Pan Roasting—the Chef’s Secret Cooking Technique
One of my favorite cooking techniques not talked about in most cookbooks
If I could teach you just one chef’s technique that will help you save time in the kitchen and deliver a thick cut of meat to the table with a perfect sear and juicy medium-rare throughout, it would be pan roasting.
This is, hands down, one of the best and most efficient cooking methods around. Pan roasting takes advantage of conductive heat from the stove plus radiant and convective heat in the oven to cook thicker cuts perfectly and in short order.
Some chefs use this technique as part of their mise en place. They sear the meat during prep time, hold it in a low boy refrigerator and finish the cooking process to order in the oven. Even if the technique is used without any holding time, this cooking method saves time over straight oven roasting and is more practical than pan frying for thicker cuts of meat.
Here’s what you will need:
- one heavy pan that will retain heat and is oven safe (cast iron is really ideal for this)
- lean cut of meat at cool room temperature
- butter or oil or some combination of the two
- kitchen tongs and oven mitts
- salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, F.
Preheat the pan over medium-high to high heat. Make sure the pan is good and hot. The trick is to have it hold its heat as much as possible once you put the meat in. That’s why cast iron is ideal—even though it is not as conductive as some metals, once it heats up, it stays hot for a very long time.
Once the pan is very hot, add enough canola oil (or other neutral oil with a high smoke point) to coat the bottom. Wait a minute or two for the oil to get good and hot, season your meat with salt and pepper, and place it in the pan. Make sure there is a lot of pan real estate around the meat. You don’t want to crowd the meat and risk steaming rather than searing.
How you proceed from here is up to you. I’ve seen people sear one side and then finish the whole thing in the oven. I’ve also seen chefs sear all sides of the meat and then finish in the oven. I say that, since we’re looking for an amazing crust and a moist, juicy interior, go ahead and sear all sides on the stovetop.
Once you are happy with your sear, place the meat in the oven to let it finish cooking. Use an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat and remove it from the oven about five degrees cooler than the target temperature. Cover and let the meat rest. Carryover cooking will finish the process.
I cannot give you a specific temperature for doneness—this depends entirely upon the cut of meat you choose: fish steaks, beef tenderloin, chicken, or pork; check your recipe for doneness temperatures. I did post a simple Meat Doneness Chart to help you with deciding internal temperatures.
From start to finish, pan roasting should take anywhere from ten to twenty minutes, depending upon the thickness of the meat you are cooking. One of the great bonuses of pan roasting is taking the few minutes that the meat is resting to make a quick pan sauce with the drippings (fond) in the pan.
De glaze with the liquid/s of your choice, reduce, check for seasonings and finish the sauce with a pat of butter or maybe a splash of cream. Elegant enough for a dinner party, but attainable on a busy weeknight.
Pan Roasting Video
I found this informative cooking video by Chef Ming Tsai that incorporates almost everything I know about Pan Roasting. Here he shows you how to Pan Roast a Steak but this technique works with chicken and fish too.