Cooking Tip Thursdays: The Perfect Sear

Cooking Tip Thursdays is dedicated to making time in the kitchen quicker, easier, and just plain better…

Have you ever been to a restaurant that served pan-steamed tuna or scallops?  No?  That’s probably because it sounds about as appetizing as hospital food.  Pan-seared on the other hand sounds like a little slice of culinary heaven.  Crisp and caramelized on the outside, still tender on the inside, no matter your protein, you can’t go wrong with this cooking technique.  While perfectly searing a scallop or piece of tuna may sound daunting, half the battle is using the right sauté pan and having a roll of paper towels on hand.

For the Perfect Sear:

  1. Make sure your sauté pan has a sturdy handle, a flat bottom, and low sides.
  2. The pan should be large enough to contain the protein with plenty of space around each piece to avoid any chance of sogginess.
  3. Choose cast iron or stainless steel.  While cast iron is naturally nonstick, stainless is extremely accurate.  I typically choose cast iron for heavier proteins such as tuna, chicken or even potatoes.  I always use stainless steel for delicate proteins such as sea scallops or thin-skinned fishes.
  4. Always coat the pan with an oil that has a high smoke point.  Canola is my go-to, but safflower and sunflower work just as well.  Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  You’re not frying anything.
  5. Get the pan hot.  I mean really hot.  The oil will have a slight shimmer to it and if you flick a pinch of water into the pan, you will hear a dramatic sizzle.  You want that sound when the protein goes in.
  6. Use tongs.  Hands down the best tool for turning and flipping.
  7. Dry your protein first.  This is the step that usually leads to aforementioned pan-steamed hospital food.  Your protein must go into the pan dry to develop that succulent pan-seared crust.  Pat meat or fish gently with a paper towel to remove moisture, and season with a sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  8. Don’t touch, poke, turn or shake the pan.  As long as the pan starts hot, the protein shouldn’t stick; it will release easily once a crust has formed on the bottom.
  9. Once you have a crisp crust, gently turn over and continue to cook other side.

Try some sea scallops this weekend.  Stick to these tips (I cook for approx. 3 minutes per side) and you will not be disappointed.



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