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I'm trying to perfect my seared and roasted pork loin chops, and I'm hitting a bit of an obstacle. Part of my recipe involves a very light dusting of smoked paprika after being seared, prior to going into the oven. That seems easy enough, but it turns out to be quite difficult to sprinkle a very light, and even dusting of it on the chops. I'm holding the paprika back because it gets a tad bitter on a very hot skillet, needed for searing.

Because paprika (smoked or otherwise) is so finely ground, trying to release an even amount from pinched fingers far above the chops results in too much (or a blot) landing on the chops randomly. This is quite difficult to fix post-sear, as the chop is on its way to the oven; paprika has a very distinct and immediate color.

I have tried very fine mesh strainers, cheese cloth tapped with a spoon, and I still can't manage to get a very light and even coating of it.

Normally, I'd just combine it well into whatever seasoning I was applying for the sear, which distributes it pretty evenly, but how can I manage the spice on its own in a manner that doesn't create random tiny dots where there's much more of it? What ends up happening is it concentrates in flavor on random bites, and fixing that means ruining presentation to an extent.

I thought of holding back some salt that I'd normally season the chops with before searing, and mix the paprika with that, but I end up with a selectively permeable sear where the salt just collects and alters the taste negatively.

What else can I try?

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    If your paprika is clumping, it may be damp. Too much moisture will cause clumping, and if you pinch the moist powder between your fingers, you'll make it clumpier. – barbecue Jul 26 '15 at 0:07
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I use a 3 inch Tea Infuser Ball and hold it at a good distance above my cookies when dusting powdered sugar so that it will spread out even further. It will most likely work for paprika as well.

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    I'm not immediately certain why that didn't occur to me to try. Those are the sort of 'tight mesh' I wanted in a strainer but couldn't find. – Tim Post Jul 24 '15 at 18:00
  • Thank's Tim. It's something that many people have on hand. I have three though. One for flour, one for powdered sugar and one in the drawer. – PeggySue2u2 Jul 26 '15 at 13:46
  • I'm accepting this because it's a very good solution using something that most people probably have laying around somewhere. Also noting, you can 'stack' tea balls for finer disbursement when dealing with stuff that's even more finely ground than flour. Just hold them, and tap with a spoon, and it rains even paprika! Tested today, thank you. – Tim Post Jul 26 '15 at 14:41
  • +1, like a Michelin star chef! Thomas Keller in explaining the importance of using salt properly said one should sprinkle it high above so as to evenly distributed it. – papin Aug 22 '15 at 12:25
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There's a gadget for that – a mini sifter, or "chef's duster" as it's apparently called by some.

chef's duster

They're meant for powdered sugar, but since these are smaller than, say, a flour sifter, you should be able to use it for small amounts of any powder you'd like, included powdered paprika.

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    A pretty tool, but it seems overcomplicated; a small sieve would do just as well, and without moving parts. – Beta Jul 26 '15 at 14:45
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    True, @Beta...but this one might still have benefits to some people (being able to use it one-handed is a nice perk, for example). – Laura Jul 27 '15 at 18:04
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Your initial theory is good, your technique just needs to be tweaked. The further away your "dusting" hand, the more evenly your food will be dusted.

So hold a pinch of paprika far from the chops, perhaps even over your head, do the little sprinkling motion with your fingers as you toss the paprika kind of into the air but in the direction of your chops. With powdery things that clump, like paprika or cinnamon, the tossing motion almost feels like snapping fingers.

Once you get good at it, you won't waste much paprika (or salt, or pepper, or cinnamon... whatever), but you will achieve an even dusting on the food.

Here is Chef Gordon Ramsay demonstrating exactly what I am talking about. The video is cued up to 25:10, as he says, "season from a distance."

[sorry, video removed by YouTube, see comment]

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    Best answer here. You don't need fancy gadgets, just use an optimal distance for your choice of dispenser, whether it's your fingers or a spice shaker. – user25798 Jul 25 '15 at 19:05
  • At 25:10. Very nice example. Maybe hold it over the sink as to not have it on the floor since luckily; we aren't in as much of a hurry :) Couldn't help but watch the video all the way through. – PeggySue2u2 Jul 26 '15 at 13:41
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    When holding paprika above your head, don't look up ;-) – Tim Jul 26 '15 at 18:24
  • Dangit, the video has been taken down for some reason. I'll try to find another when I can. In the meantime, I invite anyone else to do it and edit my answer accordingly. My example is from MasterChef, Season 6 episode 9, Gordon's Greatest Hits. – Jolenealaska Jul 29 '15 at 1:10
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Have you tried a flour duster? I find it an extremely useful, multi-purpose tool for creating an even dusting (light or heavy) of… whatever.

It's multi-purpose and reusable, and it's small enough that you can just dip it into the container of whatever you want to creating a dusting of. You wave or tap the edge of it over what you want to dust, then just drop the remainder back into the original container.

I find it much simpler and much more variable/flexible than the various screen "sifter" tools that tend to get somewhat messy everywhere you don't want it. Squeezing the handles opens it just enough to pick up the [paprika] you need, and then it says closed by default until you apply it to the surface you want to dust.

Very handy.

Flour duster

7

I've not tried this, but I suspect you'll get better results by lightly coating some flat surface (such as a cutting board) with paprika and dipping the chops in after searing. That way you can control the amount of the spice that will transfer to the chop. On the downside, you'll need at least as much surface area as you have chop to cover. Let me know if that works.

Another possibility that I tested on a poached egg is to put a pile of paprika in one palm and carefully brush it off the edge of your hand with a finger on your other hand. I was able to get a fairly light coating in this way:

Poached egg with paprika

One advantage of this method (if it works as well on your meat as it did on my egg) is that you can more easily fill in areas that are too lightly covered (such as the front edge of the egg in this photo).

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Here's what I do: pick up a little paprika on the back of a teaspoon (i.e. so the teaspoon is upside down with the paprika resting on what would normally be the underside of the spoon). Hold the teaspoon a couple of feet above the chop using your left hand (assuming you are right handed). Now gently and repeatedly tap the shaft of the teaspoon with another teaspoon held in your right hand. A little paprika falls on each tap.

This works fine for sprinkling any dry fine powder (e.g. icing sugar, chilli etc.). As an alternative to putting on an upside down teaspoon, you can also try putting it on the (flat) handle of a teaspoon.

3

Not exactly what you asked, but pork is often glazed.

You could make a glaze with honey and smoked paprika and apply it after the searing.

See for example this recipe for glazed ribs for some ideas on how to do it, or take inspiration from char siu if you feel more "oriental".

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