How to Pan Sear

The Martha Stewart Show

Pan-searing uses high heat to seal in juices by forming a delicious crust. The key to pan-searing is making sure the pan is hot enough. To test a pan for readiness, sprinkle a drop of water onto the pan; the water should sizzle or jump around. Remove the pan from the heat, and add a small amount of butter or oil to lightly coat the surface. The butter or oil should be heated through, but should not burn. Add the food to be pan-seared; do not move it until a crust has formed. Use a spatula to turn the food; be sure not to tear the crust. 

What to Pan-Sear

Meats, fish, shellfish, and poultry can be pan-seared.

Selecting a Pan

Use a pan that will retain a high-level of heat. Cast-iron, hard-anodized aluminum, or stainless-steel pans are all good choices.

Tips for Pan Sauces

A typical pan sauce is made using an acid or stock as the base, occasionally aromatic vegetables are added after the meat or fish is seared and often removed from the pan, and a fat agent is added at the finish. Aromatic vegetables include finely chopped onions, shallots, scallions, or green onions. Acids include wine or different vinegars that are used to loosen browned bits at the bottom of a pan; use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Fats, such as cream or butter, are added once the sauce has been removed from the heat and swirled in until emulsified.

Recipes for Pan-Searing

Now that you've learned how to pan-sear, try today's featured recipes: Pan-Seared Steak, Mustard Cream Sauce, Red Wine-Shallot Sauce, and Balsamic Vinegar Sauce.

Then, once you've mastered the art of pan-searing, try some of Martha's other favorite recipes: Seared Chicken with Squash Quesadilla, Seared Scallops with Bacon, and Seared Tuna Steaks with Caper Butter.

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