Let’s start with a searing primer.
What it is: Browning food (usually meat) over high heat.
What it does: Puts a flavorful crust on the exterior of steaks, chops, chicken breasts, scallops, etc.
What it does not do: Seal in juices, contrary to popular belief. Still, a good hard sear should only improve the flavor and texture of food without drying it out. Searing is a quick process—a minute or two on each side—not meant to cook the food all the way through, which is done at lower heat.
While you can technically sear over live fire on a grill, it’s most often done in a pan on the stovetop. Teflon nonstick pans don’t tend to impart enough intense heat, so they don’t work well for searing. Your best bests for searing pans are, in order of awesomeness:
1. Cast-iron pans—they get white-hot and put incredible brown crusts on meat.
2. Carbon-steel pans—they heat quickly and evenly, and if properly seasoned, are also nonstick.
3. Stainless steel pans—they’ll brown the meat, with some bits sticking to the bottom, so be sure to deglaze the pan with a little stock, wine, or even water after your meat is done so you don’t waste any of the delicious flavor.
- Here’s a helpful video on pan-seared chicken that shows you the technique.
- This seared scallops recipe offers smart tips on searing equipment.
- This recipe sears steak in a cast-iron pan, basting it with butter to keep it moist.
- And in this pork recipe, when meat is thin enough, the sear pretty well cooks it through.
One last bit of advice: Proper searing will definitely kick up some smoke from the pan, so keep your stove’s hood fan on.