What exactly is the difference between pan-frying and searing? They both use the same principles -- high heat, oil, flip once or twice -- and they both create the same result, namely that wonderful golden crust.

Is there a difference?

1 Answer 1


Pan-Frying is a complete cooking technique. When something has been 'pan-fried' it is done and ready to serve.

Searing is an incomplete process, a step in a larger process. Searing can happen before roasting, braising or other finishing method. It is even good to sear before marinading.

  • If that's true, how are the techniques different? I cannot identify a clear difference between the two.
    – ashes999
    Commented Jul 24, 2011 at 9:19
  • 3
    Also, searing does not have to be done in a pan. It can also be done on the grill, in a griddle pan or even over an open flame. To sear something just means to brown/caramelize its surface. Since a pan is the most convenient method, most searing is done in a pan. Commented Jul 24, 2011 at 10:11
  • @ashes: they're not. Simply you don't say I pan-fried the roast, but rather I seared the roast before putting it in the oven.
    – nico
    Commented Jul 24, 2011 at 10:56
  • 3
    @ashes, the "clear difference" is time and motive. Because searing is "incomplete" it is merely a "surface treatment". Whether done in a pan or on grill. Searing is done 'quickly' and only affects the surface. (thanks to Henrik & nico for adding clarity to my answer)
    – Cos Callis
    Commented Jul 24, 2011 at 12:00
  • 2
    I disagree with "Searing is an incomplete process". For some things (like Pittsburgh Rare steaks ), it is the only process.
    – jwernerny
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 15:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.