How to Get the Perfect Sear Marks on Meat
We love those beautifully perfect sear marks on our grilled foods, right? Nothing makes food look better than those criss-cross grill marks. It isn’t for nothing that TV commercials feature them whenever we see freshly grilled meats, vegetables, and fish.
Not only do sear marks look appetizing, but they serve an important purpose: they lock in flavor. Why? Because they help seal in the juices from your meat and help release the food from the grill.
The best part is that getting great sear marks isn’t that hard to do. We’ll show you here how to get perfect sear marks on meat in a few easy steps for grilled dishes that are picture-perfect.
Choose the best equipment
Whether you are grilling indoors or outdoors, many models of grills will enable you to get those sear marks with ease. Many have cast-iron or porcelain grates.
The best kind of grates are made of cast iron because cast iron retains heat for longer. With other materials, your frying pan or grill temperature can drop quickly once you add the meat, which means less effective sear marks.
Not so with cast iron. Cast iron holds high temperatures for longer, even once you add the meat.
Indoor cast-iron grills (such as ones like this https://unocasa.com/products/cast-iron-griddle) will hold a high heat and are easy to use.
When using cast iron, be sure to season your grill first. Once your equipment is seasoned, it can last a lifetime with proper care.
Here’s how to season your cast-iron grill:
- Wash it and dry it thoroughly, heating it on the stove or in the oven for a few minutes so that there’s no more moisture left.
- Rub it all over – inside and out – with cooking oil.
- Buff it carefully so that there are no more traces of oily surfaces.
- Repeat these steps 3 or 4 times, and you’re done!
The fat that you’ll use when you grill your meats will ensure that the seasoning stays effective.
Oil your meat or grill before use
Coat your grates with cooking oil, such as corn or canola oil.
Marinating your meat can do the same job as long as your marinade is mostly oil. Just be sure not to marinate your meat for more than 2 hours as it will toughen due to most marinades’ acidic content (lemon juice or vinegar).
Otherwise, simply coat your meat with oil before putting it onto the grill,
Make sure not to put on too much oil, however, because otherwise, you’ll create a lot of smoke.
Preheat your grill
You’ll want to make sure your grill is nice and hot before adding your meat, so preheat it for at least 15 minutes.
Give your meat a good first searing
Place your meat on the hot grill and let it sear. Don’t press down on the meat because some of the juices will run out – you want to save those juices for you!
You’ll know when your meat is ready to be rotated as the meat will come away from the grill naturally. If your steak sticks to the grill, it isn’t ready yet.
Note: If you want to check without turning the meat, peek underneath a corner with a spatula or fork.
Rotate your meat
Turn your meat one-quarter turn (45 degrees), using the meat center as a reference point. Let your meat sear for a few minutes to get that lovely criss-cross mark – this won’t take as long as the first step since your meat will mostly be done on that side already.
Flip your meat
Now flip your meat to finish on the other side. Don’t let it cook for too long – you’ll probably want to rotate it on that side as well. Remember to peek underneath with a fork or tongs before rotating it.
Typically your steak will only need about 2-3 minutes per side to cook, depending on how well done you like your meat.
A note on grilling chicken
Grilling chicken breasts can be tricky since they are not uniform in thickness. Measuring the internal temperature is one way of being able to tell if your meat is done. Your cooked chicken needs to have an internal temperature of 160 degrees for white meat and 165 degrees for dark meat.
Instead of a thermometer, you can do a small cut into the chicken breast’s thickest part to see if it’s cooked. The meat should be opaque in the center rather than pink.
Happy grilling, and enjoy your beautiful criss-cross results!