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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 RE: frobe 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 RE: Ambimom 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 RE: frobe 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 RE: frobe 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 RE: tommy 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 RE: ricepad 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 RE: frobe 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 RE: frobe 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 RE: alanbarnes Aug 7, 2009 08:46 PM

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

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

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

                1. re: alanbarnes
                  Cary RE: alanbarnes 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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