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How to heat up a pan?

esquire.

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Do you heat up your pan first before adding butter or do you heat up your pan and butter together? And, does the same apply if you use olive oil instead of butter?

I never heated the pan separately before reading about the importance of that technique. However, I also noticed in the same book, some recipes required you to heat the pan first and other recipes required you to heat the pan and butter together.

Is there some general rule when you should heat the pan?

I was thinking that you might only need to heat the pan first if you wanted to get the browning process on your meats, to get a crunchy crust on those dishes. But, James Beard's recipe for scrambled eggs tells you to heat the pan first over medium heat even though you're not going to brown anything. And, of course, this differs from Cook's Illustrated which tells you to put butter in 10 inch skillet and then set the pan over high heat.
 

whodini

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I normally use olive oil to cook and the way I was taught was to use both together at the same time. Once you begin to notice a slight haze or smoke, that tells you the pan is heated up enough to start cooking evenly.
 

Kent Wang

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It does not make a significant difference though I think letting the oil warm slowly with the pan will result in marginally less burning than dropping it in when the pan is very hot.

It has no bearing on browning. All you need is hot oil to brown. A hot pan and cold oil will not work.

Perhaps you are confusing this issue with when to add the ingredients? The answer then is to only add them when the oil is near smoking, unless for some reason you did not want any browning.
 

romafan

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I forget where I read this (Saveur?), and what the precise reason was, but it's best to slightly heat the pan before adding oil (but not so much that the oil smokes). Rather than flowing out to the edges of the pan when poured (which is what happens when the pan is cold), oil added to a properly heated pan will tend to stay in a puddle in the middle of the pan so that you will need to tilt it in order to get the oil to cover the entire surface...
 

Thomas

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I read that for non-stick pans you should have something in them before heating - be it oil or butter. The non-stick coating can give off fumes at high temps - not normally found while cooking - but if you put a fairly light pan on the heat and get distracted, the pan could hit these temps and start fuming. The oil or butter will delay that.

Normally I'm a skeptic, but this comes from Cook's so I'm inclined to believe it.
 

mizanation

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i always heat the pan first, in asian cooking it's usually the modus operandi. food sticks less when you heat up the pan before adding oil. also, the oil will be easier to spread around in the pan.

using olive oil with butter is a great way to get the butter flavor, but also be able to use slightly higher heat (the milk solids in the butter burn easily).
 

Andrew V.

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The only instance in which I've heard that it's important to heat the pan first is when stir-frying in a proper cast-iron or carbon-steel wok. Supposedly the secret to good stir-fry is "hot pan, cold oil".
 

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