Browning is essential to add flavour to food and creates a coating that protects the food.
– Food must be dry to brown it. Roll meat in paper towel if it has just been defrosted or if it has been sitting in bloody juices in a package. Moisture in food makes food stick to the pan and it is impossible to get caramelisation.
– Don’t crowd the pan if you want the food to brown. The more meat or fish or vegetables you pack into a pan or saucepan when you are searing it, the more likely it is to create steam and as we know, moisture stops food from browning. Fry in batches, taking each batch out and reserving it on a plate, scraping out the brown bits that attach to the pan and adding it to the plate before you brown the next batch. In between each batch, wipe the pan with a damp piece of paper towel to remove any crusty bits that are still stuck to the pan and which may stop the heat getting to the next batch.
– Don’t use too much fat or too little fat to fry the food – an excess will yield greasy food, too little means the ingredient can’t fry and you won’t get the browning.
– If you are browning food to use in a stew or a braise, it’s worth deglazing the pan after browning – that is add a little stock, wine or water to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up the tasty bits left from the browning process. Add this liquid to the stock or liquid you are using in the dish. It will add flavour and goodness. The exception is where the meat you have been braising is too fatty and then don’t use it or it will make the dish too oily. If you have added too much oil to brown the ingredient by mistake, don’t use it either for the same reason.
– When you are browning food, you can’t leave the pan to its own devices so don’t brown food when the most exciting part of your favourite soap is on television. You need to concentrate or the food will burn and you can’t leave it, even for just a minute.
– The temperature of the pan should not be too hot or too cold. You should hear a sizzle and for maximum flavour you should bring the food to the darkest caramelisation you can get without burning it. It takes practice but if you hear barely a murmer in the pan, then it’s too low and if you hear fire-cracking sizzles it may be too high.