The Biggest Mistake You're Making When Searing Chicken

To sear perfectly cooked chicken is to heat it in a pan at a high temperature until a golden-brown crust forms on the surface (per Cully's Kitchen). It's your first step after seasoning or marinating the bird and letting it come to room temperature. Searing creates a satisfying texture to the skin (or surface of the meat, if using skinless), and certain dishes wouldn't be the same without that added flavor. It yields crusty bits that lay the foundation for many phenomenal sauces, and braising wouldn't be braising without it. Finally, a great sear just makes your food look pretty dang attractive.

Chicken is such a versatile ingredient. After seasoning it, you can boil it, fry it, grill it, roast it, or, of course, sear it. And while searing is definitely one of the most common methods — especially when whipping up a busy weeknight dinner — believe it or not, as simple as it may seem, it's easy to do it wrong. This one tip may help you transition from burnt failure to caramelized perfection.

Don't move the chicken around in the pan

It's extremely important to resist the urge to move the chicken around before it's ready for flipping. A key indicator that it's not ready is if the chicken is still sticking to the pan (via Greatist) — this says that there is still liquid that hasn't been dehydrated and that a crust has not fully formed. It's also important to start chicken with the skin on skin-side-down. Eat This, Not That! states that moving the chicken around in the pan is like pressing the same elevator button over and over: It won't get you there any faster, just like moving the chicken won't cook it any quicker. You should typically wait five to seven minutes before flipping.

It's easy to want to shift the chicken, especially if it's cut into small pieces for a perfect stir fry, but if you look closely, you'll notice that the more you move it, the less color your chicken will get. Since the caramelization adds another level of flavor, those five to seven minutes are worth the wait. Plus, just think of all the things you can do in five minutes!