Browning: How Dark do You Go?

Browning: How Dark do You Go?

Faith Durand
Mar 22, 2007

When browning meat for a roast, stew or braise, there are the timid among us, the cautious and the bold. (Watch for a great quote tomorrow about browning boldly.)

Some like just a quick golden sear, afraid of drying out the meat. Others go to a dark golden caramel color. Some like to brown to a blackened, nearly burnt crust. Which are you? Read on for some tips to get the most flavor out of your meat browning...

First, some general tips:

• Start with a heavy, non-nonstick pan. You can brown in a nonstick pan but they tend to brown unevenly and less effectively.
• Heat the pan up hot before you try to brown anything at all. The meat should sizzle and smoke immediately when you put it into the pan. Test by flicking a few drops of water in first and seeing if they dance and sputter.
• Oil and butter are usually not necessary when browning meat. Sometimes with a very lean meat I will grease the pan lightly with olive oil. But if the pan is heavy and hot the meat should not stick too much.
• Leave plenty of space between the chunks of meat. Or, if you're browning just one large piece, make sure you use a pan that leaves several inches of space between the meat and the edge. If you crowd the meat in it will steam instead of brown, and steamed meat really defeats the purpose here.
• Don't brown too long; you want the surface dark but the inside uncooked.
• Remember that the flavor of your stew or braise is going to come, largely, from the quality of your browned meat. So be bold and let it get dark for some flavor.

How would you characterize your browning? Light, pale, golden, tan, or dark?

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