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In Praise of Pre-Heating

In Praise of Pre-Heating
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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 saut√© 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)

Amy Traverso


Amy Traverso


Senior lifestyle editor Amy Traverso oversees Yankee's Food and Home & Garden departments and contributes articles to the magazine. Amy book, The Apple Lover's Cookbook (W.W. Norton), won an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) cookbook award for the category American. Follow !
Updated Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

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One Response to In Praise of Pre-Heating

  1. Heather February 24, 2016 at 8:46 am #

    I discovered quite by accident, when I left a pan preheating for about 10 minutes, that my scrambled eggs slipped neatly onto my plate instead of being stuck all over the pan. Curious as why that happened, I did a quick Google search, and here I am. Thanks for insight. Makes sense! I’ll be sharing this info with my friends, and telling them where I found it. : )

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