Friday, April 01, 2005

How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Fry the Egg

OMGWTFBBQ!!!!11!!one1! I totally just fried up the most perfect egg in my 12" All-Clad pan. It was as slick as oil on glass, with nary a hint of stickage in sight. Even though I had already warned that proper preheating was absolutely necessary, I had not been following my own advice, which is why I had always ended up with a messy glop when it came to eggs. I present to you the steps to ensure that your pan is properly preheated:
  1. Put your pan in the stove with a little bit of oil (if you won't be using oil, just put like a teaspoon in anyway and wipe it off before throwing on the food) and turn the heat to what your final flame setting will be. Do not set it to full-blast then turn it down.*
  2. Depending on the heft/conductivity of your pan, the time will vary, but I waited around 6-7 minutes. Before, I always jumped the gun at around 2-3 minutes. The idea is for the entire mass of the pan to heat to the same target temperature to the degree that reality will allow you, given that various parts of the pan are under different conditions (duh).
  3. Around this time, you will see wisps of smoke coming off the pan.** I used to think I was seeing wisps at around 2-3 minutes, but I assure you, I was not. When you see them, you will know. Don't wait for it to smoke up your kitchen either, you big schmoe.
  4. Throw your meat/egg/pancake/whatever into the pan.
If you did it right (and you were cooking eggs or pancakes), it should really be just as non-stick as your best non-stick pan at the time of purchase. If not, stop cursing the pan and let it pre-heat longer. If it looks burnt, it was because you thought pre-heating it at a higher flame setting would help you. I laugh at your burnt eggs.

There is also a "butter-test" method that Calphalon suggests for their hard-anodized pans. For those pans, they suggest that you should start with a clean pan, pre-heat until the edges of the pan seem hot (but still tappable without severe burning), then put a pat of butter on the pan. If the butter melts and foams, with the foaming disappearing soon after, then your pan is ready. If it browns, it is too hot. If it doesn't foam and turn clear, then it is too cool. I haven't succeeded with the Calphalon pan yet, but I only tried once so far. I will conquer it, I vow.

*You may think that heating it up really high for a bit will save you some preheating time, which could work for you, but you end up taking some chances. You have to lower the heat and wait again for the entire pan (or as much of it as possible) to hit the target temperature. If you are really good with timing, this could help you. Or if you screw up, you have to wait even longer to wait for your entire pan to cool down or just be more uniform in temperature throughout the pan. It is just more fool-proof to just leave it at the target flame setting you want, because you can be doing some prep work for your food without worrying too much about overheating the pan and scorching the oil.

**There is something interesting going on with the whole "heat on medium", "heat on medium-high", etc., business. It seems that all the recommendations I've read/heard are that the pan is ready when the oil shows wisps of smoke or the butter foams, which seems to indicate that regardless of if I'm cooking on low heat or high heat, the pan is ready when it hits a certain temperature, i.e. the smoke point of my oil. That means that my food hits the pan at the same temperature. What the flame setting helps in determining is the heat exchange rate during the cooking process and how long it takes to hit the smoke point, but not the initial cooking temperature. So I will go back on my first note and say that if you want to blast the heat at the beginning, you may do so, as long as you crank down the heat to a tiny flame just before it hits the smoke point, then you can throw on the meat, wait a while and them turn the flame setting back up. If you can master this in such a way that the chart of the pan temperature over time matches the profile of a pan that is heated and cooked on the proper flame setting for the duration of the cooking process, then you can totally ignore the first note.


Blogger h said...

I have never really pre-heated pans, but this post inspired me. So over the weekend when I cooked up some chicken I put some oil in the pan, turned the burner to medium, and waited until the oil was "wisping smoke", then tossed in my chicken. It really made a big difference. The chicken browned up much better than usual. Cool.

11:40 AM  
Blogger ei-nyung said...

:D Excellent. Here is to tastier chicken. *cheers*

6:18 PM  

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