How Overcrowding Your Pan Is Ruining Your Cuts Of Meat

You can spend time and money looking for the best cuts of meat, but in the end, it's your cooking technique that determines how delicious your meal turns out. "Every cut can be wonderful if you cook it the right way," Chef Curtis Stone explained in his interview with Tasting Table.

One thing's for sure: Producing that golden brown crispy crust is the secret to a flavorsome meat dish. Whether you're going for a stir fry, a pan roast, or braising on your stovetop, getting the caramelization stage right is paramount. That's why one of the most crucial steps in cooking any cut of meat is the point at which you place the pieces in your pan. Before doing so, remember these four simple words: don't overcrowd your pan. An overcrowded pan is the reason meat cuts end up dry, dull-looking, and, worst of all, lacking much savory flavor. Covering every square inch of the pan with meat is a quick way to get a lackluster result for your proteins. 

Overcrowding lowers the temperature in your pan

Whenever you're cooking meat, once it heats up, it will start releasing moisture from within. If the pan is at a high temperature, the water will quickly evaporate, and your meat will start browning within the first few minutes. In a process known as the Maillard reaction, amino acids react with sugars under high temperatures to produce the brown coloring common to deliciously cooked meats. 

The goal is a good sear, and you won't get this when your pan is overcrowded. Lots of meat on the pan means lots of moisture is released, and the temperature in the pan drops drastically. As a result, evaporation can't happen fast enough to return the meat to ideal temperatures for caramelization to occur, and you end up stewing the meat instead of searing it.

To prevent this, ensure your cuts of meat are well spaced out on the pan with roughly a 1-inch separation. And if your pan is too small, find a larger one or cook your meat in batches — after all, you're only looking for a few minutes on each side.