Introduction: Cooking 101: How to Perfectly Pan-Sear Meat With a Pan Sauce

Picture of Cooking 101: How to Perfectly Pan-Sear Meat With a Pan Sauce

Searing meat is super simple and and practical, a core technique every good chef should have in their repertoire. By definition, searing is a technique where meat is cooked at a high heat to form a caramelized crust. Not only is it pretty simple, but it makes for a mouthwateringly delicious piece of meat and creates a ton of flavor! So in this instructable, I'll show you how to sear steaks and chops to their juicy, flavorful fullest, and use their juices to create a simple pan sauce.

This is meant to be more of an application/technique, rather than a recipe to follow. The ingredients can change as you wish, and you don't really need to look at a recipe after you sear meat once.

If you like this instructable, please give it your vote in the Cooking Basics challenge, and remember to comment!

Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients

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There are only a few components necessary to sear meat and make a pan sauce:

Meat (duh)- The meat you choose needs to be an inch or less thick for searing. The best types for searing are:


Strip steak

Filet mignon

Top sirloin

Flank steak

Boneless pork chops

Meat seasonings- Kosher salt and Freshly ground pepper

Aromatics- 1 shallot, 1-2 cloves of garlic, 1 small onion, or 1 leek, all minced

Liquid- choose strong liquid: Wine, Broth, Cider, Orange juice

Butter- 2-3 pats, very cold

Finishers- Herbs (preferably fresh), vinegar, mustard, horseradish, etc. (I'm using a mix of basil, oregano, and thyme)

Step 2: Cut to Desired Pieces

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Trim the fat around the meat until almost none is left. I'm using a mix of sirloin and ribeye. Too much fat will make the meat splatter on the pan, so make sure it's all gone.

Cut the meat based off of how it will be prepared. If used for a stew, for instance, cut into small chunks. I'm not going to cut my meat because I am preparing each piece to be eaten whole.

Step 3: Pat Dry and Season

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Dry the meat by blotting it with paper towels. Only dry meat will caramelize and develop the rich flavors from browning. If wet, the meat won't brown and will steam instead.

Season the meat with a 4:1 salt-to-pepper ratio. Liberally sprinkle each side. It is important to salt before the meat is cooked, because salt will bring out the juices of the steak.

Step 4: Cook the First Side

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Heat a little oil on a stainless steel or cast iron skillet on high heat and wait for the oil to start smoking. This indicates that the pan is hot enough for cooking. Make sure that the pan is Not nonstick. Then, place the meat on the hot skillet, making sure that the meat pieces don't crowd each other. Each piece should be around 1/2 an inch from each other. Cover the meat with a splatter screen and don't touch the meat for 3-5 minutes. Really resist the urge to flip or move it, because if you do, the meat won't get the browned, caramelized sides we want. If at any time you see the pan glaze or fond look dry, burnt, or smell burnt, add a little more oil.

Step 5: Cook the Other Side

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After 3-5 minutes pass, use a spatula to check the meat. If it has a nice, caramelized exterior, it's ready to be flipped. Cook the other side for 3-5 minutes, and again, don't fuss with it. Then, check the meat with an instant-read thermometer until it is done to your preferences:


Rare: 120 degrees F

Medium-rare: 125 degrees F

Medium: 135 degrees F

Medium-well: 140 degrees F

Well: 150 degrees F


150 degrees F

Step 6: Rest Meat

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Once the meat is to your desired temperature, rest on a plate and cover with foil, 5-10 minutes. This allows the meat fibers the soften and tenderize and absorb their own juices. Meanwhile...

Step 7: ...Start Pan Sauce

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The leftover caramelized bits on the pan is called fond. Don't throw it out, because it's filled with a ton of flavor that will be our pan sauce's base. Make sure it is not black or burnt, or it won't work. If the fond is burnt, you may need to make the sauce without it. :(

To start, check to see how much fat there is in the pan. If there is a lot, pour some out. If there is less, add a little more. Add the onion, garlic, or other aromatics to the pan. I'm using a little onion and garlic. Over medium heat, stir to cook it all together, around 2 minutes. Make sure it doesn't burn.

Step 8: Add Liquids and Reduce

Picture of Add Liquids and Reduce

Add the wine or other liquid to deglaze the pan. Scrape off all the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the liquid reduces to about 1/3 of a cup. By now, your kitchen probably smells amazing.

Step 9: Final Touches to the Sauce

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After the sauce is reduced, melt in the butter. The butter will help thicken the sauce. Then, pour in any meat juices that that have pooled on the plate under the seared meat. Finally, remove from heat, and whisk in the herbs and finishers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the seared meat and serve.

Yay! Now you know a super awesome skill that you can use for the rest of your life! Searing meat is super useful and is definitely one of the best techniques you'll ever learn. Enjoy and please comment and give this instructable your vote!

My sources were America's Test Kitchen,, and Chef Bobby Flay.


venusdombrosky212 (author)2017-01-20

ummmm yaaa yummy i like meat

TJS27 (author)2017-01-19

When you add the final spices at the end, throw in some Mushroom slices, they turnout AMAZING!

LivinProof (author)2015-07-29

Hello, nice instruct able. However, Imo it is better to not put oil in the pan, as the excess oil not directly under the meat will burn and add an unpleasant taste. Also will smoke unnecessarily. What I did when I was a pro chef, and also did everyone else, was to put a small amount of oil in a dish, and after you pat dry and season the meat, just toss it in the little oil, and when the pan is very very hot, put the meat in, and just turn it once. Try it and you will see. Anyway nice tutorial!!!!

That would depend on the temperature of the pan and the type of oil used, wouldn't it? If you use an oil with a high smoke point, you should be able to cook over high heat without getting excess smoke. I have never had oil burn in a pan, so I don't know about that part. Maybe I am not using high enough heat.

However, tossing the meat in oil to lightly coat it is an excellent method as well, especially if you don't want to add too much extra fat.

Yes exactly, if you want to sear properly the meat, the pan must be very very hot, much hotter that the max 250 Celsius that the highest smoking point oil will tolerate... If you heat the pan without oil, and then so the method I explained, the meat will develop a nice golden crust like in the restaurants... Greeting from Barcelona!

Ah, I see. Thank you for the explanation. Greetings from Canada. :)

ashervivi88 (author)LivinProof2015-07-30

Oh good advice. I'll be sure to try. :)

aartirai (author)2015-07-28

i am surely gonna try it my husband is gonna love it..thanks alot

ashervivi88 (author)aartirai2015-07-30

Thanks! I've had great results with it and I hope you do too! :)

amberrayh (author)2015-07-28

Your photographs are so beautiful and you have great technique! Are you sure that you are only 13?

ashervivi88 (author)amberrayh2015-07-30

Oh thank you so much! Yes, I am thirteen, but I really try to do my best on my instructables. I'm glad you like them! :)

seamster (author)amberrayh2015-07-28

I wondered the same thing! :)

Omarsibles (author)2015-07-23

Wow... Such detailed instructions... My mouth is watering just reading your instructable... You got my vote!

ashervivi88 (author)Omarsibles2015-07-23

Oh thank you so much! I'm glad you liked it! :)

RosemaryP1 (author)2015-07-23

I can't wait to try this. I've tried searing before, but it seemed like it was hard on one side and raw on the other...even the dogs sniffed it and looked at me before they ate it. It was a canine version of, "You GOT to be kidding?"

ashervivi88 (author)RosemaryP12015-07-23

Haha thanks so much! It's funny how such little details can make such a big difference. I hope you have better luck with my instructable! :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a fourteen-year-old foodie and diy-er who always prefers to make than buy. I love cooking, crafting, and eating.
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