Searing, caramelising, browning… We have often heard of it and may even do it, but what does it mean? What does it really do?
Whether you're cooking in a pan, on a griddle or on the barbeque, that bit of browning adds flavour and texture (no, you‘re not "sealing in the juices") that we‘re often looking for and if it's missing, we add salt.
Naturally, when we think of browning, many of us first think of meat, but browning is bigger than steaks and roasts.
It includes the nice brown crust on baked bread, the roasting of potatoes and other vegetables (caramelisation) and yes, browning meat (Maillard reaction). In the food science world, it's called non-enzymatic browning because it occurs from heat rather than enzymatic browning like you see when your fruit turns brown or food breaks down as it ages.
Okay, enough food geek talk.
What you really need to know is that there can't be water on the surface for this to happen. This is why you might see a recipe recommend you "pat dry", or let food dry after it's rinsed before starting the cooking process. After that, it's up to the food and science to make it delicious (oh, and catching it before it chars or burns because that‘s not recommended).
I love the added flavour. I admit it; I am a searing, caramelising, browning junky. That extra savoury kick brings almost anything up a notch, in my book; whether it's caramelising some onions or getting a good sear on the chicken I am going to slice up and put over my wife's near famous Caesar salad.
My favourite thing about browning food is it opens up a whole new cupboard of options to my repertoire. Even dessert! Throw thick slices of apples and pears or nectarine and peach halves on the grill and you have just taken your fruit to another level. Whether it's part of a larger dish or on its own, it has become a whole new experience and I can't think of a better way to jazz up fruits and veggies than with a touch of browning.