beer, stock..) to the frying pan and gently scrape all caramelized bits from the bottom. After the liquid is warmed through, add it to the pot. Pouring warm liquid over the stew is essential but mostly forgotten..!!!

    Dusting meat before it's seared isn't very helpfull. It prevents the meat from nicely browning, also an essential part of a nice stew; it colors the sauce! When you want to have a nice thicker sauce, you can add some flour to the pot where the just seared meat is added to, before you add the liquid which is warming in the pan. The meat is still on low fire but now in the Creuset. Let the flour get some grease from the pot by stirring the meat around. Only then you can add the warm liquid.

    I always make stews like this, ...any stew. This is not my gospel, I learned it from more experienced people and I'm still very happy with this knowledge.

    BTW Koukou, I thought stifado was rabbit stewed in a terracotta pot? One of my favorite greek dishes.

    Edit;

    The flouring after the searing may raise a few eyebrows, that I'm sure. Flouring meat and fish before or after searing, has 2 different purposes.

    - You dust meat/fish with flour before searing when it's quite delicate. You need to keep it together and prevent from sticking to the pan/pot and falling apart.

    - Secondly there's the flouring after the searing, like in stews. Here the meat needs to be thoroughly browned first or the sauce will not color and the stew will taste very bland. Here the flouring serves to thicken the sauce.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2011
  7. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    You're right, I think I'll skip on the flouring next time and just add flour to the sweating onions instead at a later step.  I still would have had uneven cooking in the pot but I might have prevented the black charcoal.

    Stifado can be made with different kinds of meat, chicken, beef, pork, rabbit, anything you like.  What is really being referred to by the name stifado is the spiceful tomato onion gravy the meat stews in.  Stifado is just an onion sauce basically.
     
  8. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Technically you are not searing if you've floured the meat.  You're just browning it.  It's two different techniques.  As you've found out you probably can't sear with flour using high heat.
     
  9. french fries

    french fries

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    kuan, what's the difference between searing and browning? I always thought they were one and the same. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/confused.gif
     
  10. gobblygook

    gobblygook

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    It sounds like the issue is lubrication from the stove being uneven.  The oil is supposed to transfer the heat from the skillet (or dutch oven, or whatever a cruset is) and it sounds like you're missing that intermediary.  I suspect you're also getting considerably more stickage from the side burning as well.  Perhaps "lubrication" is the wrong word, but it's the best I can come up with while channeling Alton Brown.  Yes, I know I should have called it a cooking vessel if I'm channeling Alton, but I didn't want to get slapped :)
     
  11. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    I kind of thought they were the same thing too.  I was trying to get good color on the meat and to also create a fond.  Which I didn't achieve, I created a lot of blackened char instead which took a while to get rid of. 
     
     
  12. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    The difference is that with searing you are utilizing the Malliard effect to actually brown & caramelize the meat surface. Browning, otoh, cooks the coating (in this case, the flour), rather than the meat itself.

    Many popular cookbook authors and TV stars do tend to use them interchangeably, which merely adds to the confusion.
     
  13. dc sunshine

    dc sunshine

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    I'd be tempted to do the browning first with no flour.  For whatever reason, your pan doesn't like it.  So, brown the meat in your oil/butter, remove, do the onions and then add the flour and stock etc for the gravy, add meat back in, cook until done.  The only time I add flour first is with a stew, i.e. beef, pork, lamb.  Out comes the meat, in goes the onion & mire poix etc to soften, add flour then stock as mentioned above.

    Hope this helps somewhat.  It's prettty much a repetition of many posts above.
     
  14. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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       I still have to think your dutch oven is capable of browning and searing meat.  A cast iron pot, of any kind, takes a long time to heat up completely.  I would wonder how your results would be if you heated it up lower, slower and longer. 

      Johnny Cash -

       I went down, down, down, and the flames went higher

        and it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire

                the ring of fire.

       dan 
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2011
  15. chefedb

    chefedb

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    I agree with D.C Sunshine . This is the way Julia Child cooked. Since buildup is in 1 spot more stirring could be answer or is the entire pot surface on the burner.? Is flame even and blue ,could be many factors.

    Searing carmelizes the outer meat surface.,where when dredged in flour you can't do this.
     
  16. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    ...Since buildup is in 1 spot more stirring could be answer  ...

    I don't agree, chef. Searing and stirring don't go together. Meat only gets a nice crust without touching and stirring it all the time.

    Furthermore, a castiron Le Creuset that's enamelled on the inside too, isn't fit for very high heat at all, it will damage the enamel and get dark. The high heat is the problem which means that searing the meat in a frying pan first, simply prevents damage and from my experience makes making stews a lot easier.

    A Creuset is for braising, not for searing.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2011
  17. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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         Cast iron does well at searing and browning.  But you can't turn the flame to high and start cooking in a three minutes of warm up time.  You need a medium flame and enough time to let the entire pan come up to temperature.  Once the cast iron (enameled or not) is entirely heated you can put your cold food in the pan with very little drop in pan temperature...giving you the beginning of a great sear.

       I think one problem with cast iron is that it takes so long to completely heat up.  Because of this, people think the pan needs more heat and they turn the flame up too high.  A flame that's too high on a cast iron pan will cause the food to burn in certain areas of the pot/pan.  Because the pan takes so long to heat up it actually needs more time and perhaps a medium to medium/low flame, not a larger flame.

       dan
     
     
  18. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    All good points about the temperature.  I admit I had it on very high heat as that is how I thought searing was done.  Could explain why my creuset has dark stains on the bottom that won't come off. 
     
  19. chefguy

    chefguy

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    I think it would be fine if you sear on med low heat, and let the flour dry out before searing. That is the flour which turns to be the black spot.
     
  20. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    If I'm not mistaken, searing commences once the temperature exceeds 325°F (160°C), unless you're looking for "black & blue" (seared outside, raw inside, not rare, RAW), I do not believe you need intense heat to achieve the desired sear or caramelization.