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Sauteed beef: why so much liquid emanating from it?? Couldn't get it to brown...

I was trying to brown some strips of beef that I cut up last night for a dish I was making..however, despite the fact that the heat was on high, the beef just kept giving off all this liquid and hence would not brown. Why so much liquid? Was it the way I cut the beef? or the quality of it? The heat was on the highest setting but I might as well boiled the water in hot water because I got no color on it. Any ideas???

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  1. Did you dry the meat carefully? That's usually the problem. Also, was the fat hot - almost smoking - when you added the meat?

    1. My guess is that you were crowding the pan. When you want to put some color on chunks or bits of meat, the secret is in not crowding. When you have so much meat in the pan that the pieces touch each other and basically cover the bottom of the pan, they sweat, hence the liquid. For all of my recipes that call for pan seared beef (such as Stroganoff), I brown the meat in several portions. Good luck next time! And it's an easy mistake if you haven't done much browning.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Caroline1

        Good point about the crowding - I've finally realized what a difference it makes, and also have learned just to be very patient when browning.

        1. re: MMRuth

          I think we all have to learn that patience lesson, don't we? Sometimes I want to scream because it's taking SO long. I've had to do three and four batches of meat at times. But, ah, the results are SO worth it.

      2. Perhaps browning too much meat at once? Try dividing it into smaller batches.

        1. Consider also the source of the meat. Many providers "brine" or add liquid to the meat. That way it may be juicier, but also heavier. They are frequently selling flavored water at the cost of meat.

          1. Crowding the pan would be my first thought. Of course, drying the meat be blotting with a paper towel will help a great deal also. Having the heat on "high" isn't enough all by itself. The pan must be preheated to a very hot temperature and any oil must also be heated sufficiently before introducing the meat to the pan.

            1. I totally "overcrowded"!!!! Why does that make the meat sweat? Is it because the temperature of the pan decreases because of all the meat? I was making stroganoff and it really didn't turn out the way I would have liked.

              3 Replies
              1. re: cups123

                It makes the meat steam actually, not sweat, because it needs room around it for the heat & hot oil to envelope the meat. Super important to do it in batches. Or, next time, use a bigger, heavier pan. But you will still have to brown in batches. All meat will give off some liquid while browning, it's the nature of the muscle to have some water molecules in it. But by crowding it all in one batch, the liquid that it's giving off is now poaching or steaming your meat, and it won't brown b/c the liquid is boiling away any chance for caramelization.

                1. re: cups123

                  When meat is heated, the proteins contract and squeeze out liquid. If the pan is hot, and the meat isn't crowded, this liquid evaporates right away. The meat in contact with the pan gets hotter than boiling and browns. But if crowded, the meat juices accumulate (squeezed out faster than they evaporate), and lower the temperature of pan surface, and the meat, to the boiling point of water. Hence the stewing.

                  1. re: paulj

                    What a great explanation - thank you.

                2. All of the above: crowding, not drying, not enough preheating (or a pan too thin to retain heat well), and.or cooking the meat straight from the fridge. It is far better to let it sit at room temp for a while (30 min or more depending on thickness) to take the chill off. Water is commonly added to pork and poultry, but not beef.

                  1. I'll pre-salt the met and let it pull some of the water out, but it's mostly a not enough heat/grease issue