So just how did I get that thick pork chop so juicy? The answer is sear-roasting.
Sear-roasting is a two-step technique. First you sear or brown the meat in a saute pan on the stovetop, not worrying about how done it is in the middle. The objective of this step is to get the surface of the meat or fish nicely browned. This also seals the juices inside. Then you put the whole pan into the oven for a few minutes to finish cooking the interior of the meat.
Frankly this is my favorite technique for thick cuts of meat. For example, last weekend I made prociutto-wrapped pork chops. I found some very nice one-inch-thick boneless chops at the supermarket.
While the recipe called for cooking the prosciutto-wrapped chops in a skillet, it is likely that by the time the interior of the chop was cooked, the surface of it would be far too done and the prosciutto would be inedible. Sear-roasting on the other hand allows you to control the doneness of both the exterior and the interior of the meat.
Sear-roasting does require two pieces of equipment:
- A saute pan with an oven-proof handle
- A remote thermometer
I have a Viking 3.5qt saute pan with steel handles on both sides. This allows me to to easily heft the heavy pan in and out of the oven securely.
My thermometer is the pyrex model shown here. I prefer the remote thermometer because it eliminates repeatedly opening the oven to check the temperature, heating the house as well as losing some heat in the oven.
To sear-roast, preheat the oven to 425F and put your saute pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Check the temperature of the pan by dribbling a few water droplets into it. If they sizzle away in 1-2 seconds the pan is hot enough. Add a couple of tablespoons of a high smoke point oil like tea oil, grapeseed oil, or a mixture of olive oil and butter. Swirl the oil around in the pan and then add the meat or fish.
The important thing now is to let the meat or fish cook for 2-3 minutes without touching it. The meat will stick to the pan at first. After 2-3 minutes use a spatula to gently lift a corner of the meat. It should be nicely browned and release easily from the pan (If you are to impatient you will ruin that nice browned crust). Flip the meat or fish over and cook it for another 1-2 minutes, then move the whole thing to the oven, insert the thermometer probe, and close the door.
Patience. Wait until the thermometer reaches the approriate temperature:
Beef: 130F=medium rare, 140F=medium, 150F=medium well, 160F=well done
When the approriate temperature is reached, remove from the oven and serve.
Of course, the next logical step would be to make a pan sauce from those brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. After removing the meat, put the pan over high heat and add 1/2 cup white wine. The brown bits will release easily (making the pan a cinch to clean later).
A Hint About Prosciutto
While the supermarket usually stocks pre-sliced prosciutto in vacuum-sealed containers, I have found that the slices are too small and too thin to be workable. I go to my local Italian deli where he slices off nice big slices while I wait. Supermarket procsiutto is usually too thin to work with. If you are going to use it to roll up for an appetizer or to wrap another piece of meat, you want the slices to be about 1/16 inch thick. The paper-thin slices are too fragile and will break.