Searing Off The Truth

Our Foodie Friday Fun this week revolves around searing meat.  One thing I was told early on in my cooking education was to sear off meat before using it in a dish.  This would have the effect of locking in the juices so that the meat doesn’t get dry during cooking.  I guess this was cooking “knowledge” that had been put forth a hundred or so years before I heard it.  If you’ve ever heard the term “cauterization” you’ll understand the thinking.  Just as a doctor can cauterize a wound, burning the flesh to seal it shut, so too did a cook lock in juices by searing off the meat, creating a barrier that kept the meat moist.  

If you go back in cooking history, you hear this “truism” repeated over and over.  As you can tell from my use of quotation marks, the truism isn’t remotely true.  No, this is not going to be another screed about not trusting all the so-called truths, especially not in a world where everything you knew yesterday might not be true today.  Instead, I’d like us to think about how a food scientist named Harold McGee figured out that the “truth” wasn’t.

I’ll quote from a book called The Food Lab (which, by the way, is quite a wonderful read if you’re a combination of geek and cook):

You’d think that with all that working against him, McGee must have used the world’s most powerful computer, or at the very least a scanning electron microscope, to prove his assertion, right? Nope. His proof was as simple as looking at a piece of meat. He noticed that when you sear a steak on one side, then flip it over and cook it on the second side, juices from the interior of the steak are squeezed out of the top—the very side that was supposedly now impermeable to moisture loss!

In other words, he looked at the facts and came to his own conclusion about things.  He didn’t rely on what others had to say on the matter; he gathered his own information and came to his own conclusions based on what he could observe with his own eyes.  The answer was staring him in the face.

That’s how we all need to be doing things in business (and, with an election looming, in the non-business world too!).  We need to be open to the answers that become obvious as we look into things ourselves.  Who knows – we might lose some intellectual baggage while gaining valuable insight.  Worth a shot?

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Filed under food, Helpful Hints, Thinking Aloud

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