How to Sear Meat in 7 Easy Steps

To add color and flavor to a nice piece of meat, follow these steps on how to sear meat to enhance both. Searing, or cooking meat at a high and dry temperature, forces a chemical reaction (the Maillard reaction). The moisture on the meat surface evaporates quickly and the meat caramelizes to take on a roasted flavor and nicely browned color.

Contrary to popular belief that the process of searing meat seals in the juices, there is actually moisture loss in order to create the browning. A juicy piece of meat depends on nice marbling, cooking to the proper internal temperature and being allowed to rest before slicing.

How to Sear Meat

7 Easy Steps to Properly Sear Meat

  1. Allow the meat to come to room temperature.
    Take your meat, whether it be steak or roast, out of the refrigerator and allow it to sit on the counter for 30 minutes. This will bring the meat to room temperature.

  2. Remove all excess moisture.
    Pat the meat dry with a paper towel. If you don’t you’ll be simmering a sauce instead of searing a meat.

  3. Pre-heat the pan.
    Get the skillet hot. This will take about 5 minutes (you can test if it’s hot by putting a drop of water in the pan and you should immediately hear a sizzle). A cast iron pan works best, but stainless steel can also be used. Do NOT use non-stick pans for searing!

  4. Season the meat.
    It’s important to do this step just before searing. If the meat is seasoned too soon the salt will begin to draw juices from the meat.

  5. Add a little oil (of neutral flavor) to the pan once hot.
    Allow the oil a minute or two to get hot.

  6. Cook until the meat releases from the pan.
    Be patient and just let it sit and sizzle. Once a side of the meat is seared, it will release from the pan. If you try to turn it too soon, you will feel resistance from the meat and thus should not turn it over yet.

  7. Sear both sides of a steak and all sides of a roast.
    Thinner steaks will be cooked once seared, but thicker ones and roasts must be finished in the oven. Cast iron pans can be simply moved into the oven to finish cooking.

Note: Always allow meat to rest before serving.

How to Sear Meat

Additional Information

To explore various cuts of beef, see this handy beef cuts diagram.

If the protein of choice is tofu, see our post on tastier tofu for instructions on getting the most flavor by searing tofu.

See our other posts for help with grocery shopping, menu planning and making your produce last longer.

To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

SEARCH Eat By Date