The Sear & Roast

  • By Jess Dang
  • February 8, 2012

Photos below are the sear & roast cooking formula applied to one of my favorite cuts of meat, the good ol’  pork chop:

Sear and Roasted Pork Chop | Cook Smarts by Jess DangSear and Roasted Pork Chop | Cook Smarts by Jess DangSear and Roasted Pork Chop | Cook Smarts by Jess DangSear and Roasted Pork Chop | Cook Smarts by Jess DangSear and Roasted Pork Chop | Cook Smarts by Jess DangSear and Roasted Pork Chop | Cook Smarts by Jess Dang

Read more about the sear & roast

We’ve taught you how to blanch and saute vegetables and also how to stir-fry them with or without proteins. But for our next cooking formula, we’re turning our attention to big hunkin’ chunks of meat for the carnivores out there (there are some of you left out there, right? Living in the Bay Area, it’s sometimes hard to tell) with the sear & roast. However, even if you are a vegetarian, don’t stop reading because this cooking formula can still be applied to a handful of vegetables and of course, my favorite vegetarian protein tofu. This is another go-to cooking formula for weeknight cooking as it’s a quick and flavorful way to get dinner on the table but also adds a dash of restaurant elegance when you create a beautiful and tasty sear.

Like the blanch and saute, this is another two-stepper

  • The sear helps create an extra tasty exterior via caramelization and the Maillard reaction. I’m no Harold McGee, but basically good chemical reactions are happening with amino acids and sugars that are good for our taste buds. This also just makes whatever you’re searing just look that much more appetizing
  • The roast is then used to finish the cooking process. This second part of the process is done in an oven where your chosen ingredient is more evenly exposed to heat, which ensures even cooking. Roasting can be done at both low and high temperatures, but this entry will concentrate just on the latter since it’s more relevant for quick weeknight cooking

What can you sear and roast?

  • For carnivores: pretty much any full cut of meat you find at the super market. Since we’re teaching high temperature roasting, we will concentrate just on smaller (and more common weeknight) cuts of meat (e.g., filets of fish, flank steak, filet mignon, New York Strip, pork chops, pork tenderloin, chicken parts) versus big slabs of meat like a leg of lamb or a Boston butt (which by the way is the shoulder of a pig – confusing, eh?)
  • For vegetarians: the same (or at least similar) effect can be achieved with vegetarian ingredients when they’re sliced to resemble a thin steak (about 1/2 inch thick). Some good options are of course tofu, cauliflower, broccoli, various squashes, Italian eggplant, and even tomatoes (why else would they call them beefsteak tomatoes? I actually have no idea but it seems to work for this justification)


  • If you’re making a meat that doesn’t have to be cooked to a certain temperature (i.e., beef, which can be served rarer), it’s best to let the meat come to room temperature beforehand – this means taking it out of the fridge about an hour or two beforehand. If you forget this step, it’s not the end of the world. You can also put the meat in the oven at the lowest temperature possible for about 20 minutes as well
  • Sear in a pan that is also oven proof (i.e., not non-stick) to reduce the need for an additional pan. I am partial to my cast iron skillet for my sear and roast jobs
  • If you’re preparing a lot, sear in multiple shifts vs. overcrowding the pan, which will end up steaming vs. searing. You can transfer your seared items to a pyrex baking pan or a baking sheet for the roasting part
  • Use an oil that has a high smoke point – vegetable, safflower, peanut, or grapeseed is ideal
  • Don’t be a wuss when it comes to the high-heat needed for the sear. The beautiful browned exterior you see on restaurant meat dishes is created only at those high temperatures (>300 degrees). The high temperature also prevents sticking
  • Once the meat hits the surface, just let it be and don’t move it around. If you do, you’ll again never get that beautiful restaurant exterior
  • To figure out if your piece of meat is “done,” you can use a thermometer but with time, you’ll also be able to tell by “feel.” Press down on the meat, and if it feels firm but still has some bounce then it’s about done (or maybe over done if you like your steaks medium-rare). The more tender it is, the rarer it is; the firmer it is the more well-done it is. SimplyRecipes also has done a great post on how to check for done-ness by feel using the finger test

How to:

  1. Season chosen ingredient with a marinade the day before or with salt and pepper right before cooking. How much? About 1 tsp of salt / 1/4 tsp of pepper per pound of meat, a light sprinkle of both for non-meat options
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees for steak, fish, and vegetables; 375 degrees for pork and chicken
  3. I like to use a fork to tenderize the meat a little bit before cooking – basically this just means stabbing the meat a few times with a fork (not necessary for vegetarian options)
  4. Heat up your pan over high-heat; test to see if your pan is ready by placing your palm about an inch away from the pan’s surface. It should feel quite warm; add enough oil to lightly cover the cooking area evenly. Let the oil warm up. When it starts to ripple, then the pan is ready. Add your protein / vegetable
  5. Since your pan is at such a high temperature, the sear will happen quite quickly. Give it about 1 min for the vegetables, about a minute and a half for meats without skin and about 3 minutes for meats with skin on the first side and then flip over and move the pan into the oven. If you have too much to fit into 1 pan, then sear about the same amount of time on the other side and move into the pan you plan on using for the roast
  6. Roast for:
  • ~10 to ~15 minutes for vegetables (tomatoes only need about 5 to 7)
  • ~15 minutes for tofu
  • ~7 to ~12 minutes for fish, depending on thickness
  • ~8 to ~14 minutes for steak, lower end for for rarer (125 degrees); higher end for more well-done (160 degrees);
  • ~15 to ~25 minutes for chicken (without bone); ~30 to ~40 minutes for chicken (with bone) – again this depends on the thickness of the meat; chicken needs to cook to 165 degrees
  • ~8 to ~15 minutes for pork chops / pork tenderloin, depending on thickness; pork needs to cook to 150 degrees
  1. Remove from oven when done and let rest. For meats, I like to cover with two layers of aluminum foil to let the meat rest for about 10 to 15 minutes before I slice into it (if you’re serving it sliced vs. whole)
  2. Once you get fancier, you can add even more flavor with simple sauces, tapenades, pestos, and aiolis upon serving

Homework: Try searing and roasting two items this week. If you’re doing meat, serve alongside a blanched and sauted vegetable (we did ours with brussel sprouts). If you’re doing a vegetable sear, serve alongside a quick grain, like quinoa, or sauted beans. Now for two dinners, you’ll have checked off your protein and vegetable boxes. Cook & post to our Facebook page!


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