Searing, then roasting meat and braising meat are two distinct cooking methods that use different types of heat -- dry and moist. Each technique affects the tenderness, color and aroma of meat in different ways; the type of meat determines which one you should use. Tender cuts of meat and poultry do best when seared, then roasted; tough cuts of meat do best when braised.
You should always sear meat before you roast it. Searing uses dry heat to create a golden-brown caramelized crust on the outside of meats. Since searing doesn't occur in the presence of moisture, it doesn't occur during braising. But searing only cooks the surface; that's why you have to combine it with roasting, which cooks meat throughout. You can sear on the stove or in the oven, depending on the size of the meat.
Roasting, like searing, is all about dry heat. Oven-roasting uses ambient heat, or heated air in the oven, to raise the temperature of meat. Roasting and searing go together because it's a natural progression from one form of dry heat to another. Although braising also uses the hot air in the oven to raise the temperature of meat, it does so by way of a braising liquid, which is why the aroma and color of roasted meat differs so much from that of braised meat.
3. Small Cuts
Sear small cuts of meat, such as beef fillets and chicken breasts, on the stove before roasting them. First saute the meat in a cast-iron skillet or saute pan in a few tablespoons of fat over medium-high heat. Sear the meat until golden-brown on all sides. If you're using a cast-iron skillet, place the skillet directly in a 325-degree-Fahrenheit oven. If you're using a saute pan, transfer the meat to a shallow dish, then place it in the oven. Roast the meat for 20 to 30 minutes per pound, or until it reaches the desired doneness.
4. Large Cuts
You have to sear large, bulky and irregular cuts of meat, such as tenderloins and chickens, in the oven. Heat the oven to 500 F and place the meat or poultry on a wire rack set inside a roasting pan. The wire rack lifts the meat so it cooks evenly on the bottom, which is especially important when roasting large cuts. Place the meat in the oven and sear it for 15 minutes, or until golden-brown all over. Lower the heat to 325 F and roast the meat for 20 to 30 minutes per pound, or until it reaches the desired doneness.
Braising makes tough cuts of meat palatable. Whereas searing, then roasting works best with tender cuts of meat like tenderloin roasts, tough meats rife with connective tissue, such as rump roast, do best braised. Braising surrounds meat in moist heat, which cooks it slowly while melting the connective tissue and making it tender. Braise meat by first placing it in a deep baking dish and covering it halfway with stock. Then cover the dish with aluminum foil and cook it in a 200-degree F oven until fork-tender.
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