Skip to main content

Do You Cold-Sear? Learn Our New Favorite Way to Cook Steaks and Chops

By Elizabeth Bomze Published

For a rich crust and evenly juicy interior—without smoke or splatter—forget everything you know about pan-searing.

Searing steaks and chops on the stovetop inevitably causes smoke to billow and grease to splatter. Plus, every approach to pan-searing runs up against the same fundamental challenge: how to ensure that the exterior of the meat develops a deeply browned crust just as the interior comes up to temperature. Pulling it off is tricky because the outside needs lots of heat to brown, while the inside can’t take more than minimal heat before it overcooks.

That’s why the classic approach—blasting each side of the meat with heat in a well-oiled, ripping-hot pan—doesn’t work well. While it’s fast and produces a great crust, a wide band of gray, overcooked meat can form just below the crust. What’s more, the combination of all that high heat and fat is exactly what causes smoke and splatter.

We put every step of the conventional method under a microscope—and came away with a game-changing method that’s fast, mess-free, and produces an evenly rosy interior and deeply browned crust. You can read more about how it applies to steak here and to chops here, but these are the big takeaways.

Cook in Nonstick or Carbon Steel, not Stainless Steel

Slick nonstick or carbon steel surfaces prevent the steaks from sticking without oil and allow more savory browning to stick to the meat, not the pan.

Don’t Add Oil to the Pan

Fat smokes and splatters at high temperatures; minimizing the amount in the skillet is the best way to avoid those problems. (This is especially true of well-marbled strip and rib-eye steaks, which exude plenty of their own fat during cooking.)

Don’t Preheat

Adding steaks and chops to a “cold” (not preheated) pan allows their interiors to heat up gradually and evenly.

Start High; Then Go Low(er)

An initial burst of high heat drives off moisture so that the meat sears; lowering the heat ensures that the interior and exterior finish cooking at the same time and prevents smoking.

Flip Often

Flipping the meat every 2 minutes cooks it from the bottom up and the top down, so its interior warms evenly and its crust builds up gradually.

Cold-Searing on an Electric Stovetop

Electric stoves can be slow to respond to a cook’s commands. This can pose a problem with our cold-searing method, which requires an initial blast of high heat followed by a quick turndown to medium heat. However, there’s a simple work-around: As you cook your steaks or chops on high heat on one burner, preheat a second burner to medium heat. After the initial sear, transfer the pan to the medium-heat burner and continue cooking.

Recipe Pan-Seared Strip Steaks

How do you pan-sear strip or rib eye without making a grease-splattered mess and setting off your smoke alarm? First, forget everything you know about steak cookery.

Recipe Pan-Seared Thick-Cut, Bone-In Pork Chops

With a cold pan and the right cut, you’ll attain juicy, tender chops in minutes—without even dirtying your cooktop.

Equipment Review Best 12-Inch Carbon-Steel Skillets

What if one pan could do everything the best traditional stainless-steel, cast-iron, and nonstick pans can do—and, in some cases, even do it a little better?

Leave a comment and join the conversation!

0 Comments
Read & post comments with a free account
Join the conversation with our community of home cooks, test cooks, and editors.
First Name is Required
Last Name is Required
Email Address is Required
How we use your email?
Password is Required
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.