Why It Pays To Sear Meat Before Putting It In A Slow Cooker

Did you have a long, stressful day at work? The last thing you probably want to do is cook, and that's why the slow cooker is so popular: To help make dinners a whole lot easier. All you have to do is add your ingredients into the slow cooker before going to work, set the dial to low or high (depending on the recipe), cover the vessel with a lid, and return home later to tasty dinners like sesame chicken or mac and cheese.

Soups, stews, vegetables, and meats are all popular slow cooker options, especially cuts that are tougher and more economically friendly. HowStuffWorks explains that condensation happens within a slow cooker, which helps to self-baste those meaty muscle fibers. This is particularly useful for options like chuck roast, pork shoulder, and short ribs, which tend to become silky and tender when cooked on low heat, per Food Network.

While it's tempting to throw such raw meat in the slow cooker, it definitely pays to sear it beforehand. Here's why it's worth the extra effort.

Supercharged flavors + moisture

Though it's not a requirement to brown the meat before adding it to a slow cooker (unless the recipe specifies such a step), Cuisine at Home explains that doing so will enhance the meat's color, textures, and flavors. Taste of Home also notes that searing meat will keep those juices inside, which helps to make the meat extra moist and tender. And if you love fat, you can add those fatty liquids from the seared meat into the slow cooker, or, as Slow Cooker Central puts it, you can get rid of the excess liquid, which will help to cut down on the fat content in the finished dish.

But why does searing meat make it look and taste incredible? Thank the Maillard Reaction for that. Science Direct explains that this non-enzymatic browning involves heat, sugars, and proteins all reacting to each other. Lots of complex flavors are created during this reaction, as well as beautiful hues that enhance the aesthetics of baked biscuits, grilled meats, cookies, and more. So no matter what cut of meat you're using, be sure to take a few extra minutes to sear it on both sides for the best-tasting slow cooker meal.