As long as I can remember when people have fried steak, they have flipped it after the first say 20 seconds to sear it and "seal in the juices", then cooked the other side, then flipped it back to the first side again to finish it off.

However, recently I heard someone claim that the concept of sealing in the juices doesn't work at all and is pointless - so does it really work or not?

My experience is that the technique has been applied to beef steak in particular, but maybe other meats too.

  • It is called searing. It does not work. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Searing
    – picakhu
    Apr 19, 2012 at 13:21
  • 3
    Discussed in depth on Cooking (though not to Skeptics standards): cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/2218/… Apr 19, 2012 at 13:30
  • I searched the Cooking SE site, but not with the term searing, so obviously missed it. The Wikipedia article looks great, @picakhu; it was simpler to answer than what I thought it was going to be! Apr 19, 2012 at 20:13
  • Also addressed at Cooking.SE in this answer, but also clearly not to the standards of this site.
    – Flimzy
    Apr 20, 2012 at 21:33

1 Answer 1


No, searing doesn’t seal in the juices. Probably the only rigorous analysis of this has been done by Kenji López-Alt for Serious Eats.

If searing does in fact "lock in juices," then we would expect that the steak which was first seared then roasted should retain more juices that the steak that was first roasted then seared. Unfortunately for old wives' tales, the exact opposite is the case.

Roasting meat graph

Wired Magazine offers the explanation – albeit without giving any references – that the perceived juiciness in seared meat comes from our saliva since it looks juicier to us and we salivate more in anticipation. Well … I take that with a grain of salt. And maybe some pepper.

Either way, the actual reason for searing is to create flavour through the Maillard reaction, as well as aesthetics.

  • The flip once cooking approach is also best to heat the meat through. Searing can't physically seal the pores in meat, especially as the meat expands with added heat. Apr 20, 2012 at 6:17
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    @TimScanlon There are no pores in meat, this is a pretty common misconception.
    – Baarn
    Nov 10, 2012 at 10:37
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    @Informaficker I was just using the term pore to indicate that the meat has holes and dents in it, i.e. it is not a solid, flat and dense substance. So yes, no pores, but that wasn't strictly my meaning. Nov 13, 2012 at 8:21
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    It would probably be a good idea to cite the actual reasons why steaks are seared, as discussed on Seasoned Advice and Wikipedia. Otherwise people may get the impression that searing is entirely pointless. Mar 13, 2019 at 17:18

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