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I want to make beef goulash in my slow cooker (first time). The instructions call for adding the beef as is. Something in my gut (rightly or wrongly) tells me to sear it first. Will it turn out basically the same if I don't sear? I'm a little concerned because of the summer temperatures but would love it if I can just plop in the completely raw beef safely.

Thanks.

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4 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Will it work without searing it first? Yes.

Will it have as much flavor? No.

Searing does two things: Create flavor through the browning process and jump-start cooking. Searing does not "lock in juices". The mere sound of the sizzling that goes on is indication that juices are exuding and sizzling against the hot cooking surface.

Benefit of Searing for a Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker recipe: In the case of preparing meat in a slow cooker or in a pressure cooker, the purpose of first searing the meat is to brown the meat for better flavor.

If you have the time and don't mind having another pan to clean, then sear the meat before adding it to your slow cooker. If time does not permit then it will still work to put the meat in without first searing, the flavor of the finished dish will just be a bit more subtle and not as "meaty".

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Maximum flavor rules. I seared the beef first. Your response came just in time as I was ready to start my goulash. I believe in cooking once, eating three times so most of it will be frozen in individual portions. Maximum flavor is important. Thanks, Darin. –  kiamlaluno Aug 1 '10 at 17:27
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Searing the meat has 3 advantages:

  1. Gives the meat a tasty crust.
  2. Gives you what you need to start a tasty beef gravy from what remains in the frying pan.
  3. Helps the meat hold together better during the long, slow cook.

Disadvantages:

  1. Takes more preparation time.
  2. Gives you more pans to clean.
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Good point about the gravy. The OP should deglaze the searing pan with wine / stock / beer / water / whatever, scrape up all the bits stuck to the pan, and tip that mixture into the slow cooker along with the meat. –  Matt Aug 2 '10 at 4:04
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Searing starts off the Maillard flavour reactions that are really important. However, searing individual cubes of meat can be very messy and time consuming. I've now started getting large slices or chunks of braising steak, searing on both sides, then cutting them into cubes for further cooking

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You don't need to sear it before cooking in your oven, but doing it adds a flavor I don't wanna miss.

Also, you can sear it after you haved cooked it, as there is no difference in searing it before. This is my preferred method, as the crust is a little "fresher" than first searing it before cooking.

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