How to Control Heat When You Cook on Stainless Steel

How to Use Heat When You Cook On Stainless Steel Pans 

How to Heat Your Pan When Cooking With Stainless Steel

The importance of heat in cooking is obvious, but understanding and controlling heat can be more nuanced, and is crucial to getting the most out of your pots and pans. Using the right temperature ensures evenly cooked, better-tasting food and improves the longevity and durability of your cookware. So, this fundamental lesson is all about heat control when searing and how it relates to your Made In products.

We firmly believe that for that perfect caramel-colored sear on proteins and vegetables—the kind that makes an irresistible sizzle when it hits the pan—bare metal is the way to go. But, we also know that foods can stick to bare metal (hence the existence of non stick pans). Luckily, using the right amount of heat and oil can prevent such sticky situations:

1. Heat the pan first, then pour in your oil. Wait a minute or two—until you see a nice shimmer as the oil spreads across the pan (but no smoke)—then add your protein.

Uncooked foods can create a bond with stainless steel that can cause sticking. To combat this, the key is to heat your pans first, then add fat so that the raw ingredient begins cooking as soon as it hits the pan. The reason you heat the pan before adding oil or fat is that over-cooked and broken down oil can get gummy, leading to sticking of food. To further combat sticking when cooking proteins, let the protein come to room temperature first so that they can begin searing immediately once they hit the pan's surface. A cold piece of fish or steak dropped into a hot pan could lead to sticking.

Is this your first time cooking with your new pan? Check out the water droplet test, which will give you immediate feedback on your pan's temperature.

2. Come in hot, then cool things down

Unlike cheaper pots & pans, Made In cookware's stainless steel cookware is made of premium metals and is thus great at retaining heat (which is part of the reason why it was named Daring Kitchen's best stainless steel cookware of 2020). As a result, overheating the pan with continuous high flame can result in oils and foods getting burnt and stuck to the pan. Get your pan to the right temperature with medium heat for a minute or two (see #1) then turn it down a bit— don’t worry, the pan will retain the heat, but won’t burn your ingredients.

3. Foods will naturally release from the pan when a good sear (or crust) is formed.

When you drop a nice piece of protein in your hot pan, give it some time for the initial sear to happen—this is when the best browning and crust occurs. Once the protein forms a sear, it will naturally release a bit from the pan, indicating a good time to flip. You’ll notice the searing process is actually the same between an egg, a piece of salmon, and a filet of steak (although at very different cook times and temperatures). 

4. It takes practice.

Proper heat management is what will allow you to take your kitchen skills to the next level and extend the lifetime (and beauty) of your cookware. Getting comfortable with heat control leaves less opportunity for undercooking or overcooking, so it’s important to become familiar not only with your ingredients, but also how your pots and pans react to heat.

Although Tom Colicchio used a Carbon Steel Pan is this tutorial, he shares some additional techniques in this post! Check it out.



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3 comments

  • j.e. tobey

    At this time I only have a M-I 10" Carbon Steel skillet. The quality is excellent. It required no unpleasant effort to season it. It does require an investment of some time, but getting the best from any carbon steel cookware means some “sweat equity.” If you do it properly, this style of skillet will help one become an amazing cook, or even a genuine chef. Do not fear trying your favorite recipes in one of these skillets. Do avoid acid saturated dishes to prevent eroding seasoning—-if you do such a recipe, your base seasoning should hold up and only a quick wipe of a good oil will restore seasoning. A CS skillet will serve perfectly for searing and finishing a quality cut of beef or pork, Just be aware that there will be some moderate use of oil necessary in even the best seasoned carbon steel skillet. I use pure avocado oil ( tolerates high heat with neutral taste) or bacon drippings( I always save them and refrigerate the container). I do start my steaks cold because I like them with a crust-sear but very rare, Only a carbon steel skillet can do that as well as a charcoal or gas-fired outdoor grill. I oil them and rub in my seasoning and keep them refrigerate d until I am ready to cook. The fast heat control allows me to easily cook guest’s steaks to order.

  • Jan

    Thanks for all the great tips of using my new skillet. I can’t wait to try it out! Happy Anniversary to me!

  • Peter

    Great advice to novice and seasoned cooks alike. YES! It takes ‘practice’ to get really good at cooking in the kitchen. It’s a lifelong endeavor and if you want to be really good at your cooking, it takes passion for the art and skill necessary to produce culinary works of art. And for some, that requires a lifetime of ‘practice’. That said, your cooking skills and talents are only as good as the tools you use. Any serious cook or chef won’t skimp on their cookware and utensils as they are the instruments of creativity. Learning to use them takes time and ‘practice’ .

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