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Aug 28, 2012 06:18 PM

Stainless steel pan can't get chicken to 165 degrees

I used to fry chicken breasts in a cast iron pan, which would always turn out great. I recently purchased a stainless steel cookware set and have been trying to make the chicken in the SS pan, but I can never get the temperature of the chicken to go above 130 degrees. That is on medium high. The manual says to never use high heat.

The chicken is white all the way through but I have to have it in the pan longer than I did with the cast iron so it ends up being a little dry and I can definitely notice a temp difference when I eat it.

Is there a trick to this? Can I use high heat? I really want to like my new pots and pans but am a little disappointed.

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  1. First of all, what brand and line of pans do you have? Typically, lower heat is all that is needed for most things but, frying chicken needs to be done at the correct oil temperature.

    1. For moister, better textured chicken breasts cook them to 150 - 155 degrees F.

      1. What kind of thermometer do you have? Make sure it is calibrated correctly and the spot where it takes the measurement is in the meat. On cheap analog thermometers there is a circle imprint on the stick, make sure that circle is in the center of the meat. Before I found this out I always thought it took the measurement from the tip.

        1. One of the great things about cast iron is that it's heavy and stores a lot of heat. So when you put some (relatively) cold pieces of chicken into the pan, the temperature doesn't drop very much. Stainless steel pans are a lot lighter and don't store as much heat, so the temperature will drop more when you add food to the pan.

          One solution might be to use more oil, another might be to fry fewer pieces at one time, another would be to use higher heat -- if the food isn't getting hot, you're not overheating the pan. (OTOH, I wouldn't put an EMPTY pan on high heat.)

          That said, my personal preference would be to go back to using your cast iron pan. Cast iron is great for cooking certain kinds of food, and I think pan fried chicken is near the top of the list. Pan frying steaks is another, and for the same reason.

          1. They are cuisinart chef's classic stainless steel. I have two instant read thermometers, one is digital and the other is not. I though the digital one read from the tip and the other one from the middle but I could be wrong. It is noticably not has hot when I eat it as it is when it's made in the cast iron pan so I think the temp is accurate.

            I'll try more oil and higher heat tonight and see what happens. I just didn't want to get burn marks on the pans already and was afraid high heat would do that. Is there a reason that the manual says not to use high heat ever with these pans? I know they aren't All Clad quality but they aren't dirt cheap either.

            4 Replies
            1. re: jms64799

              I think the main reason for warning people not to use high heat isn't burn marks, but the risk of warping. If you're using a gas stove rather than a glass-top range, minor warping may not be that much of an issue for you. As for burn marks or blue/rainbow discoloration, IME, a light scrubbing with Bar Keeper's Friend will to the trick. Good luck!

              1. re: jms64799

                I would ask the manufacturer what they define as high heat.
                I have some range burners that on medium are = to high on another cook surface

                1. re: lcool

                  I have a 30 year old electric range. Maybe it doesn't get as hot as it should. I'll put it on high heat tonight and see what happens.

                  1. re: jms64799

                    Honestly I almost never use high heat for anything except to boil water. You should be able to get your pan hot enough on the stove burner on med high. The bottoms of your pans are encapsulated aluminum. Aluminum is almost as good at transferring heat as copper. It does take longer to heat up a pan on med high or med, but you should be able to do so.

                    For chicken frying, I'd consider sticking with cast iron. CI is the perfect tool for this task.

                    So that you know your stove and pans, consider bringing water to boil at high heat in one of your new pans. Then do same on med high. Use the same pan, cooled the second time, and the same amount of water. Once you do this, you'll have a better feel for how fast your pans heat up.

                    Good luck. I think Cuisinart makes a good product.