Pan Roasting

Pan roasting is a wonderful technique for preparing thicker cuts of meat in a relatively short amount of time. It is a combination of pan searing on the stove top and roasting in the oven—both done at very high heat1. By distributing your cooking between a very hot pan and a very hot oven you can serve up thick chops, steaks or pieces of chicken with a crisp brown crust and tender just past rare inside, plus a rich pan sauce. Because we're talking about individual pieces of meat rather than whole roasts, you can create a satisfying meal for yourself, you and a friend, or a whole family in under an hour from refrigerator to table. Oh, and you're only left with one pan to clean up after dinner. That's Honest Cuisine.

Regular pan frying is perfect for a flattened chicken breast, veal cutlet or filet of fish. But, with meats more than an inch and a half thick, pan frying alone leaves the outside of the meat dried out and tough (if not burned) by the time the interior cooks. On the other hand, when roasting any meat less than a couple of inches thick it's nearly impossible to develop a nice brown crust without ending up with a thoroughly dried out slab of protein2. Roasting is no big deal when you're dealing with a 10 pound standing rib roast for a Saturday dinner that you want to spend an afternoon on, but a bit too much trouble for chicken on a Wednesday night. With Pan roasting you create the brown crust through a relatively quick sear, and cook the meat through with a roast in the oven. It works well with cut up poultry, rabbit, lamb, thick chops and small meat roasts such as Chateaubriand or pork tenderloin.

For lean “white” meats such as chicken, rabbit, pork and veal, brining the meat first is a good idea. Brining enhances the subtle flavors of lean meats, adds juiciness, and provides some fairly reliable protection against overcooking. In fact, brining makes pan roasting a perfect way to prepare steakier fishes such as tuna or swordfish for those who like their fish cooked fully through, allowing you to serve wonderfully moist steaks to the most ardent well–done fanatic. The only hitch with brining is that it adds a bit more preparation time—the brining time itself plus time to let the surface of the meat dry out3 before cooking.

I first encountered pan roasting (though it wasn't called that) in a recipe for Rack of Lamb in the 1997 New Joy of Cooking4. But, pan roasting is actually an age old chefs cheat for quickly creating roast dishes. My guess is that it's not found in most cookbooks because, until the past few years, most people didn't have pans that could go from both cooktop to oven. Growing up, and through college, everyone I knew had variations on the classic Revereware - lightweight thin copper clad stainless steel pans with plastic handles. It wasn't until the Calphalon and All–Clad craze began in the late 1980s/early 1990s that ovenproof handles became de rigeur in cookware. Of course, at a price comparable to that of cheap pans with plastic handles, one of the best pieces of cookware for pan roasting is also one of the oldest types of cookware: cast iron. And, if you don't have any kind of sauté pan or skillet with oven proof handles, you can easily pan roast with a heavy bottomed roasting pan (if you can put a skillet in the oven, there's no reason why you can't put a roasting pan on the stovetop).

The key to pan roasting is a very hot pan and very hot oven. Unless you have a commercial grade cooktop (if you do have a commercial grade range or cooktop you know it, so, if you're not sure, you have a regular old range or cooktop like the rest of us), you'll need to preheat your pan for at least five minutes over high heat5. You'll also want to bring whatever you plan to cook to room temperature before adding it to the pan. When you add the meat to the pan, the pan will cool down rapidly. If the pan cools down too much (and your stove doesn't have the BTUs to bring the heat back up just as rapidly) the meat will stew more than it sears as juices squeezed out of the meat by the rapidly cooking surface proteins simmer on the bottom of the pan rather than quickly boil away. This is where cast iron has an advantage for this technique. Cast iron will keep it's heat better while other pans will cool significantly. With most consumer stoves it can take anywhere from one to five minutes for the heat of the pan to come back up to searing temperatures. For similar reasons, it's important not to crowd the pan with whatever you are pan roasting. The more meat in the pan, the longer the pan will take to come back to searing temperature, plus a crowded pan leaves less room for steam to escape.

Actual cooking time will vary dramatically depending on the type of meat you are cooking, it's thickness and the heating capabilities of both your cooktop and oven. As a rule of thumb, you want to sear the first side over high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, flip the meat, and roast it in a 500° oven for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. A two inch thick piece of swordfish would need only a 3 minute sear and 5 minute roast, while a 2–1/2 inch beef tenderloin would require a good 5 minute sear and 10 minutes, or even a little more, of roasting. All totaled, pan roasting shouldn't take much more than 15 minutes of actual cooking time, leaving plenty of time to make a quick pan sauce and serve up some truly Honest Cuisine in less than half an hour.

  1. Some call cooking thick cuts of meat on the stove top “pan roasting.” Whether well intentioned or not, that use of the term “roasting” just doesn't make any sense. Roasting simply means oven baking. Some say roasting implies high oven heat. That distinction's fine with me, but you can't call a cooking technique where the food never sees the inside of the oven roasting.
  2. In I'm Just Here for the Food Alton Brown claims that you do not need to sear the traditional roast on the stove to get a nice brown crust. Finishing the roast in a very hot oven (450°) oven will do the trick. He's right, when you're talking about a large piece of meat and a couple of hours to cook it at a low temperature first. But we're talking about smaller hunks of meat, not whole roasts.
  3. Brine means moisture and moist surfaces won't form a decent lasting crust.
  4. Yep, the devoid of personality (though still very useful) edition of Joy of Cooking where some full of herself New York editor felt the book should be authoritative rather than just comprehensive and engaging like all of the earlier editions that have been loved and revered for decades. Fortunately it looks like the Joy will be getting back a little bit of it's personality in the next edition due around the time of the book's 75th anniversary in 2006.
  5. Just for safety reasons, don't even think of trying this with anything but heavy duty cookware. Your basic thin department store pans could literally melt or, worse, whatever you toss in them could catch on fire. Also, don't use non–stick pans, regardless of quality, as such prolonged high heat could ruin the non–stick coating and kill any birds you may have in your home.

Pan Roasted Pork Chops

Serves four adults as a main course

This recipe works equally well with veal chops. The chops should be at least 1–1/2 inches thick. Both loin chops and rib chops work fine. Four chops should fit neatly in a 12" skillet with about an inch of space between each chop. If there's less than an inch of space between the pieces of meat, use two skillets. If you don't have a large en ought skillet and don't have two skillets in which to cook all the meat simultaneously, then, well, either get rid of two of your guests and halve the recipe, shell out fifteen bucks for a 12" or larger cast iron skillet, or forget about this recipe and pop another frozen dinner in the microwave.


  • 2 quarts quick brine for meat (1 cup kosher salt and 1 cup sugar dissolved in 2 quarts of water)
  • 4 pork chops, bone in, cut 2 inches thick
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons. butter, chilled and cut into 4 pieces
  • Freshly ground pepper


  • Put the chops and two tablespoons of the dill in the brine in a plastic container or zipper–lock bag and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours. If you need it to leave it for longer (say 8–12 hours while you're at work), cut the salt and sugar in the brine in half.
  • Remove the chops from the brine, rinse any brine off under cold running water and dry the chops thoroughly with paper towel. Put the meat on a plate and refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 to 2 hours to allow the surface of the meat to dry. If you really want to get detailed, rest the meat on a rack or two or three chopsticks or skewers placed on top of the plate so that the bottom of the fish has a chance to dry too.
  • Let the temperature of the meat come to room temperature (and let the surface dry a bit more) by leaving it out of the refrigerator very loosely covered with parchment paper, wax paper on a plate for about 30 minutes.
  • While the meat is resting, preheat the oven to 450°
  • Place an ovenproof skillet over a burner set to it's highest setting and let it heat for 3–5 minutes. If your cooktop that puts out 15,000 or more BTUs you may want to lower the temperature to medium-high.
  • Season the chops on both sides with freshly ground pepper. Don't add salt—the brine adds salt enough.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pan and swirl the pan so the oil coats the bottom. When the oil begins to smoke, add the chops. Don't touch the meat! Let the meat sear on this first side for about 3 minutes. Give the pan one firm shake back and forth. When the chops moves when you shake the pan, they're ready to turn over.
  • Flip the meat over and put the pan in the oven. Roast the chops in the oven for 8 to 12 minutes. The exact roasting time varies depending upon the thickness of the meat and the efficiency of your oven. You basically want to get the internal temperature of the meat to about 130° (use an instant read thermometer to check). Err on the side of less time, especially if you've never tried pan roasting before. Also keep in mind that the meat will continue to cook as it rests while you prepare the pan sauce.
  • Using thick oven mitts or a dry kitchen towel folded over a few times transfer the pan from the oven to a burner on your cooktop. With a spatula and/or tongs, remove the chops to a warm plate but don't cover it. Any covering will only cause the moisture evaporating from the meat to re condense, ruining the wonderful crust you worked so hard on during the searing step.
  • To begin to make the pan sauce, turn the heat under the pan to medium–high, add the remaining oil and the minced shallot to the pan and cook the shallot until it softens, not much more than a minute. And don't forget to use a potholder, oven mitt or towel when handling the pan!
  • Add the wine and thyme (hey, that's a rhyme!) to the pan and simmer until the wine is reduced by half (shouldn't take more than five minutes).
  • Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter, one piece at a time, not adding the next piece until the first piece is completely incorporated into the sauce. Add pepper to taste (you almost definitely won't need salt, but taste the sauce before serving just to be sure).
  • Place a chop on each diner's plate, drizzle on a bit of the pan sauce and serve.

Pan Roasted Tuna Steak

Serves four adults as a main course

You can substitute any firm fish such as swordfish, marlin or shark for the tuna in this dish. The basic goal with this recipe is to deal with a thick cut of lean fish. The steak should be at least 1–1/2 inches, but no more than 3 inches, thick. If you find the fish but not such a cut the display case at your market, ask the person behind the counter to cut some two inch stakes for you from the sides of tuna or swordfish or shark they have out back. If they won't do this for you or don't know what you're talking about, go somewhere else. I wouldn't trust the fish from a place that wouldn't provide such a minimal level of customer service (and if the person behind the counter at such an establishment gets offended when you walk away, feel free to foist the blame on Honest Cuisine).


  • 1 quart quick brine for fish (1/4 cup kosher salt and 1/2 cup sugar dissolved in 1 quart water)
  • 4 tuna steaks cut 2 inches thick (a little over a pound total for all four)
  • 2 tablespoons plus one teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons. butter, chilled and cut into 4 pieces
  • Freshly ground pepper


Follow the directions for pork chops above with the following changes:

  • Note the lower amount of salt for the brine, and brine the fish in the refrigerator for only 1 to 2 hours. As with the pork, if you need it to leave it for longer (say 8–12 hours while you're at work), cut the salt and sugar in the brine in half.
  • The oven cooking time for the fish will be half that for the pork chops (4 to 8 minutes v. 8 to 12).


Looks great Dick. Though I must have missed the announcement that you were going live with the site.

Seriously, I like the look, and the layout, and the footnote-rich format. I'm looking forward to the piece on roux.



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