How Hot Is Too Hot? Adam Savage and The Food Lab Sear Steaks to Find Out

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Welcome to Sear Station. [Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Whether you cook steaks using the traditional sear-then-finish method, or with more modern approaches like sous-vide or the reverse sear, searing—cooking the meat over high heat to brown and crunchify* the exterior—is an essential part of that process for both texture and flavor.

*real word, I swear

I was always of the mind that when it comes to searing, the hotter and faster the better. After all, too much time spent over high heat is what gives steak that dreaded Gray Band of Dryness beneath its surface. But after watching this video, in which a group from Syracuse University cook** burn the crap out of a steak by cooking it over a bed of molten metal, I had to wonder: How hot is too hot for searing?

**and criminally underseason

In what ranks up there as one of the top 10 coolest days of my life, I got to tackle this very question by teaming up with personal hero, science educator, exploder-of-things, and all-around nice guy Adam Savage. We got together in my backyard here in San Mateo and produced a new video for his site, Tested.com, searing sous-vide steaks using four different methods that produce a varying range of heat flux (including a homemade aluminum forge provided by the tested.com folks). What we found was surprising, not to mention fun.

Check it out!