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In Praise of Pre-Heating

February 17, 2012

Bad habits. They happen to all of us. And even though I know better, I sometimes get lazy about properly preheating my pan before I begin cooking in it. I put the skillet on the heat, add the oil, and as soon as things seem vaguely hot, I add my food.

The result? Never great. Meat, fish, and eggs cook unevenly and stick to the pan and I realize as I stand scrubbing at the sink that I didn’t save myself any time at all.

If you’re cooking anything over higher heat, always let the pan heat up for a few minutes before adding the oil. Why? As the metal of your pan heats up, the surface expands. Imagine microscopic little lines in the surface—small imperfections. If they’re swelling closed, and a chicken cutlet is sitting there on top of them, they can actually “grab” the meat. If the pan is fully heated and expanded, there’s nothing to stick to.

So if you’re going to pan fry or sear or sauté something, always preheat your pan heat for two or three minutes. And if you want to be even more precise about it, check out this fascinating video from (via

How to Properly Heat a Pan (the Mercury Ball Test)

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