How to Get the Perfect Pan Sear after Sous Vide

Searing is a critical part of almost every sous vide cook. Many people new to sous vide don't know how to get a perfect pan sear on their food.

I want to talk about how to get a great pan sear on your sous vided food. There's a lot of different ways to sear, but in this article, I'm going to focus on pan searing.

Sous vide pan searing 4

Tips for Achieving a Perfect Pan Sear Post Sous Vide

The pan sear can be done in a cast iron pan, stainless steel pan, a flat top, a skillet, a cast iron skillet, or whatever type of flat pan you're putting on either your stove or a grill.

After Sous Viding the Food, Dry it Off Before You Sear

This follows very closely the traditional sous vide searing process. That is, dry it off really well to maximize the sous vide sear.

Especially for pan searing, drying it off is even more critical than some other methods because it transfers heat very quickly. A lot of the moisture can get trapped underneath the food, making it even harder to get a good sear on it if it's moist.

So, use a paper towel or a designated dish cloth to get all the moisture off the outside of the food first.

  • Drying after sous vide 5
  • Drying after sous vide 3

Want to Get More From Sous Vide?

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Chill Your Sous Vided Food Before Searing

Because searing in a pan can raise the temperature very quickly, one way to make it easier on yourself is to chill your food first. You can do this by leaving it on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes, or you can put it in an ice bath if you really want to maximize your sear.

For me, usually 10 to 15 minutes sitting on the counter lowers the temperature enough that it allows me to have an extra minute or two on the sear. It really comes out golden brown without smoking out the entire apartment.

Sous vide ice bath 5

Use a High Smoke Point Oil for Pan Searing

I like to then put a little bit of oil on the meat. You can put it directly in the pan, but I find it smokes a lot more when I do that. So, I put some on the meat itself and I put it down in the middle of the pan that allows it to fill in the nooks and crannies, but it's not going to be burning on the outside.

I also like to use a high smoke point oil. Some of the favorites that I use are extra light olive oil, not extra virgin olive oil, but the extra light olive oil. A lot of people like use ghee. You can also use avocado oil or any high smoke point oil.

Oil smoking searing sous vide 2

Can the Pan Make a Difference When Searing After Sous Vide?

Yes, the pan you use can make a big difference in the searing process.

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The Classic Cast Iron Pan

A cast iron pan or a cast iron skillet tend to work best. They hold a lot of heat in, and when you put your food on there, they don't cool off nearly as much.

This leads to a much quicker sear and that's the name of the game with your sous vide sear is keeping it quick.

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The Traditional Stainless Steel Pan

Stainless steel also works really well, especially if you're planning on doing a pan sauce or some sort of reduction afterwards.

You can get a little bit sticking in the stainless steel, and you can pull up that flavor by deglazing with some vinegar or some wine, some sort of liquid like that.

The Nonstick Pan Option

Some people ask, "Can I use a nonstick pan to sear?" And the bottom line is, you really shouldn't. Nonstick pans should not be raised to very hot temperatures.

That's why nonstick pans are usually used for eggs or more gentle types of cooking. So if nonstick is all you have, you can use it but you'll need to use a lower temperature. This means the inside of your food is going to raise a little bit more, so you might want to chill the food before searing.

Want to Get More From Sous Vide?

Do you worry you're not getting the most out of your sous vide machine?

Quickly level up your sous vide game! Make perfect meats, master searing, and discover the sous vide times and temperatures you need to make everyday food amazing and impress your friends and family with the Sous Vide Quick Start Course!

The Basic Process of Pan Searing Sous Vided Food

Once your pan comes up to temperature and you put the food in it, the goal is to basically flip it every 30 to 45 seconds. You're going to do this for 2 to 3 minutes or until the core temperature comes up to where you want to eat it at.

If you chill your food ahead of time, you can have a little bit longer sear process. If you haven't chilled it, then you want to make this as quick as you possibly can and 2 to 3 minutes is about the maximum that you can do without overcooking it.

But sometimes you might want to go even shorter than that, especially for delicate or thin foods.

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Why Flipping it Helps During Searing

The flipping keeps the heat from penetrating quite as far as it would. You're also making sure the hot oil on the outside keeps browning it a little bit, even when it's on top of the food.

All in all, it speeds up the process a little bit, helps it sear a little more evenly and helps keep the internal temperature from raising quite as fast.

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Using a Meat Thermometer When Reheating After Sous Vide

If you're going for a longer sear, and you started from chilled or from a lower temperature, get out your meat thermometer that you don't have to use anymore because you now use sous vide!

Stick it in the meat to monitor the inside temperature of your food while pan searing. That'll give you a great idea of how long you can keep the searing process going before you raise the temperature too much. I do that a lot.

This is even more helpful when I'm reheating food that I chilled overnight or for a few days. When I want to cook it, I'll heat it up in a water bath to 100°F (37.8°C) or 110°f (43.3°C). I'll pull it out and sear it back up to 120°F (48.9°C) to 130°F (54.4°C), knowing that my food is already safely and perfectly cooked.

I can use a meat thermometer to monitor the inside temperature to make sure I don't go too far and don't overcook my food. To me, it's a great way to maximize the sear while still keeping all the juicy tenderness that sous vide provides.

Post Pan Seared Serving Options

Once you get that sear on, you can pull it off the heat. It's ready to eat and enjoy.

However, if you would like, you can also make a pan sauce just before serving it. This is especially true if you cooked in stainless steel, and you have some browning developing on the bottom of the pan.

Just add a little bit of vinegar, some wine and scrape those goodies up. You can also consider using some shallots or mustard. You will end up with a nice, easy, simple pan sauce to serve with your perfectly cooked sous vide meal!

Coated sous vide glaze 15

So now you know the best way to maximize your sear using a pan, a few ideas for the best searing pans to use and a simple but elegant serving sauce. You can also check out other sous vide searing methods to see when and how to use them.

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All tags for this article: Sous Vide, Sous Vide Searing, Sous Vide Searing Equipment


Jason logsdon headshot This article is by me, Jason Logsdon. I'm an adventurous home cook and professional blogger who loves to try new things, especially when it comes to cooking. I've explored everything from sous vide and whipping siphons to pressure cookers and blow torches; created foams, gels and spheres; made barrel aged cocktails and brewed beer. I have also written 10 cookbooks on modernist cooking and sous vide and I run the AmazingFoodMadeEasy.com website.
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