The culinary world is full of axioms, rules, wives tales, even urban legends. Heck, if you can get it published on paper or get it on the internet and it's about food, people will believe that it is gospel. But is it? Culinary Myths are everywhere, and being professionals, we tend to scrutinize every one, and decide which works best and which is just bull.
One of the more popular myths I have heard often is searing the meat to seal in the juices. If that were true, then the cooked meat should just weigh as much as the raw product. So I decided to put it to the test:
We have two almost identical beef tenderloin cut into filet mignon. Each weighing 250 grams. Meat A will go straight to the oven, and Meat B will benefit from a fast sear on a very hot cast iron skillet. We coat each meat with a very light layer of olive oil, just so the heat will distribute evenly. Both meats will end up in a 375F degree oven for finishing, ending with an internal temperature of 140F.
Meat A goes into the oven. Meat B goes in after searing. But here is the twist. Meat B reached internal temperature first. We take it out of the oven and place it on the board to rest. Meat A reaches 140F five minutes later. We now weigh each meat.
Meat A ended up with a weight of 258 grams. A loss of about 14%. Since it never seared, the myth, if it is plausible, has not sealed in the juices. Meat B, with it's seared surface, weighed in 243 grams, a loss of 19%. Incredible.
So, why is that? Searing should have sealed in more of the juices. Looking at the microscopic level, it is determined that heat damages cells, moisture is released readily. So searing does not seal in the juices. But the natural sugars in the meat caramelize around the point of contact with the skillet, adding flavor to the filet mignon. Yum!
If you have any other myths that need to be explored, let me know.