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Nov 9, 2009 12:28 AM

How To Prepare A Pan For Frying

So I have invested in a thick, cladded, stainless steel frying pan (Demeyere Atlantis) but to be honest I really don't know how to use it.

In the past I have used a myriad of thin stainless steel pans, electric pans, paper thin aluminium pans, and a few non-stick pans. Let’s just say I was traumatised by the cooking process and outcome of the foods. But I am ready to give it another go.

Now I know having an expensive branded pan is not going to give me a free pass to mastering the art of pan frying, however I believe it will be more forgiving while I practice and build my confidence in the kitchen.

So with all that said. How do I prepare my pan for frying?

Basically am I after the ‘hot pan, cold oil’ technique? And can I really use drops of water in the empty pan to indicate when the pan has reached the ideal temp to add the food? (Instead of evaporating immediately, the water will form into a ball and bounce around the pan for a few seconds before evaporating) Then once the pan has reached the high temperature do I need to turn the heat down to medium? (Will there really be enough heat to sear the other side of the food when I turn it over).

As I have never had an oven friendly pan, I have never started anything on the cook top and then finished it in the oven. So what are the benefits of this technique and when should you use it?

I really want to master the technique of pan frying in general so then it doesn’t matter if I cook chicken with or without the bone in it, thick/thin steak, pork chops, beef strips, or anything else that falls out of the fridge. Is there such a thing as ‘one heat fits all’? Or do I need to have a lower heat for certain foods, and if so what are they?

I also understand now the golden rule of bringing the food to be cooked to room temperature before adding it to the pan. (I’m learning slowly)
So please I’d love to hear your advice

~On a side note do I need to season my pan? (it’s never been used) How would I do this?

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  1. congrats on your investment. a good heavy pan is really worth it.

    you don't need to season stainless pans. don't be shy with the amount of oil you use to cook, otherwise stuff will stick. especially if you cook at high heat, which is how most restaurants do it.

    yes to hot pan + room temp oil. i never bother with water drops. a few minutes (or more if i forget about the pan, lol) is all it takes. if you hold your hand above the pan and feel heat, go for it. then when the oil starts to shimmer it's hot.

    as far as temps, it really depends on what you are cooking and the end result you desire. i'm impatient so tend to cook many proteins and potatoes at a high heat. this works better with a gas stove vs. electric. it gives a great crisped, browned exterior. if you want to sear both sides, no, you wouldn't lower the heat. however, you can also slow poach a piece of salmon, confit style, if you want.

    as far as stovetop to oven, if you have a very thick steak, or something with a bone, for example, it's nice to sear the surface then finish it more evenly with the all-around heat of the oven.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      What he said, but I'll add:

      1) There's definitely not a one-heat-fits-all solution. With a really thick piece of meat, like a 2" steak, you'll use a lower heat than you would for something thin like scaloppini. This is to avoid burning the outside of the meat before the center is cooked. With scaloppini, on the other hand, you will use the highest heat possible to achieve as much browning as possible by the time the inside is cooked.

      2) Browning the second side: after browning the first side of a piece of meat, I usually turn up the heat (temporarily) when I flip to the second side. When flipped, the cold top side of the meat temporarily reduces the pan temperature. Turning up the heat counters this.

      3) Practice! You'll have it figured out in no time.

    2. Congratulations on your acquisition, snax.

      I have a Demeyere Atlantis saute pan and a 5-quart saucepan. This is GREAT cookware, and I know you're going to enjoy using it.

      The Demeyere top-end cookwares cook a little differently, in my experience, than other, conventional stainless steel or stainless steel clad pans. Mine at least behaves differently than All-Clad, etc. I think you'll find the Demeyere easy to use and VERY easy to clean, once you adjust to it.

      Atlantis pans are lined with a material called "Silvinox", so they're a little different than straight "stainless steel" pans. The Silvinox gives it its "less-stick" quality.

      Demeyere usually provides a good, detailed owner's booklet with its cookware. Much better and more specific than instructions I've gotten with other makes of pans. Did you get a copy of that? If so, do take the time to read it. If you didn't get it, here is a helpful page from the Demeyere website:

      You'll see that Demeyere recommends that you melt or heat your fats (oil or butter) at a higher heat setting, and once your oil is heated or the butter is melted, turn it down to cook on a lower setting. Once you cook with it a few times, you'll get an idea of how it responds to YOUR burners. I have a high-BTU gas cooktop and even on my smaller burners, I rarely have to cook above medium-low, once the pan is heated. My two Atlantis pans seem to be more responsive to temperature changes than other stainless cookware I've had.

      Re seasoning--Demeyere does suggest that, before you first cook in the pan, you wash it with warm water and detergent, dry it, heat a small amount of cooking oil in it to the point where it gets hot but does not change color or smoke, empty that out, let it cool enough to be safe, and then wash it out again and dry it. Then it should be ready for use. To be honest, I've had mine for quite a while and I can't remember whether I did that "oil heating" step, but it sounds easy enough. You DON'T have to repeat that between cookings, after doing it once, the initial time.

      What I've found with my Atlantis saute pan is that I CAN really trust it to tell me when food I'm searing is ready to be turned. Somehow that Silvinox coating just "knows" the moment at when to release the food. So while you're getting used to the pan, just try to move a piece of the food gently at the corners. When it's ready, it will let go of the pan.

      I do like to finish some items in the oven--not always, but especially with a saute pan, whose sides will be higher than your frying pan, I'd imagine. It depends what the food is. Some things like chicken pieces or, say, pan-fried potatoes, I'll stick under the broiler for a couple of minutes, to crisp up the outsides. I'll let others here speak to you about other meats; I'm not such an expert in those and wouldn't want to give you instructions that dry out your meat, etc.

      I don't often see oil get "baked on" the Atlantis, in those little brown spots that sometimes happens with my All-Clad and other brands, but every once in a while, it does, through my error. If you need to, use a non-abrasive substance like Barkeeper's friend or a lemon-half dipped in kosher salt to rub those off. Other than that, all you need to do with this generally is let the pan cool down after use, wipe it gently with a sponge or non-abrasive kitchen washcloth under warm water, and then wash with dishsoap. I put my Demeyere in the dishwasher, but I use a gentle, eco-recommended automatic dishwasher liquid anyway.

      These are terrific pans. I've gotten rid of MOST of my other cookware, including All-Clad, in favor of Le Creuset, but two types someone will have to pry out of my cold, stiff hands are my two Calphalon sauce pans and ESPECIALLY my Atlantis pans. I hope you find it as easy and pleasurable to use as I do.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Normandie

        Silvinox has no special ability to release browning food. This will happen naturally regardless of what kind of pan you are using. If you are frying something fatty, you do not need to oil the pan. You need to be sure your heat is not TOO high, or it will burn rather than sear, but you need to learn that by practicing. If you put a steak down on a pan that has been preheated to medium-high heat, you need to leave it alone for a few minutes before gently trying to lift it. If it resists, try every 30 seconds or so. When it has properly seared, it will release. If you force it too soon, it will leave a sticky mess in the pan.

        1. re: greygarious

          greygarious, I appreciate your advice and know it is given in the spirit of trying to help. So please don't think I'm being crabby (or at least not *too* crabby :-), but I've been "practicing" cooking now since 1978. ;-) I understand about searing, about releasing, etc., and have success with other manufacturers' pans, too, including LC skillets, which it seems a lot of LC fans don't actually like. There are also a couple of brands I don't like too much; they do stick in my experience even if the process and heat sources are the same beyond what it takes to create a good fond.

          What you're right about I see after going back to look it up is that Silvinox has among its other purposes (e.g., non-tarnishing) the release of food for * ease-of-cleaning* purposes, rather than cooking. I never want to provide misinformation if I can help it, so I appreciate your correcting me about the purpose of Silvinox.

          1. re: Normandie

            My point about needing some practice to know the right temperature for searing was meant for the OP - sorry it seemed as though I directed it at you ;>). Not only does it involve general experience but also, asa I'm sure you know, different pans have different requirements. For a new cook, this can be really frustrating. Typically, we start out with lesser quality pans that need higher heat to maintain temperature. Then we move up to pans with greater thermal mass and heat retention - and burn a few chops or steaks before we get the hang of the new pan.

            1. re: greygarious

              Oh, sorry I misunderstood, greygarious. And, yes, I really do remember in the beginning years when it was a frustrating process, most of the time. It took a while to get proficient enough to be able to blame the pan, and not me, on a sear-gone-wrong. ;-)

              But you were right about the Silvinox, again. It's not there to lessen the stick tendencies during cooking, but during clean-up.

      2. To prepare your pan for frying say to it: "Pan, this is going to hurt a little, but it's your destiny. You're going to make me, friends and family very happy, many times over. I hope this gives you the (tensile) strength you will need to go on, but if not, like I said, it's your destiny".

        Other than that, the posters so far have pretty much covered it.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Zeldog

          Do you really think a frying pan experiences discomfort at frying temps? I would think it would probably be feeling quite chilly and somewhat lonely while NOT being used. With that in mind, I'd probably say something like "Hey little buddy, YOU'RE going to get to fry soon! Yes, you are! Isn't THAT going to be great!!!"

          1. re: scott123

            Ahaha, scott. You sound like my parents whenever they hauled us off to get vaccinated: "Honey, those little old needles won't hurt at all and you're going to feel SO brave once you get it done!"

            Yeah, sure. ;-p

        2. Thanks everyone for the helpful information.

          Just a couple additional questions if I may?

          Firstly I am going to find it incredibly hard to let the food ‘cook’ without touching/moving it. As I have always been afraid of food sticking, I have gotten into the habit of moving a piece of meat as soon as it touches a hot pan.

          I am hoping the combination of:
          Room temp food + hot good pan + cold oil + time to sear each side of the food = food that doesn’t burn and become a nightmare to remove from the pan

          Ok now cleaning of the pan. I have never deglazed a pan before and I have no idea where to start. But in theory, to help in the process of cleaning the pan, can I just deglaze with a small amount of water and then set the pan aside while we eat and then wash the pan once it has cooled down a little? Or should I just remove the food from the pan, let the pan cool and then wash? I’m thinking that maybe ‘deglazing’ is code for making the pan easier to clean.

          Just a side thought here, but I am a little nervous at the fact that this pan will have a stainless steel handle. I’ve only used pans with plastic handles before, and hence never had to worry about ‘hot handles’. Is it best to get into the habit of always using a tea towel or like when handling the pan?

          Ok now the fun bit. What should I cook? What would be the easiest food to get started with?

          4 Replies
          1. re: snax

            A little trick for keeping food (esp meat or fish) from sticking is to push it back and forth across the pan for a few seconds as soon as you put it in. Then leave it alone until ready to flip.

            Deglazing is something you do to make a sauce, but if you put a hot, dirty pan under the faucet it will dissolve or break loose a lot of the carmelized stuff, making it easier to clean, even if you let it sit around til after dinner.

            As for easiest food to start with: any vegetable. Easiest meat: pork chops. Most difficult: fish.

            1. re: Zeldog

              I cannot disagree more with the advice to"push it back and forth across the pan for a few seconds". The only way that will work is if the pan is not hot enough to sear, or has an abundant amount of oil. Searing is a combination of caramelizing proteins and sugars, and rendering fat. That is why you don't need much, if any, oil (it is necessary for skinless chicken and for fish). Keep your hands behind your back and resist the urge to mess with the meat until it tells you to!

              Deglaze with any liquid as soon as you remove the cooked food and before you turn off the heat - stir to loosen the fond (that's the yummy brown bits) and reduce the liquid until you have a simple sauce. You can get fancy once you've mastered simple.
              If you run cold water into a hot pan, or plunge it into the dishwater, you may well warp the bottom of the pan. If you are in a rush to cool the pan, put it on a cooling rack made for baked goods, or into the turned-off oven. If the food has burned, shut off the heat and pour HOT water into the pan, then leave it to cool.

              Most metal handles are designed to stay cool enough to grip without a potholder. The challenge is remembering that it's NOT cool enough if you have put the pan in a hot oven to finish cooking something. In that case, leave a towel or potholder over the handle if you then put it back on a hot burner to make a sauce. I have a neat silicone sleeve that is made for pan handles - no danger of setting a towel on fire.

              Start with burgers, steaks, and/or caramelized onions.

              1. re: greygarious

                A couple of points to add to greygarious' post:

                I think his advice to start your first few times with caramelizing onions is particularly good. That will give you a chance to see how the pan responds to *your* burners and if you have a learning curve, the most expensive thing you're going to lose is an onion, not a pricier cut of meat.

                I also agree completely with his advice to keep your hands behind your back and fight the urge to move or flip the food (especially meat or poultry) too soon.

                I know it's hard when you're first learning how to sear properly, but look at it this way, snax. You cared enough about doing these cooking procedures properly that you went out and purchases one of the most expensive pans on the market (short of copper pans). So remind yourself to let the pan do what it's designed to do.

                Two tips that might help you to be patient and not over-anxious to turn the meat too soon: 1) Trust your nose. If you don't smell the meat burning, then it isn't and you know you're safe to wait and not turn it; and 2) as a general rule of thumb, when you put a piece of meat or poultry down, it's not ready to turn *at least* until you begin to see the juices or blood seep through the top layer or the joints, for poultry. So don't even begin to worry that it's getting time to turn the food until you see that.

                URGENT safety note re deglazing. You MUST turn the burner off or remove the pan from the heat source temporarily if you're using any kind of alcoholic beverage to deglaze. This is critical if you have the open flame of a gas burner, but it's necessary, too, with electric burners, because alcohol is, as you know, flammable. So turn the burner off, pour in the wine, beer or liquor, use your spatula (silicon is good for this) to stir the liquid around and scrape that fond greygarious told you about off the bottom of the pan, and then when the liquor is incorporated, you can turn the heat source back on safely. And obviously, it's not necessary to cut the heat source if you're using non-alcoholic liquids, such as stock, fruit juices or water, to deglaze the pan to make the pan sauce.

                1. re: greygarious

                  True, pushing the meat around is a cheat. If your pan is hot enough it's unnecessary. However, it seems many inexperienced cooks (including me, back in the day) tend to under-heat their pans, in which case it helps. If the pan is hot enough it does no harm.

            2. Someone posted this video a while back and it was incredibly helpful to me, as I had just moved from nonstick pans to cladded stainless.


              1 Reply
              1. re: General Knowledge

                Great link! I've been pan frying for years, but a quick refresher course like that was very helpful!