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Hot Pan or Cold Pan

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
A question in another thread got me to thinking - often a dangerous and tiring activity.

Sometimes a chef will suggest adding oil to a cold pan and heating it, other times to a hot pan, before adding ingredients. I've seen plenty of chef shows, but I've yet to make a connection as to why one technique or the other may be used. It all seems so random to me. In all cases the food is added to the hot oil and pan. Anyone have any insight into this?

shel
post #2 of 9
Unless one is deep frying a food item, it's best to heat the pan, then add the oil. One reason is to avoid burning the oil. Depending on the fat used, it's possible to burn or scorch the oil before the pan is hot enough if heating the two together. Also, if overheated, you can destroy the delicate flavors that are imparted to foods when using oils like olive, grape seed, nut oils and others that have a distinctive taste.
Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet, always said "Hot pan, cold oil, food won't stick." While that's not always true, generally, it holds.

www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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post #3 of 9
What FnF said. :p

Also, one tends to use less oil when adding it to a hot pan, since it thins out as soon as it hits the hot metal.

And Shel -- remember that not all the folks on those TV shows are chefs, or know what they're doing (and even more rarely, why they do what they do. Alton Brown excepted, of course. :lol: ).
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #4 of 9
I've always liked Jeff Smiths advice. I think it holds true combined with CI's visual cue of "heat oil until wisps of smoke appear" and FnFs comments above. CI seems to be pushing the oil's quality limits, but you know the oil's as hot as it can take and will drop once you add the food. Just have that food ready to go immediately.

Phil
post #5 of 9
For cooking a nice fried egg, it's cold pan and cold oil, in order to prevent the eggwhite from blistering and turning brown and lacey. Starting cool means the white will finish firm and perfectly smooth and uniform.

Pat
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the advice and info - I enjoyed Jeff Smith's program. What ever happened to him? Did he die, or get into some kind of trouble?

Suzanne, I agree with your comment about the folks on TV cooking shows, especially on FN. But, to paraphrase AB, that's another thread.

I don't know about CI's suggestion to heat the oil until it starts to smoke, certainly not for all situations, anyway. However, I've never gotten the oil that hot, so maybe a trial is in order. I'll often heat the oil until it ripples.

Hmmm, cold oil, cold pan for eggs? Never tried that, although I generally don't eat fried eggs - I like 'em scrambled and in omelettes and fritatas. How can you melt the butter using that technique?. Don't you need a warm pan for that?

shel
post #7 of 9
Yes, but in the opposite order. He was sued by about 7 past workers and acquaintances for molestation but in civil court and some after the statute of limitations had expired. Then after a settlement, a few years later he died.

The settlement was for about 2 million and after court and lawyer fees, they wouldn't have got very much each. So I'm of the opinion they were in it for the money rather than justice as they waited until he was a small success before coming forward with the allegations. And they pursued him civilly rather than criminally. And they settled.

Phil
post #8 of 9
Unfortunately any and all myths about the expansion of metal while heated "sealing" any "pores" are not true, alas metallurgy doesn't work that way. However, cold oil to a hot pan is useful since as said above since it prevents the oil from burning (and becoming acrid and unhealthy) since it's heated for less time). Also, the oil spreads around quickly as well.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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post #9 of 9
Ah, my answer assumes you're cooking with clarified butter kept just warm enough for liquidity, as the brunch cooks do at my kitchen.

Still, the same applies in the case of oil. The pan doesn't need to be ice cold or anything like that, and yes, let the oil heat up a little, but the point is for the egg to hit the pan and finish cooking without any blisters or browning on the whites.

You could do it with regular butter too, provided you're ok with the butter going a bit brown.

Pat
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