Is there a trick to just browning the outside of the meat without cooking it through? What are the ways of doing it? Low heat or high heat?
High heat, as hot as possible. Use a high smoke point oil other than butter because it has too low smoking point therefore it should not be used for frying meat. Use a stainless steel pan or cast iron. Set your pan really hot so you need a type of oil that can withstand such high temperatures. Cubes should be 1.5-2 inches in all dimensions. Turn on the heat on full when you take the meat out of the fridge, before you chop it up, and have and windows open or extractor fan on full because it's going to get smoky.
Make sure the pieces of meat you are frying are dry before putting them in the pan. You can also try dusting the meat with a bit of flour before frying, which helps absorb excess moisture. Drain if necessary, but if you left enough space between the pieces of meat there shouldn’t be much to drain. Only 50% of the surface area of the pan should be covered with meat, 40% is even better. Sear in multiple batches if you've not enough surface area.
Put the meat in the pan, scattering it evenly across the whole surface and make sure you leave it undisturbed for several minutes, let it get nice and crusty before you flip each piece over, sear each side. As pieces are done, remove them from the pan. When they are all done, deglaze the pan, reserve the juices, and repeat the process until all the product is done. Temperature is one thing, but also keep your mitts off them. Don't touch it too much, or if you can't resist go for the same couple of pieces. Meat won't brown without enough contact time with the pan.
Do not overcook the meat when browning it. High heat for a short period of time just to get the mallard effect. Cubing meat is good to do this quickly, but you run the risk of having too high meat, surface area ratio and overcooking and or steaming the meat. You can also do a whole piece of stew meat and sear all the sides in a very hot pan, and then cut it into cubes afterwards. This way at least half the meat is browned and avoid steaming the meat. It's also cheaper and better quality than the premade stew meat.
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