When people go crazy over my food, I don’t think they know.
Their palates are refined, but if they understood how easy it was for them to get the same results, they might be surprised.
My favorite trick in the kitchen makes magic. It’s the most direct way to get the best flavor from chicken, fish, steak, and even vegetables.
Because it’s deceptively simple, it’s not actually easy to master. It takes some focus and attention to detail.
But it’s the one way that will get you dinner ready in less than 30 minutes. No fake promises. When Rachael Ray says it’s a 30 minute meal, it’s not really true. But when you learn this technique, you’ll be able to think about dinner differently.
Why? Because all you have to ask yourself is what do I feel like for dinner: chicken, beef, fish, scallops, shrimp, or tofu? If you can make that decision, you’re set. You’re set because you’ll be free from needing a bunch more ingredients to make that recipe. It’s cheaper to eat this way, and it’s satisfying because you’re coaxing the best natural flavor from your ingredient.
The technique is called SEARING. It is the single most useful thing I learned in cooking school. And you can learn it, too.
Here’s how it works. In this example, I’ll be using a piece of tilapia. You can use a cast iron, saute/frying pan or a non-stick skillet. But don’t one with tall sides, because it creates steam that will ruin it.
Take the fish out of the fridge 20 minutes before cooking. It should be at room temp. Dry the fish with a paper towel. It should be thoroughly dry because water creates steam that interrupts the delicious caramelization process.
Use a pinch of salt on both sides of the fish. With fish, you can use a pinch of cayenne to give it an extra boost of flavor, and it takes 2 seconds.
HEAT UP THE PAN on medium high-heat FOR AT LEAST 2 minutes. This is CRITICAL to your success. You don’t want the temperature to be on high or medium. YOU WANT THE HEAT TO BE IN THE MIDDLE. 2 MINUTES. Don’t neglect this. Go do something else while your pan is heating. If it starts to smoke, it’s too hot. Take it off the heat for a second. When you place your hand over the pan, it should feel hot. This is honestly the most difficult of the process.
Add about 1 tablespoon of olive, avocado, or coconut oil to the hot pan. Ghee is also a great choice, and probably the best option. If you want the piece of fish to get extra caramelized, which equals extra flavor, add a tablespoon of butter to the pan. Just make sure there’s enough oil for the fish not to stick. Wait 30 seconds.
Now it’s time to add your fish. If you have a small pan, add one piece at a time. If you have a bigger pan, you can probably fit two. The idea is NOT to crowd the pan.
Let it cook. Watch it. When you can see the bottom is brown, it’s time to flip. This should take about 3 minutes. Let it cook for another 2 minutes or so. Tilapia cooks fast, so your piece of fish will be ready in under 5 minutes.
Lately I have been serving this with half a head of shredded cabbage. I apply the same technique. I heat the pan for 2 minutes, add the oil, wait 20-30 seconds, and place the cabbage. I don’t touch it for 45-60 seconds. Then I toss it with a wooden spoon and let it cook for 3-4 minutes on medium high heat. When it’s done, I set it on my plate aside prepare the fish in the same pan, which is already hot.
Guess what? It tastes fancy. You’d never know I used only a few ingredients. It’s ALL in the technique. And it takes actually takes less than 30 minutes, for real.
I want to know about your experiences with searing – did you know about this technique? Do you use it in your cooking? Are there times when it doesn’t work out for you, and you don’t know why? I would LOVE to hear your comments in the comment box below.