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Sep 28, 2011 08:44 PM

Flipping veggies in my 14" non-stick slope-sided fry pan

The scenario is always the same.

I want to brown the cubed beef before stewing.

I've got some giblets that need an even browning.

I have thinly sliced mini-scallopini that need a quick saute.

I have plans to slice up the zucchini, saute the slices in a touch of olive oil.

I have trouble flipping small items in the pan. I have the technique down, with a two-handed flip (you should see my pancakes). Seems like half of the nuggets land same-side up. I flip again and the others land wrong-side down. So I go through the painstaking process of flipping the rebels individually with a fork or spatula. Is this how it goes? Do experienced cooks just do this really fast?

I can see now why it is easier to just fry a couple of boneless chicken breasts and then slice them later rather than try to make individual scallopini.

Am I doing something wrong or is this just the way it goes? Like how the buttered side always lands down?

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  1. Yeah, I think with meat, this is just how it goes. Unless you have a wok and high heat, it won't jump that predictably, especially cubes. Vegetables, shrimp and stuff like that should flip over pretty uniformly, though. You don't want to flip them as high as you would a pancake, of course, and I think one-handed will be more successful. I think the trick is that pan should be tilted down away from you (about 20 to 30 degrees lower than horizontal) when you start the flip, then immediately angled back up to catch. This can seem counter-intuitive because you want the food to go up, and because it seems like things will spill if you tip the pan down, but it actually gives much more control and makes for a more even toss. It also might help to keep your wrist stable and use your whole arm. Two to three short tosses should get most of the contents turned over the way you want it.

    Here's a Ming Tsai video. He works fast, but you can see how he tilts the pan down:

    1. Tongs make this job quicker than a fork or spatula. For many years I did not have tongs and thought they were superfluous if one had a spatula or pancake turner but once I acquired the tongs I realized I'd been mistaken. I'll flip vegetables in the pan using the one-handed wrist flip but that doesn't seem to work for chunks or slices of meat.

      1 Reply
      1. When you flip by giving em a toss in the pan, it is inevitable that some will turn over and others won't. As such, you don't use a tossing technique for giving a one-time flip to a bunch of sauteing food. Tossing is better used over (usually) very high heat where you're tossing repeatedly and often. That way the cooking pretty much evens out, and because the heat is high (and presumably the cooking time is short) standing over the stove the whole time (or at least most of it) isn't a big deal.

        If you want to just turn everything in the pan once or twice, you're better off with a pair of tongs as others suggested. Though even a spatula and a fork can be pretty fast if you practice enough with em.

        1. Brown beef: I use spatula.

          Giblets should be really easy.

          Scaloppini: I only flip once, so tongs.

          I don't think most home cooks have the tossing motion of a proper saute correct. Why would you want to do it two-handed, is your pan too heavy? 14" pan is kind of big and might be too heavy for me. Yes, experienced cooks do it really fast with a large amount of a scooping/ vertical motion. It's something that is best practiced in a commercial kitchen when some other guy is going to clean up after you...

          1 Reply
          1. re: jaykayen

            Yes, it is a pretty big pan, and if two hands are effective for Rafa Nadal, then...