How to Sear a Roast (and 3 Mistakes to Avoid)

If you’re anything like me, you’ve turned on a cooking show and seen a chef sear a chunk of meat and wanted to replicate that golden-brown crust.  You’ve heated up you’re trusty skillet and managed to transform a roast into a stunning hue of brown but your results didn’t look like what they did on television.

There are 3 core mistakes home cooks make when searing meat – and one reason why it’s not your fault!

How to Sear a Roast (and 3 Mistakes to Avoid) searing meat December Beef
Chefs on television are generally cooking in professional kitchens.  Many are cooking on ranges that cost in excess of $20,000 and have at least three advantages over home stoves:

  • Prolonged durability
  • Higher maximum heat
  • Reach maximum heat fast

The last two reasons make it nearly impossible to achieve the same results (using the same method and timing) at home.

But don’t despair!  There are 3 easy things you can do as a home Chef to get a perfect sear on a roast!

1.  Sear a Roast Tip #1 – Be patient

If you’ve ever boiled water on your stove (as you do for pasta), you know that it takes 10 minutes or more for the stove to become truly hot (in the case of electric stoves).  Yet people seem to think they can sear a roast after heating a pan for 2 minutes.

To get a great sear, heat a pan (I prefer cast iron) for 10 minutes or more before proceeding to the next tip.

Patience isn’t just about heating your pan – it also applies to waiting to turn the roast.  I usually wait until I’m getting really worried about the roast burning before flipping it.

2.  Sear a Roast Tip #2 – Use fat – and the right kind

You’ll notice that a lot of Chefs have a weight that they place on top of steaks, hamburgers or other thin meat when searing.  The weight is important for a few reasons including the need to push the steak flat against the pan and increase the amount of surface area being seared (the parts that touch the ban will turn golden and the parts that don’t will struggle to).  Weights don’t work so well with thicker cuts of meat, like a roast.

In order to sear an uneven piece of meat (and all meat qualifies for this), increase the surface area receiving direct heat by adding fat to the pan.  Don’t skimp on the fat – up to 5 ml (a fifth of an inch) will make sure that the entire surface of the meat is in contact with extreme heat.

Because you are cooking at high temperatures do not use olive oil or butter (both will burn and turn to smoke).  My favorite fat for beef is tallow (rendered beef fat) but lard is also great.  You can buy both at a decent butcher shop.

We add the fat after the pan is seriously hot – as soon as it starts to smoke, we drop the roast into the pan.

3.  Sear a Roast Tip #3 – Avoid the center of the pan

This is the primary mistake people make.  They drop the roast directly into the center of the pan.

Even though we sear our meat after letting it rest at room temperature for several hours, the meat is much colder than the pan.  When you place your roast in the pan the roast begins heating – and the pan instantly starts to cool.

Instead of using the center of the pan, place the roast on one side of the pan.  When you flip the roast, flip it to the other side of the pan.  By doing this you’ll always have a ‘hot side’ to your pan so each time you flip the roast you’re placing it on a hot spot – and allowing the other side to gain more heat.

What would you add to this list of tips?


  1. I pat the roast dry with a clean towel before I season and sear.

  2. For a large roast, I sear in the oven. Put the roast into a 450 oven, shut the door, and turn the heat down after 10 minutes. Fat side up, of course.

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