100 Techniques

Technique #54: Use the Reverse-Sear Method for Perfect Pan Roasting

For perfect pan-roasted recipes that keep your meat moist, we flip the script on the typical order of operations.

Published Sept. 8, 2023.

This is Technique #54 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

Each technique is broken into three sections: why it works, key steps, and recipes that use it. Learn these recipe building blocks and you'll be set up for a lifetime of cooking success.

Jump to a Section

The enviable goal of pan-roasting meat is to achieve supercrispy texture on the exterior of the food while cooking the interior to a perfect degree of juicy doneness.

The most common approach involves stovetop followed by oven: searing first in a skillet on the stovetop to brown the exterior and then transferring it to a hot oven to finish cooking through.

But for the most spectacular deep-brown crust and uniformly juicy and properly cooked interior, we often do the opposite.

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

The Problem with Searing First

The main issue with searing the meat before transferring it to the oven is that, in order for the surface of meat to brown, it first has to lose the water it contains.

Blasting raw meat on the stovetop with high heat long enough to dry out the surface will also start to overcook the layer below the surface.

In the high, prolonged heat of the oven that follows, the meat ends up turning dry throughout, with a gray band of overcooked meat around the exterior.

Meat with a gray band.
A top round roast with the less-than-desirable gray band that can occur from searing before roasting.

Why You Should Reverse Sear Instead

When it comes to small whole roasts and thick racks, ribs, chops, and steaks, we instead favor the hybrid cooking technique of searing the meat on the stovetop after roasting it in the oven—also known as reverse searing.

This involves first roasting the protein gently in a low oven until nearly done. Doing this gently renders fat and minimizes the temperature difference between the meat’s center and its exterior, so the meat cooks through evenly from edge to edge. This process also dries the exterior of the meat.

Then, since the exterior is already dry, the meat’s surface browns much more quickly once transferred to the stovetop.

With this method, there’s no time for the meat beneath the surface to overcook, and the food can also maintain a better crust since searing is the last step. (Reverse searing is so effective we use it for much more than beef.)

Don't Brown with the Broiler

Here's a pro tip: Don’t be tempted to skip the stovetop sear and instead blast the meat under the broiler.

The radiant heat of the broiler doesn't work as quickly as direct contact with a hot metal pan, so even if you crank up the oven, the surface of the meat won’t develop a crust quickly enough and the interior will overcook.

295 Roasting Recipes

How To Roast Everything

We pull together decades of test kitchen experience and knowledge to help you roast everything from meat and fish to vegetables and fruit.

Step by Step: How to Use the Reverse Sear Oven-Roasting Technique

Now that you know why this technique works, follow these key steps to do it at home.

Step 1: Season Meat

While your oven preheats, season and prepare your meat however your specific recipe dictates.

Step 2: Prep Meat for the Oven

Place the meat on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet.

Step 3: Roast It

Roast the meat in a low oven until desired doneness is reached, flipping halfway through if directed.

Step 4: Sear It

Heat oil in a skillet on the stovetop until just smoking. Add your meat and quickly sear until well browned on all sides.

Step 5: Rest Then Slice

Let your meat rest on a carving board before slicing and serving.

Watch Julia Collin Davison and Lawman Johnson demonstrate this pan-roasted technique with our Classic Beef Tenderloin recipe.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Want to test out your newfound knowledge of roasting first and searing second? Try it with these recipes.


Classic Roast Beef Tenderloin for a Crowd

What’s the best method for cooking this impressive holiday-time cut? We break it down for you.
Get the Recipe

Classic Roast Beef Tenderloin with Shallot-Parsley Butter

The classic approach to roasting this prime cut sacrifices juiciness for crust. Why settle for anything less than perfection?
Get the Recipe

Roasted Rack of Lamb with Roasted Red Pepper Relish

If you have the know-how, rack of lamb can be one of the simplest—and most elegant—holiday dishes you’ll ever make.
Get the Recipe

Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts

Exposing boneless, skinless chicken breasts to a hot pan often yields dry, leathery meat. But what if we did most of the cooking in the oven?
Get the Recipe

Perfect Pan-Seared Pork Tenderloin Steaks

How do you cook this lean cut so that it's superjuicy, rosy from edge to edge, and deeply browned? Use two cooking methods.
Get the Recipe

Ready to learn another technique? Choose from our list of 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

This is a members' feature.