Sear before or after sous viding?

In the Getting Started with Sous Vide Forum
After reading "Toxic Sous Vide scare" I was left wondering if it is better to sear meat before sous vide immersion rather that after in order to kill most surface bacteria. Also it seems like this method might be less likely to overcook the meat. Most of my reading, however, refers only to searing afterwards. Thoughts?

4 Replies So Far

If you want to cook meat sous vide at a very low temperature ( 2 hours) it might be good to sear it first to kill anything but there's still no guarantee all the bacteria are gone. I think Thomas Keller said in Under Pressure that you have to assume all meat is contaminated and treat it safely and correctly. Plus some meat packagers use some mechanical meat piercing to tenderize it, which could push bacteria into the interior, where the sear would reach.

Also, you would need to sear it a second time after it came out of the sous vide bag if you want the normal crust since the sous vide process removes the crispiness from the crust.

In general, I think cooking meat sous vide above 130F is the best way to go if you're doing sous vide for more than 1 or 2 hours.
If you do sear before it is important for food safety to chill in fridge before vacuum sealing. If you don't intend to use something after it has been sous vide then you must chill in ice bath, half ice, half water and then refrigerate or freeze.

You can also take the meat out of the marinade and wrap it in plastic wrap to seal in the marinade. Then the liquid will not be sucked up and
mess up the vacuum seal. Seemed like such an simple fix when you vacuum
seal but I have never seen anybody else recommend this trick.
Good Luck
The only problem I've had with bacterial contamination is with long cook times where the bag has not been fully immersed. For these long times I now 'sear' by dunking in simmering water for up to a minute, which does for the surface bacteria. The discussion on searing has generally been about whether the taste is improved by pre or post searing, which I think is generally coming round to the post sear preference.

Steve, what's the purpose of chilling post searing and pre vac packing, I've not come across in the context of bacterial contamination,though I think it may result in vac packing difficulties.

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