How to Sear Beef to Perfection

Searing beef is a key technique that can take your dishes from bland to bold. When beef hits a hot pan, a flavorful browned crust called the “sear” rapidly forms on the surface. This adds deep, rich flavor to anything you cook.

Learning how to sear beef properly will improve the taste of steaks, roasts, stews, braises, and more. While searing requires a bit of skill, the following tips will have you searing like a pro in no time.

Why Bother Searing Beef?

You may be wondering – why put in the effort to sear beef when you’re just going to end up braising it for hours or roasting it anyway?

Here are some excellent reasons to always take the time to sear:

  • Flavor – Searing beef builds incredibly deep, complex flavors through the Maillard reaction. This browning reaction produces nutty, savory, and slightly sweet flavors.

  • Texture – A good sear gives beef an appetizing crust on the exterior. This adds appealing contrasts of texture.

  • Appearance – The browned crust looks absolutely delicious and heightens the visual appeal of any dish.

  • Aroma – As beef sears, it produces appetizing aromas that make everything smell amazing. This aroma permeates the whole dish.

Simply put, searing beef makes everything taste and smell better. It takes a dish from bland and boring to restaurant-quality delicious.

Key Equipment for Searing Beef

Having the right gear makes searing easier and more effective. Here are the key types of cookware to use:

  • Cast iron skillet – Cast iron holds heat evenly and can be ripping hot. It also produces impressive sear marks.

  • Stainless steel skillet – Stainless steel allows you to heat the pan at high temperatures needed for searing.

  • Enameled cast iron/braiser – Large cuts can be seared in these before braising or roasting.

  • Grill pan – The ridges give pronounced sear marks. A flat griddle pan also works.

Avoid non-stick pans for searing. They can’t handle the high heat.

How to Sear Beef Step-By-Step

Follow these steps for perfect seared beef every time:

1. Pat the Beef Dry

  • Blot beef dry with paper towels. This helps achieve a better sear by preventing steaming.

  • Season beef right before searing so spices don’t draw out moisture.

2. Use a Very Hot Pan

  • Heat pan over medium-high to high heat until smoking hot.

  • Use high heat oils like avocado, grapeseed, or canola oil.

  • Just coat the pan with a thin layer of oil using a brush or paper towel.

3. Place Beef in the Hot Pan

  • Gently lay the beef in the pan. Resist moving it for at least 2 minutes.

  • Let it sizzle and resist flipping or prodding during initial sear.

  • Turn beef only once crust forms and releases easily from pan.

4. Sear All Sides

  • Sear larger cuts like roasts on all sides by rolling them.

  • For cubes or strips, sear each side well without stirring too early.

5. Finish Cooking as Desired

  • For quick dishes, remove from heat once seared.

  • For braises and roasts, transfer pan to oven after searing.

  • For stews, deglaze pan after searing and proceed with recipe.

Tips for Getting the Best Sear on Beef

Follow these handy tips for getting picture-perfect sear marks every time:

  • Blot excess moisture – Make sure beef is patted very dry so it sears instead of steams.

  • Use heavier pans – Cast iron or stainless steel hold heat best for searing.

  • Heat pan properly – Allow pan to preheat until smoking hot before adding oil and beef.

  • Don’t overcrowd – Sear in batches if needed so beef gets maximum pan contact.

  • Let sear develop – Resist flipping or moving beef too soon so crust forms.

  • Move to sear sides – Turn beef to evenly brown all sides, not just one side.

  • Make sear marks – Use grill pan or sear on hottest part of pan to get crisscross marks.

  • Deglaze the pan – After searing, deglaze stuck on bits with broth or wine for extra flavor.

Common Searing Mistips to Avoid

It’s easy to mess up searing if you don’t follow best practices. Avoid these common pitfalls:

  • Not heating the pan hot enough before adding oil and beef.

  • Putting too much oil in the pan so beef steams instead of sears.

  • Adding too much beef at once so the pan temperature drops.

  • Pre-salting beef, which draws out moisture that inhibits searing.

  • Moving the beef constantly instead of letting sear develop undisturbed.

  • Under-searing beef on all sides, not just the presentation side.

  • Letting fond burn instead of deglazing for extra flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions About Searing Beef

Should I salt beef before or after searing?

Salt immediately before searing. If you salt too far in advance, the salt will draw out moisture from the beef. This extra moisture prevents the beef from searing properly.

What oil is best for searing beef?

Use a high smoke point oil like avocado, grapeseed or canola oil. Avoid olive oil as it may burn. Clarified butter is also excellent for richness.

How long should I sear beef for?

Sear steaks or cubes for 1-2 minutes per side. For larger roasts, sear for 3-5 minutes per side until well browned. Sear on all sides, not just one.

What are good sides for seared beef?

Try seared beef with roasted potatoes, sautéed veggies, creamy polenta, garlic bread, buttered egg noodles, crispy Brussels sprouts, or fresh green salad.

Can I sear beef in the oven?

Yes, place it on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet in a 500°F oven. Turn to sear all sides. Use the broiler for fast, high heat searing.

Incredible Dishes to Make with Seared Beef

Here are some fantastic ways to use seared beef:

  • Pan seared steaks – Ribeye, strip, filet mignon, etc. Just cook through after searing.

  • Beef stir fry – Quickly sear cubed beef as part of a tasty stir fry.

  • Beef stew – Sear beef chunks, then simmer in flavorful liquid.

  • Beef brisket – Sear before slow roasting or smoking for tender meat.

  • Beef roast – Get a crust on prime rib, tri-tip and other roasts.

  • Beef kebabs – Sear beef cubes on skewers for backyard grilling.

  • Beef fajitas – Sear slices for fajitas with peppers and onions.

  • Beef stroganoff – Use seared beef strips in comforting stroganoff.

Take Your Cooking to the Next Level With Searing

Searing beef only takes a few extra minutes but delivers incredible returns in terms of flavor. Master this simple technique and you’ll never cook beef without getting a good sear first. It makes beef infinitely more delicious and satisfying. A perfect sear on beef is one of the easiest ways to take any dish from 0 to 100!

Chef Dave Tips… How to sear beef


How long does it take to sear beef?

Place the steaks 3 to 5 inches from the flame to sear the outside and seal in the juices. Sear the steaks for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. After the steaks have been seared on both sides, remove from heat, and brush both sides with extra virgin olive oil. This will help form the crust that adds the touch of perfection.

What is the best way to sear?

Aim For A Brown Sear Unless you’re seeing smoke, don’t move the meat! Let it sear undisturbed for a couple of minutes and it should naturally curl and lift off the surface of the pan as the tasty sear forms. Once one side is finished, flip it and repeat for the opposite side and ends.

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