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Nov 1, 2011 09:11 PM

Oil Catching on Fire

Hey guys. So I am new to using stainless steel cookware and cooking in general. I used my SS pan for the first time tonight to pan fry chicken. I have a rouxbe membership and used their pan frying video as guidance, doing the water test. When I thought the pan was at the right temp, I added the oil and it began smoking like crazy and caught on fire in five seconds. It was BLAZING, I almost burnt my face. Took me about an hour of scrubbing with BarKeepers Friend to get the black coating off the bottom of the pan. What did I do wrong?

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  1. Clearly, the pan was too hot.....but what type of oil did you use? It must have had a low flash point.

    5 Replies
      1. re: Xhale12

        EVOO, that's why. Pan was too hot for that type of oil, which has a low smoke/flash point. Use a oil with a higher smoke point, and back off a bit on the heat.

        1. re: bushwickgirl

          What oil is generally used for panfrying meats?

          1. re: Xhale12

            That must have been a very hot pan! It sounds as though you wanted to sauteƩ the meat? or did you want to shallow fry? For sautee, I use a combination of vegetable oil and olive oil for many foods, but it really depends on which dish I am making. For shallow frying, I use either a peanut oil or a neutral vegetable oil like sunflower. For shallow frying, I start with oil in the cold pan. For sauteeing, I add the oil after the pan is already hot.

            1. re: Xhale12

              I use vegetable or a combo of that and pure olive oil, (not EVOO) peanut or grapeseed for really hot pan frying. See the cookingforengineers link above and below; it'll give you an idea about which to use.

      2. Heres a link to a chart showing the smoke point of various fats. In addition to fires, taking an oil to its smoke point makes it taste awful (and is said to become very unhealthy!)

        This will help you pick the right oil for what you're making:

        1 Reply
        1. re: weezieduzzit

          So, you can use pomace olive oil if you want to use olive oil. If no allergies, peanut oil is preferred by many too.

          I have a small container of avocado oil and assumed it was very delicate, guess not.

        2. Aye karumba! Frying in olive oil is a skill all to itself. There was actually a course offered by a major cooking school in Florence Italy on how to fry with the stuff -- I almost took the course, too. I'm not surprised it caught fire instantly...You'd be better off using a peanut oil or other oil with a high smoke point. Also, I don't know much about the "water test" but I don't like to heat pans without having the oil or whatever I'm using in them. I did google what you watched but I couldn't watch it without a subscription, so I'm not really sure how they test the pan. I know that when I pan fry, I add the oil and heat the oil and pan together until hot enough. A way I test this is by putting a wooden spoon into the pan, if bubbles rise up around the spoon, its good and hot. The other way is to use a thermometer if you have enough oil in the bottom. Give it another shot, let us know how round 2 goes!

          10 Replies
          1. re: freia

            I will use grapeseed oil this time. If you dont hear back from me I burnt down my house and am probably dead.

            1. re: Xhale12

              OK we'll keep an eye better let us know how it a quick question, why did you chose grapeseed oil? it strikes me as more expensive than peanut oil or plain old canola. Usually for pan frying one doesn't need to get the oil with the highest smokepoint. That becomes more important with deepfrying I think. Just a question, cause I've never ever had the need to use grapeseed oil... :)\

              1. re: freia

                Not sure. I dont mind paying the extra money. I read on various sites, that grapeseed oil is the best for pan frying. Healthier than canola as well.

              2. re: Xhale12

                Most commercial kitchens deep fry with vegetable oil......some will use corn oil or vegetable shortening. Crisco is great for chicken or french fries in shallow pan or deep frying.

                1. re: fourunder

                  I've been noticing a trend towards peanut, at least at the higher end places. Cheap places are fine with soy.

                  1. re: coll

                    Outside of Five Guys Burgers, I really can't think of any businesses other than Chinese restaurants using peanut oil on a regular basis. I'm sure they exist, but with the notion of peanut oil and consequences of allergies.....most will not take the chance. I have read mixed data on whether refined peanut oil can actually cause an episode with someone who has a peanut allergy.....both on here, and in publications.

                    There's an up and coming Korean Fried Chicken chain that uses Extra Virgin/Olive Oil exclusively for their deep frying.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      I know it's so weird, but I know a high end caterer/gourmet shop in the Hamptons, and then a nice BBQ place, that went from Canola to peanut. Not like it's cheaper, it's more expensive if anything. But it made me take notice. Mostly kids with peanut allergies, am I right? Made me want to try it out someday.

                      1. re: coll

                        I'm not sure...I know I'd err on the side of safety per se in a known allergy, but in all honesty, most restaurants can in no way claim that they are nut-free. That's such a hard thing to do from a commercial POV I think. I know that I use peanut oil when I'm deep frying samosas or papadums, and I'll use it in cooking. I don't notice any peanut flavor, but as for the allergen potential, I'm not sure.
                        I know that the Peanut Institute (doesn't that sound official? LOL) says this about the subject:

                        "The fact is that highly refined peanut oil is different from peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut flour when it comes to allergy. This is because most peanut oil undergoes a refining process, in which it is purified, refined, bleached, and deodorized. When peanut oil is correctly processed and becomes highly refined, the proteins in the oil, which are the components in the oil that can cause allergic reaction, are removed. This makes the peanut oil allergen-free! The vast majority of peanut oil that is used in foodservice and by consumers in the U.S. is processed and is considered highly refined. "

                        1. re: coll

                          The majority of people with peanut allergies, don't have an allergy to highly processed peanut oil. But for the ones that do, I expect that they ask before ordering. I am thrilled that canola oil is fading. Anything cooked in canola tastes like old fish to me.

                        2. re: fourunder

                          Indian cooking uses peanut oil for frying so you will find it used by most Indian restaurants along with coconut, almond and grapeseed.