Browning Meat: Common Mistakes

My fiancé is a great cook, but he’s not into the technicalities of browning meat, so he will often just put the meat in a cold pan and cook it until it is done. This causes the meat to "water-out," or lose its juiciness. Have you ever noticed your meat swimming in liquid soon after you start cooking it? Those are the juices you want IN your meat! It’s a common mistake, but easy to avoid. Here’s how:

Don’t: Add cold meat to a hot pan. Adding cold meat to your pan just cools your pan and may cause your
meat to release those juices. Let your meat come to room temperature before cooking for best results.

Don’t: Add meat to a cold pan. Heat your pan until it is HOT before adding your meat.

Don’t: Overcrowd your pan (see photo). If you are cooking more than 1 pound of meat, break it into batches. Make sure you allow the pan to reheat between batches.

Don’t: Walk away! If you have followed the first 4 steps, browning your meat will not take very long. Your goal is to sear the surface of the meat to lock in those juices. Unless the recipe calls for the meat to be cooked through, there is no need to move it around that pan for 10 minutes until you are sure it is well-done. Chances are, your ground meat has another round of cooking in some liquid (like chili) or a casserole dish, which will ensure it gets fully cooked before serving.

Do: Use cast iron cookware. It gets very hot, cooks fairly evenly, and boasts great nonstick properties if you have seasoned your pan properly.

Photo: An overcrowded pan, courtesy crschmidt on Flickr.


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  2. Alfred

    If you have followed the first 4 steps, browning your meat will not take very long. Your goal is to sear the surface of the meat to lock in those juices.

    February 12, 2011 at 3:05 am
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    January 3, 2011 at 11:31 pm
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    I used to put cold meat in the pan now I know that probably the meat will be raw and will taste different.

    August 16, 2010 at 1:19 pm
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    I used to put meat in a col pan but a friend told ma that we can do that because the meat will be raw now I know why before the meat tasted wear.

    August 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm
  6. Barney Mogane

    Can you use a deep fryer to brown meat

    July 14, 2009 at 9:36 am
  7. Loretta

    I actually read on various sites that the purpose of browning was not to “lock in the flavor” but to change the chemical composition of the meat, which only happens at high termperatures (Maillard reaction). I kind of believe this interpretation, since an excellent oxtail recipe I’ve been using calls for browning followed by stewing. Correct me if I’m wrong – but any flavor locked in during the browning phase would just be released during the stewing phase, so it seems to me that the chef wouldn’t have suggested browning unless it had some deeper purpose.

    March 18, 2009 at 12:08 am
  8. Organic Eating Daily

    Thanks for the great meat cooking tips! Just did a post today on how to use a Meat Thermometer, if your readers are interested. Meat Cooking Temperature Chart for lovers of meat!

    March 5, 2009 at 12:39 pm

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