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Sous Vide Pre-sear vs Post-sear – Ask Jason

I get a lot of great questions from my readers. In order to help out everyone else I'm answering some of the most popular ones here on the blog. Have something you need help with? You can ask me on Facebook, contact me directly, or view all of the Ask Jason questions!

What is your opinion on pre-sear versus post-sear?

- Michael Goldman

Note:The following article is an edited transcript from the video.

There is a lot of talk about whether you should sear your meat before sous viding it. There are two main reasons to do it.

Pre-Sear Before Sous Vide to Sterilize the Meat

The first one is to kill anything on the outside of the meat before you sous vide it. Generally, lactobacillus can grow at the same temperatures you sous vide at. This is also why some people say before sous vide dunk the meat in boiling water for 5 or 10 seconds, just enough to kill everything that's on the outside.

Have you ever cooked a chuck roast for 36 hours and the bag starts to balloon out part way through the long cook time? When you open it the smell is horrible; that's probably what it was.

Sous vide chuck steak seared raw

Temperatures in sous vide kill all the dangerous stuff but lactobacillus can live through a lot of the range of degrees we use, and it does smell really bad. I believe it's the same bacteria that makes funky cheeses smell funky. So it's not dangerous at all, but it does not smell appealing.

I found that this is heavily dependent on the environment that you're cooking in. I've never run into it myself, but some people struggle with it quite often. If you encounter this issue, then either pre-sear it or dunk it in boiling water before cooking it. Sous vide searing steak front

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Pre-Sear Before Sous Vide to Add Flavor

The other reason to pre-sear is to add flavor and basically help out your post-sear. So for most things I would never recommend only pre-searing. So if you are going to pre-sear you still want to sear at the end. Pre-searing reduces the amount of time it takes to post-sear. I don't understand the chemistry behind this, but the pre-sear provides a lot of the searing changes that need to happen, so the post sear occurs more quickly.

Sous vide chicken searing torch 1

I personally never pre-sear, it's partially because I'm generally pretty lazy as a cook. My parents always joke around that I like to go for 80% of the way to perfect based off giving 20% effort. But some people want the 90%, 95%, 99% perfect and they're willing to spend the extra time on a meal. That's where the pre-sear can really come in, when you're trying for that little extra or little extra flavor.

So I don't pre-sear, but some people do. If you're trying to really maximize your flavor in your post-sear, then it's definitely something you can look at.

Sous vide searing grill chicken sausage 2716

For more information you can read my comprehensive article on How to Sear Sous Vided Food.

If you like this you can get more than 85 inspiring recipes to get you on your way to sous vide success. It's all in my best selling book Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Sous Vide - Get Your Copy Today!

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Jason logsdon headshot This article is by me, Jason Logsdon. I'm an adventurous home cook and professional blogger who loves to try new things, especially when it comes to cooking. I've explored everything from sous vide and whipping siphons to pressure cookers and blow torches; created foams, gels and spheres; made barrel aged cocktails and brewed beer. I have also written 10 cookbooks on modernist cooking and sous vide and I run the AmazingFoodMadeEasy.com website.