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Master Class: Pan-Searing


Pan-searing relies on high temperatures to impart delicious caramelization and complex flavors to meats, fish and vegetables. Use our tips to master this fundamental cooking method and liven up your everyday meals.
Get Serious about Pan-Searing
• A hot pan between 400° and 450° is the key to pan-searing. Sprinkle water onto the pan to test if it’s hot enough; if the water evaporates, the pan is ready for searing.
• Use fats or oils with high smoke points like butter, grapeseed oil, olive oil, sesame oil or canola oil. Swirl it around to coat the entire pan and heat over high heat until it’s lightly smoking.
• Bring meats and fish to room temperature 30 minutes before searing.
Dry thoroughly to remove excess moisture; the drier the foods, the crispier the crust!
• Don’t crowd the pan; leave a few inches between pieces to ensure even cooking and prevent meats from poaching instead of searing.
• Let foods cook undisturbed until a crust begins to form. Flipping the food
too often will prevent that perfect sear from forming.
• Basting keeps foods moist and enhances flavors. Add butter and aromatics
like garlic and herbs, then tilt the pan toward yourself, spooning the basting mixture over the food for about one minute.

Best Foods for Pan-Searing
• Steak, Poultry & Pork: Season meats liberally with kosher salt and pepper, and let them rest five to 10 minutes after they’re done cooking to allow the juices to redistribute. Give these tips a try with our seared chicken recipe on this page!
• Fish: You can pan-sear any fish fillet, skin on or off, as long as it’s not too thick. Always cook skin-side down; even if it doesn’t have skin, start by cooking on the side the skin was once on. Some fish can cook through without ever needing to be flipped. If a flip is necessary, cook two-thirds through before flipping.
• Vegetables: This simple stovetop method gives veggies intense, charred flavors. Make sure to leave a few inches between veggies in the pan, and resist flipping until the edges begin to char. Baste vegetables with butter and herbs, or finish with a squeeze of lemon.
• Roasts & Stews: In a roast or stew recipe, searing may seem like an unnecessary step. However, searing meats before baking or slow cooking builds savory, deeply caramelized flavors that make a delicious difference in the finished dish that’s definitely worth the effort!

Choose the Perfect Pan
It’s vital to use the best tools for the job. A pan that will retain a high level of heat is best for pan-searing. Use pans that are durable and hold heat well like cast-iron skillets, carbon steel skillets, nonstick skillets or stainless steel pans. Try a nonstick skillet if using a smaller amount of oil or butter for searing.

Make a Pan Sauce in Minutes
Fond, the browned bits and drippings left on the pan from seared meats, are great for making pan sauces. After searing meats, leave the browned bits on the pan. Add garlic or shallots; cook about one minute. Deglaze the pan with water, wine, stock, lemon juice or cold butter. Scrape the pan’s bottom with a wooden spoon to help release the fond. Let the sauce reduce by half, then drizzle it over entrées for added dimension and flavor.