How Do I Know When A Pan Is Hot Enough to Add Oil?
Most people don't heat up a pan before adding oil. Some don't even get the oil hot before they start cooking. They might put the pan on a burner, turn the heat on, add some oil and immediately throw in a chicken breast or a fish filet. - And then they wonder why the chicken or fish sticks to the pan?
Reasons for Not Heating Up a Pan Before Adding a Fat
There are some good reasons why a number of culinary experts prefer to start with a cold pan, add oil and then start the heat but in my opinion, just a few. But remember, whether you start with a cold or hot pan, you must heat up the oil before adding ingredients or they will stick and turn out poorly.
- The oil is a reminder that the pan is heating up and should not be touched. If you have a pan on heat with nothing in it, there is a more likely chance you might grab the pan and burn yourself.
- If you add oil to a hot pan, it's going to get hot very fast so you better be ready with all your ingredients and ready to cook or the oil will burn require starting over. Adding oil to a cold pan gives you time to watch as the oil gets hot. The oil gives off visual clues telling you just when you need to start adding ingredients.
- Probably the best reason of all, it's not a great idea to heat up an empty non-stick frying pan. It can damage the pan and some of them may even emit fumes that are not so good for you.
Reason For Heating Up a Pan Before Adding Fat
- It is the way most culinary students are taught. Not a great reason but interesting to know.
- It saves time. In professional kitchens, you will often see fry pans sitting on the stove tops getting hot so when the chef is ready to start cooking, they add a little oil and they are ready to go.
- There is some advanced science that talks about the pores on the surface of metal pans and how heat opens them up so the oil can get in to prevent sticking. Wayyyyy over my head.
- Most Importantly - It Helps Prevent Food From Sticking to the Pan
These are all good reasons why professional chefs like to start with hot pans but does it matter to a home cook?
I'm not really sure we have the same time constraints as the pros to get a meal on the table but why not use the same techniques they use? Again, none of this holds true if you are starting with non-stick pans.
I was really afraid when I put oil in pan. Because I really don't know, how much time it will need to be hit. I think your article is the best solution.
A tip: dry pan or pan with oil can be tested for heat, quickly and without damaging a thermometer. If the pan is dry, run a finger under water and flick a small amount into the pan and if it’s hot enough, it will roll across the surface in a bead, like mercury. If the fat/oil is already in the pan, use the same trick but with even less water (a tiny drop is plenty). When you flick the droplet into the oil, if the temperature is hot enough to be non-stick, you will see strong bubbling around the droplet, and hear a significantly loud cracking or popping sound. Be sure to flick the smallest possible droplet of water in either case, but it’s especially important when flicked into hot fat/oil, as the popping can cause splash out and burn you or in extreme cases, like with a stovetop skillet, where the sides of the pan are low, you could potentially ignite and flash/smoke the oil. At which point you would have to start again.
On the show Worst Cooks on Food Network, Chef Anne Burrell advises the wannabe cooks to listen for the oil to sound like an audience's applause. ( Just paraphrasing) As someone that is not the worst but certainly not on chef level I love the advice they provide because it's easy. Almost idiotproof which gives me a certain feeling of confidence when trying to enhance a technique, or learn a new one.
G. Stephen Jones
Hi Leigh, interesting tip. I'll give it a listen.