How to Brown Meat Properly

In this article I was going to share some great cooking tips I’ve picked up over the years, but then I noticed that simply how to brown meat was going to require an entire article.  There are a few food blogs out there that will tell you exactly how to brown your meat, but most won’t. Sounds simple enough, but it really isn’t. It’s more than just waiting for the meat to change color after being exposed to heat. If you’ve tried to replicate beef, pork, chicken, soup or stew recipes in the past, but somehow just haven’t been able to quite capture the same taste you’re hoping for, some of the flavor you’re missing might be found in this essential cooking tip.

  1. How to Brown Meat
  • Items: paper or linen towels, cast iron pan (optional)

This is perhaps the most important tip I’ve learned in my cooking life, and it makes all the difference in the taste of your chicken, beef, stews, soups and just about anything that contains meat. First and foremost, take the meat out of the fridge and bring it down to room temperature. Yes, room temperature. Remember meat is muscle and if it’s cold and you through it in a hot pan, it will contract and get tough. Next, line up 2 or 3 paper or linen towels on the kitchen counter next to the sink. Remove the meat from the package and place it on towels. If dealing with chicken, rinse the pieces first, then place on paper towels. Turn meat over, or pat dry with additional paper towels to make sure meat is totally dry. If the meat is wet, you’ll steam it instead of brown it.

Next, season your meat according to your taste or recipe. Flip meat over and season the other side. Then, heat your pan. It should be heated somewhere between medium and medium-high depending on your cookware. Cast iron is the best for even, high heat and providing a nice crust. Heat the pan and add your choice of oil. Move the pan to evenly coat it with oil. If you wet your fingers and throw a little drop of water in the pan and it doesn’t sizzle immediately, your pan is not hot enough.

When you can feel the heat coming off the pan, put the meat in. Do not crowd the pan. Brown meat in batches. This is key. If you crowd the pan your meat will steam, not brown. Once you have placed all the meat you can in the pan without it touching, let it cook. Don’t be afraid of a little smoke and splatter. Do not move the meat around or flip it over. Fight the urge. Let it stay where it is for at least 2-3 minutes (timing will depend on your recipe), then flip it over. You’ll notice a nice, tasty brown crust on the outside, not just a color change. Do the same on the other side. Take the meat out and put it aside on a plate if you have more to brown. When all meat is finally browned, return it all to the pan and continue with your recipe. Also, don’t forget to dump in all the wonderful drippings that have accumulated on your plate from the meat that was resting.

Do this and I promise you’ll notice a delicious change in the overall flavor of your dish. Browning makes all the difference!


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