Whether you’re browning meat to make a stew or a pot roast, or simply cooking cutlets for a quick dinner, there are some tricks to getting a nice, rich-looking sear.
First, start with meat that is dry. Surface moisture on the meat creates steam when you add it to a hot pan, preventing the food from browning. The goal when drying the meat is not to extract all moisture but to eliminate any surface moisture before the meat hits the pan. To do this, either pat the meat dry with paper towels or spread it out and let it air-dry while you prep your other ingredients.
You also want to wait to salt the meat until right before adding it to the hot pan. Letting salted meat sit for too long causes it to release moisture again. If working in batches, salt each batch just before searing.
Finally, leave some space between the pieces of meat when searing. Arranging them too close also promotes steaming and may cause your meat to end up gray rather than browned.
Dried and spaced apart = richly browned
Wet and crowded = steamed and gray