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Why are non stick pans recommended for stir fry? Isn't the high heat a safety issue?

frobe Aug 7, 2009 07:25 AM

I'm reading the Cooks Illustrated Best Recipe book right now and it says the best pan to use for a stir fry is a non stick skillet. However, I thought that proper stir fry cooking meant extremely high heat but also that non stick skillets can become toxic with too much heat. Isn't there a bit of a conflict there?

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  1. Ambimom Aug 7, 2009 08:21 AM

    In a word....yes. You want non-stick? You want high heat? You want economical? Use cast iron.

    I really like America's Test Kitchen recipes. They really work. Their equipment recommendations are generally reliable too, but they do hawk Cooks Illustrated merchandise until I'm ready to puke.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ambimom
      frobe Aug 7, 2009 10:16 AM

      In this case though, they are not recommending a specific brand. They are simply comparing in general a non stick pan with a wok and a stainless steel skillet and they recommend using a non stick for stir fry.

      I'm with Tanuki Soup in that I generally use my stainless steel pan. Just wondering why CI would advise a non stick.

    2. tanuki soup Aug 7, 2009 09:56 AM

      I'd reach for my carbon steel evasee. It seems to me that it would perform most like a wok.

      1. tommy Aug 7, 2009 10:17 AM

        if they're not recommending using super high heat then it likely doesn't matter, and there's no conflict.

        2 Replies
        1. re: tommy
          ricepad Aug 7, 2009 06:19 PM

          Yeah, but you can't do real stir frying with anything BUT super high heat.

          1. re: ricepad
            tommy Aug 7, 2009 06:35 PM

            yeah, but the OP was referencing the recipe from the Cooks Illustrated Best Recipe book.

            i can only imagine how this thread will turn into a bunch of people sharing their ideas of "real" stir frying, rather than considering the OP's post.

            meat, vegetables, flavor. it's really not that complicated, and just regular ol' normal middle-class stoves can do the trick. thinking otherwise is a bit silly.

        2. Gio Aug 7, 2009 06:30 PM

          Having cooked through several Asian COTMs here on the Home Cooking board I have to say that the most recommended cooking pan for stir-fry is a carbon steel wok. It takes high heat and has enough breadth and width to accommodate whatever amount of food you're wanting to cook. There are pluses for the non-stick stir-fry skillet already noted, but non of them will eventually season like a carbon steel pan nor will it give you the ever eliusive "wok hay"... That seasoning which gives the ultimate flavor to the dish you're trying to create.

          1. alanbarnes Aug 7, 2009 07:10 PM

            The "extremely high heat" required for stir frying is significantly less than the "too much heat" that causes PTFE and PFOA to atomize.

            With an industrial-strength wok burner, you can get a carbon steel wok to glow bright red before you put the food in. That's way too hot for non-stick, but it's also too hot for most stir fries; the oil instantly atomizes, ignites, and sends flames shooting many feet into the air. Pretty cool, but don't do it inside.

            If you're working with typical indoor stir-fry temps (500F maximum), a nonstick skillet shouldn't be a problem. If you've got pet birds, it makes sense to remove them from the kitchen, but otherwise you don't have too much to worry about.

            3 Replies
            1. re: alanbarnes
              c oliver Aug 7, 2009 08:46 PM

              Boy, you just covered most or all of the bases on this old argument.

              1. re: alanbarnes
                sueatmo Aug 9, 2009 02:05 PM

                Hey thanks for sharing this info. I've wondered about this myself.

                1. re: alanbarnes
                  Cary Aug 12, 2009 12:51 PM

                  Essentially true. However, if one is using a thin non-stick pan, the "ring" where the gas flame touches the pan can reach above 500F. More egregious during the preheating phase.

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