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After I pull the meat out of the sous vide and then use a blow torch to sear it, should I use a fat on it or not? Will that get a better crust on it?

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I have not noticed any real difference from using a fat, so I skip it. What does make a difference is thorough drying the meat.

I haven't ever had great results from a torch though. I prefer a screaming hot pan or grill, although both are way more effort.

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Set pan on stove, turn stove on...its that much more work? – rfusca Feb 19 '12 at 22:15
Yes. If it's hot enough to sear off quickly, then the oil splatters everywhere. The issue is the clean up, not the cooking. – yossarian Feb 20 '12 at 13:40
Ah, that makes a bit of sense, gotcha. – rfusca Feb 20 '12 at 14:25
I use a blow torch and get great results but I have a commercial/industrial blow torch, not a little kitchen model. This is the torch I use which hits 3,450F :… – Adisak Jun 29 '12 at 19:35
One way to make this a lot easier is to throw it in the freezer for like 10 minutes before you sear (or even better deep fry) since the freezer will freeze the outermost later of the meat, dry it out, and protect the inner meat from overcooking from the searing process. – Brendan Jan 29 '13 at 16:39

At least one commercial chain (Panera Bread) uses fat when searing meat that is prepared sous vide.

Here is a video example. After cooking sous vide, they dry the meat and use a very hot cast iron pan with generous amounts of butter.

Sous vide followed by searing in butter

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I haven't noticed any real difference with or without oil or fat to be honest. When searing in a pan, the oil would simply aid heat transfer from the pan to the meat by eliminating insulting air pockets.

However, I have experimented a little with brushing a weak glucose syrup onto steak before torching, and believe (without scientific measurements) that this results in a nicer crust with a lower propensity to blacken due to the flame. This is based on something I read in McGee's On Food and Cooking, which implied that the browning Maillard reaction would be accelerated by the addition of glucose. Apparently glucose is more reactive than sucrose found in normal sugar.

I've also discovered that drying the surface of meats with a paper towel just before blow-torching results in nicer and more rapid browning. I'd speculate this allows the surface temperature to rise more quickly as there is less liquid to boil off first.

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