A Smarter, Better Way to Brown Meat for Stew

published Jan 13, 2017
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

A good braise or stew of beef or pork always starts the same way: by browning the meat. This isn’t just to give the meat a jump-start on cooking (although surely it helps) — it also adds that intense seared flavor that is so important to a delicious stew.

The only problem is the mess. Your cast iron pan is overcrowded with hunks of beef and a flurry of fat is spattering the stovetop as you try to monitor both the beef and the vegetables you’re sautéing at the same time.

But there’s a really easy way to brown your meat without making such a mess on your stovetop: roast it.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

I learned this trick from contributor Sheri Castle, who taught us all to oven-sear the pork shoulder in this slow-cooker pulled pork recipe. By quickly browning meat in a ripping-hot oven, say 450°F to 500°F, we can replicate pan-searing in a shorter time with less mess.

3 Keys to Oven-Seared Meat for Stews

  • Be sure to season the meat and coat it lightly with oil. A dry rub adds browning, but skip it if your stew doesn’t have dry herbs or spices.
  • Use a rimmed baking sheet to capture the fat and flavor that will pop off your oven-seared meat. A roasting pan is too deep and will prevent the meat from browning evenly.
  • Deglaze the baking pan for extra flavor, and be sure to scrape all the tasty bits off that baking sheet and into the stew pot.

Since the meat we’re oven-browning is headed for a moist braise in the stew, you don’t have to worry about overcooking it and drying it out. Just be sure to brown it evenly and get it into the cooking liquid while it’s still warm from the oven.

Still stovetop searing? Try this method: How To Sear Meat Properly

Want even more flavor? Brown your meat through grilling: Tip for Maximum Flavor: Grill Meat Before Braising