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Old 06-05-2007, 09:24 AM   #1
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Why pre-heat pan?

This is driving me bonkers! Every cooking show I ever saw the chef pre-heats the pan before cooking anything. My wife, on the other hand, puts the pan on the stove, put the food in the pan cold then turns on the electric stove.

I enjoy doing most of the cooking and always pre-heat but when i see my wife put stuff into a cold pan it is like fingernails on a chalk board! I cant say anything otherwise i'm in the doghouse and dont have any evidence to support preheating either. So, does it really matter? Is there a true valid argument for preheating (health, flavor, texture)?

The nitty gritty details:
we use no stick pans, an electric stove, things she cooks without preheating include:
*eggs - pan sprayed with canola oil - cold
*ground turkey with chopped onions and green pepper - pan only (no oil)
we dont fry anything and I cook just about everything else.


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Old 06-05-2007, 09:45 AM   #2
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Hi. This is from the Culinary Institute of America - a pretty good authority, I think ;-)

Culinary Institute of America - FAQs
Should I preheat my pan before cooking?
When sautéing, frying, searing or cooking eggs, always preheat the pan first. Preheating will improve the cooking performance and help prevent sticking.

It seems to me that preheating helps promote more even cooking, since the food is getting hot right away on the outside rather than heating up slowly. Otherwise, chefs on the shows I've seen rarely if ever use non-stick pans, and it's important to preheat other types of pans because high pan heat browns food better and promotes fond (browned bits on the bottom of the pan) development, which is desirable when making pan sauces.

Hope this is helpful.

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Old 06-05-2007, 09:48 AM   #3
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I always start bacon in a cold pan as it seems to not shrivel so badly. Also, the new trend on baking breads seems to be to start in a cold oven.
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Old 06-05-2007, 10:09 AM   #4
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So I guess without getting too nit picky as long as her food isnt sticking and making an impossible mess to clean up it isnt a big deal?
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Old 06-05-2007, 10:16 AM   #5
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It is important NOT to heat a teflon pan if it is empty.

This might be why she is putting the food in cold.
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Old 06-05-2007, 10:22 AM   #6
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It is fine to preheat a teflon pan if it is empty. You just do not want to do it for extended periods of time. Heating it for 30 seconds or so is not going to do any harm. It is when you leave it on the burner for 15 minutes without anything in it that could cause problems.

Pre-heating is important depending on what you are cooking. For instance, if you were cooking a steak then you would not get a nice sear on the outside of the meat unless the pan was already holding a lot of heat. The steak would just sort of steam and not be as good if you put it in a cold pan.
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:34 AM   #7
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The initial violent temperature change on the surface of the food being cooked is what causes good caramelization to occur. I believe it's called the Maillard reaction. Starting food in a cold pan causes the surface of the food to heat slowly and evenly, whereas starting in a hot pan causes a violent temp. increase on the surface of the meat. This is how you get a good sear or crust on meats, and is also why you get grill marks on grilled food (there are other reasons for this as well... like if you dont clean your grill).

Basically that searing does is create a new flavor element in whatever you're cooking. You can roast a chicken breast in a pan or on a baking sheet, and it will still taste the same. However, if you sear that breast first and then roast it, you will have 2 different methods of cooking applied to the same food, each bringing out the flavor of the food in a different way.
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Old 06-05-2007, 01:58 PM   #8
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The rule of thumb is hot pan-cold oil/food.
The hot pan immediately sears the food, preventing sticking. Plus, your cooking time is more accurate. If you start with a cold pan, the initial start of your cooking time could be off by as much as 5 minutes, and when making something like a chicken breast, that 5 minutes could make all the difference.
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Old 06-06-2007, 04:18 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by oatmeal
So I guess without getting too nit picky as long as her food isnt sticking and making an impossible mess to clean up it isnt a big deal?
The caramelization from putting foods into an already heated pan will add another dimension of flavor - as others have mentioned. The flavor will definitely ADD to the finished dish.

Tell her to preheat an empty pan for about 3 minutes or so.

Add the required amount of oil and heat for another couple of minutes.

Add meat/poultry/whatever you are cooking. If it is meat or poultry do not turn over until the meat/poultry has naturally "unstuck" from the bottom of the pan. In other words, don't force a piece of meat/poultry from the bottom of the pan.

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Old 06-06-2007, 04:38 PM   #10
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Well, it's really up to you if you want to nitpick or not because even though you're right, you're probably not going to win. Is there a difference health-wise? That I cannot answer but there is with both flavor and texture. Flavor is pretty much self explanatory. The less browning you get, the less flavor you get. With texture, it's hard to say because I've never cooked food that way so I wouldn't know. To echo Vera's comment, not only will the food take much longer but it will also cook unevenly. The pan will heat unevenly which will directly relate to how the food is cooked and this will affect the texture, depending on what she's cooking. The bottom line though is that yes, whatever she is making will eventually cook, but there is a right and a wrong way of doing things.

But, you can prove your point and piss her off at the same time by asking her to just try it, then proclaiming during dinner, "Wow, this is the best steak/fish/pork/etc. that you've ever made! Imagine if you were doing this the entire time. We would've always been eating this well!"

Just make sure you've already grabbed your extra set of clothes, pillow, and blanket before you say this.

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