What Is Searing? (Complete Guide)

Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: July 26, 2023

In your 'foodie' circles or maybe in a new recipe you want to try out, you may have come across the term 'sear' and wondered what exactly it means to sear meat you want to cook.

We have done considerable research and have expert guidance on what searing means and when one would sear.

Quick Summary

  • Searing is a cooking technique where food is cooked at high temperatures until a brown crust forms, enhancing the flavor.
  • The process is not for locking in moisture but for maximizing flavor through the Maillard Reaction.
  • Searing is suitable for various meats and vegetables, and a cast-iron pan is the best choice for this technique. 


Searing your meat as the first step in the cooking process may seem like a hassle or like an unnecessary step in your food preparation, but who doesn't love a juicy, flavourful, brown-crusted piece of steak?

Experts agree that the top way to achieve the most flavorful cut of meat is to sear it first, so here's all you will need to know.

What Is The Searing Technique?

A seared piece of meat on iron skillet

To sear or pan-sear meat is a technique that browns the food's exterior.

The surface of the food is browned due to the high temperature used in the searing process.

Searing can be used in either baking, braising, roasting, grilling, or sauteing.

Usually, you would sear food as a first step in the preparation process and then continue to complete the cooking in the oven.

However, you can use searing to cook food ultimately all the way through. Food such as tuna, vegetables, and other thin cuts of meat can cook entirely during the process of searing.

What Is The Purpose Of Searing?

Many people assume that searing food is to either lock in the moisture and keep the food item juicy and moist or to seal in the juices.

This is, however, a common misconception. The searing process does the opposite—the intense heat results in a loss of moisture.

The objective for searing food has 100% to maximize the flavor—the brown crust which forms results in a deep, rich flavor for most proteins due to the reaction between the amino acid and reducing the sugar when the high heat is applied. This reaction goes by the Maillard Reaction.

According to our expert chefs, searing is an essential cooking technique for the following reasons:

  1. Browning of the food creates desirable flavors while retaining amino acids
  2. The overall appearance of the food is usually improved with the well-browned crust
  3. The contrast in taste and texture between the crust and the interior makes the food more interesting, even with charred meat

What Food Is Good For Searing?

Although searing is mainly used for various types of meat cuts primarily, one can also sear vegetables.

Here are suggestions of the best kinds of meat and vegetables to try out the searing technique on, as well as a link to some yummy recipes, including both meat and vegetable searing [1].

What Types Of Meat Are Good To Sear?

Chicken meat parts on a single plate

What comes to mind when you think of the word 'sear.'

For our highly qualified chefs, it's that sizzling sound as you place your preferred cut of meat on a hot griddle or grill where the intention is to get the perfect sear!

While one may mostly think of a steak paired with the searing technique, what are the best cuts for maximum flavor through the searing process?

Are there other proteins that are also great for searing? Here are some of the top choices when it comes to searing:

  • T-bone steak
  • Rib-eye
  • Pork tenderloin
  • Chops
  • Chicken pieces
  • Squid
  • Duck breast
  • Seafood fish (Halibut / Sea Bass / Cod)

What Types Of Vegetables Are Good To Sear?

Fresh zucchini, carrot, tomatoes, greens, on black tray plate

Honestly, you can sear or pan-sear just about any vegetable. Pick your favorite, find out what other food items complement it, and find a recipe that includes the delicious pan-searing technique, and you will not be disappointed with you’re your flavourful dish.

Here are some ideas for vegetables used for searing:

  • Carrots
  • Butternut
  • Peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Onion
  • Sweet corn
  • Broccoli
  • 8. Tomato

Food Network star Amanda Freitag also shared her tips for searing food:

"Learning to sear food properly is essential to lock in flavors and make even the most basic ingredients delicious….'

Freitag also says not to move or shake the chicken until it's done cooking to achieve a perfect sear.

She was searing her chicken pieces in the oven by baking for this recipe.

What Type Of Pan do You Need For Searing?

In the case of searing food items, the type of pan you use does make a difference. The professionals concede that the best pan to use is an iron pan.

A cast-iron pan is a type of cookware made out of cast iron, heavy-duty, and used for its tolerance to high temperatures. They are durable, can retain heat well, and are non-stick.

Cast iron pans are best used for searing and cooking meat for numerous reasons:

  1. Excellent heat retention due to the thick base of the pan
  2. It is fairly inexpensive
  3. It is durable and wears well over time
  4. Due to its dark brown color, it shows up the staining less obvious.

Is Searing Food A Healthy Cooking Option?

A seared meat with rosemary

The short answer to this is yes!

Searing meat or other types of food is considered a healthy cooking option. The foods are less likely to cause the cholesterol in fatty meats to become oxidized.

Despite the use of a very high temperature, the cooking time is short; this assists in the maintaining of flavor and promotes the retention of nutrients.

If one is searing meat in a pan, it is considered healthier than the deep-frying cooking method, as a substantially less amount of oil is needed.

Also Read: Best Pellet Grills for Searing

Final Thoughts

The next time to see that searing your protein or vegetable is part of your new recipe, you do not have to worry.

Searing is the technique of cooking food at a high temperature for a short period so that a delicious brown crust forms, which is used for the primary purpose of adding flavor to food.

As with most cooking methods, there are positives and drawbacks to searing. Amber Frazier of the Nutrition Therapy Institute reminds us to keep track of time as searing the food for too long may degrade its nutritional quality.

On the bright side, searing food is generally a quick cooking method and eliminates the risk of pathogens that are usually present on the surface of raw foods.

This technique is worth learning and is not tricky, but it will reward you with a healthy and mouth-watering meal!


  1. https://www.yummly.com/recipes/pan-seared-vegetables
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About the author

Timothy Woods
CEO / Co-Founder
Timothy Woods holds a Kinesiology and Exercise Science degree from Jacksonville University and is CCC & GMU Certified. He's also the main man behind Carnivore Style. This food aficionado combines science and experience to spread the word about the carnivore lifestyle.
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