Why hot pan and cold oil?

Kathleen Purvis / The Charlotte Observer /


Published Jul 16, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

Q: I have been told that heating a skillet before adding oil prevents sticking. I’ve never noticed the benefits and have had food stick as soon as I put it in the pan. How hot should the pan be before adding the oil? And is this pointless when using nonstick?

A: “Hot pan, cold oil” is one of those cooking mantras that may or may not work. If you wait until the pan is hot before you add oil, there is less chance for the oil to burn or break down. However, you also lose the benefit of watching for the oil to shimmer to gauge how hot it is.

Meat will release when it has developed a good sear. Nudge it a little before trying to turn it. If it’s sticking, let it cook a little longer to let it release on its own.

Nonstick pans are a different story. If the coating gets too hot, it can release fumes that may be toxic. You shouldn’t heat those pans empty. Manufacturers usually suggest adding oil before heating the pan and never heating the pan beyond medium-high.