Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

After reading the beer cooler sous vide hack, I'm tempted to try it probably with duck, but maybe with steak.

Should I sear my duck/steak first before I put it in the bag, or afterwards, and why? Or does it not make a difference?

share|improve this question
If your doing duck you may want to consider removing the skin/fat layer and cooking/crisping that separately (between two sheet pans in the oven works great) because that's going to be very rubbery and chewy and will retain so much moisture you run the risk of overcooking your duck breast when trying to achieve a proper sear. SV methods are not universal since there is so much variation between proteins. – Brendan Jan 29 '13 at 20:40
up vote 11 down vote accepted

After a bit of googling, I found this which suggests that searing twice (both before and after) might be preferable.

share|improve this answer
That link is pretty awesome. – Adam Shiemke Sep 2 '10 at 16:57
not to mention too much work. ;o) – yossarian Sep 2 '10 at 16:57
Pull some of that data in here :) – hobodave Sep 2 '10 at 16:58
That link has gone now, does anyone know if there is another copy? – vwiggins Jan 7 '13 at 14:38

I have seen it done both ways. I prefer mine seared after it has cooked to preserve the crispness of the sear. If you sear first then sous-vide the crispness will be gone from the crust. This is really apparent with steaks.

share|improve this answer
I think the lack of crispness on the duck skin would detract a lot. That is always one of the appealing parts of the duck: the nice brown, crisp skin with the fat layer underneath. – Adam Shiemke Sep 2 '10 at 16:58
yeah I think for duck the skin would have to be crisped up after cooking, unless it was cooked with the skin off, and the skin/fat was crisped up separately. – Sam Holder Sep 2 '10 at 17:14

I prefer to sear it after. You get a decent additional taste from the Maillard reaction regardless of whether you do it before or after. However, even though your steak isn't directly in contact with the water, it will shed juices during the cooking process. If you sear first, then the meat sits in it's own juices. This means that the sear isn't crunchy when you're ready to eat. I personally like the texture difference enough to sear only after I've cooked it sous vide.

Searing after will also help your presentation. Meat doesn't always look particularly appetizing when it comes out of the sous vide. Throwing a sear on makes it look much better.

share|improve this answer

I sear before and after.

I blow torch the meat before putting it into the bags. The flame is very hot (around 1.500C) and only affects the surface, it does not cook the meat. This kills any bacteria you might have on the surface of your cut before bagging it.

I do my steaks (filet or entrecote) at 50-52C, which is still in the danger zone. 55C and enough time kills most germs, though I tend to find that just a little too medium for my taste. I take the bags out just before serving, pat dry and sear quickly over high heat in a cast iron skillet. Usually 30s per side flipping every 15 seconds in order not to cook the meat much further.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.