- Searing, browning and caramelizing are terms that describe the reaction when proteins and sugars come into contact with dry heat (grilling, pan-frying, roasting).
- The proteins and sugars undergo a chemical change that produces rich, intense flavors, as well as color. To intensify the flavor of braised dishes such as stews and pot roasts, brown the meat before adding any liquid.
- For roasts (rib roasts, pork loin roasts, whole chickens, turkeys), start in a hotter oven – about 475°F – for the first 10-20 minutes of cooking.
- For smaller cuts (steaks, pork tenderloin, chicken pieces), brown the meat in an oven-safe skillet, then transfer to the oven to finish cooking, as described below.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Pat meat very dry with paper towels. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat an oven-safe skillet to medium-high, lightly oil bottom of pan. Add meat to pan. When nicely browned, turn over. If the meat sticks to the pan, wait. It will release when it is nicely browned. Don't overcrowd the pan – work in batches if necessary. Brown for 1 minute, then move pan to oven. Bake for 5-10 minutes, or until desired doneness (temperature will continue to rise 5-10 degrees out of the oven). Cover loosely with foil and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
It is a myth that searing 'seals in the juices." As meat cooks, the proteins constrict, causing juices to rise to the surface. After cooking, the proteins relax and juice travels back to the center of the meat. Therefore, always rest meat before carving; 5-10 minutes for smaller cuts, 15-25 minutes for large roasts.