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Nov 7, 2012 04:25 AM

stir fry issues

Hi everyone. Have a couple questions about stir frying. I haven't yet gotten a wok yet as I don't want a flat bottomed one and i have an electric stove. Will be buying a gas burner in the future. As of now I'm using a 32cm DeBuyer mineral pan. I've had it about a year and the seasoning pretty good as anything that sticks easily scrapes out . My question is heat. Regardless if I stir fry or searing/cooking meat I get a very large amount of smoke in the house. I'm not burning anything but the house fills up. This may seem a silly question but I'm new to high heat cooking. Is all the smoke normal? I keep hearing that high btu's work well for this type of cooking but if my weak glass top stove produces enough heat on high to turn the house into a smoke house why would anyone need more? Thanks

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  1. The oil might be smoking. Also if the pan is not perfectly clean it will smoke. I tend to get smoking on my pan towards the end of stirfrying a bunch of different things.

    Try cleaning the pan with hotwater and vinegar to see if it helps. If it doesnt try timing how long before the pan smokes when cooking and then try changing the amount type of oil to see what works best.

    Stirfrying should be done with a small amount of oil. So if you have a lot in the pan that will make more smoke then I see.

    2 Replies
    1. re: merrua

      My pan is clean. I wash it well now that my seasoning is finally good. I usually use about a ts of sunflower oil

      1. re: Vicv07

        One teaspoon of oil might be too little. The recipes we use (typically from Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge) call for 1-2 tablespoons of oil, all told.

    2. The logical response here is that high heat cooking demands you either turn on or acquire a good vent hood. Perhaps your "weak glass top stove" is more adequate than you realize, or you have done a good job of adjusting your cooking technique to compensate. If you are happy with your results, don't have a hood or don't want to install one and don't like the smoke, then more heat isn't necessary (or recommended, IMO) Honestly, I don't understand the logic of equating smoking up your house with need or lack of need for more BTU, but in that vein, maybe you need a bigger house ;)
      High heat cooking creates some smoke as an unavoidable consequence of achieving the sear and char that adds desirable flavor and texture. High heat cooking requires good venting.

      There are oils with a higher smoke point than sunflower that you could experiment with:

      If you are really curious, check the surface temp of your pan with an IR thermometer at the point that you are achieving the cooking results you desire, and compare that to the smoke point of whatever oil you are using. My other thought is that maybe you aren't using ENOUGH oil. Part of what makes stir frying work is that the food gets coated with super hot oil. That heat transfer as much as what it gets from touching the pan is what gets good results.

      4 Replies
      1. re: splatgirl

        I agree I do need a better hood. I just have the small hood normally seen in houses and it doesn't do enough. I rent otherwise I'd have a gas stove and a better hood. I just wasn't sure if the smoke is normal. As far as oil I put in enough to coat the pan. Don't want to use too much. Not very healthy even though I always use sunflower or grape seed. Actually the last time when it got really smokey I'd run out and was using normal vegetable oil. For the btu's I was just wondering because I've got enough heat to smoke the oil so why would someone need more? Maybe woks need more?

        1. re: Vicv07

          I put in enough to coat the pan

          you need enough to coat THE FOOD. As I said above, the point of the oil isn't to coat the pan.
          And a nutritional FYI, fat is crucial to absorbing all of the micronutrients in that veg. Consider rethinking and re-researching the idea that fats are unhealthy.

          1. re: splatgirl

            Oh I'm not one of those that think fat is the devil. I believe bacon and butter constitute their own food group! I just don't want all my food being greasy. I'll try a bit more oil next time. Thanks

          2. re: Vicv07

            Enough heat to make the oil smoke does not mean you have enough heat to keep up temp when ingredients are added to your cooking vessel. So, with a big enough pan, and enough btu's, you can keep up temp for bigger batches. Same pan, and batch size with smaller btu's will mean sauteeing instead of chowing with nice wok hei.

        2. <Is all the smoke normal? >

          Some smoke is normal, but a lot of smoke is not.

          For example, extra virgin olive oil has a very low smoke point of ~375 °F (191 °C), while refined peanut oil has a higher smoke point of ~450 °F (232 °C). Consequently, if you were to stir fry at 400 °F, one oil will excessively smoke, while the other won’t. For stir fry, it is very important to pick an oil which has a high smoke point.

          <keep hearing that high btu's work well for this type of cooking but if my weak glass top stove produces enough heat on high to turn the house into a smoke house why would anyone need more? Thanks>
          Well, aside from the smoke point which we have mentioned, there is the volume/mass of the food. A high btu can help you to stir fry a large amount of food. Consequently, if you have a low btu stove, you must limit the amount of food. I don’t think this is a surprise as this is not limited to just stir fry. This is also see this in pan frying too. If you put a few items in a hot pan, you will be able to fry pan them. If you put too much food, then they start to overwhelm the stove, and will notice liquid building up in the pan, and now you are cooking the food in liquid…etc. Stir fry is more sensitive in this regard, but not special.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Oh ok. The high btu's is to keep it at temp. Not to get it hot enough. I've probably overstepped the oil. After reading that oil chart looks like extra light olive oil has a very high flash point. Maybe I'll try that as it should have a light flavor as well. I'm getting pretty good at stir frying now. My rice today came out perfect. Only problem seems to be when I add the soy sauce and such. That sticks but the rice doesnt

            1. re: Vicv07

              <The high btu's is to keep it at temp. Not to get it hot enough>

              Well, it can get the empty wok very hot in a very short duration, but that is icing on the cake, and not the very primary reason. When people say that "You want a high BTU stove to get the wok really hot", they are really referring the wok temperature after the food has been tossed in. You want to cook at high temperature.

              Most stoves can heat up an empty pan fairly hot, but once you toss the food in the pan, the pan will cool down rather quickly, so you would want to get the pan hot quickly, and cook the food at a high temperature.

              <extra light olive oil has a very high flash point>

              Yes, if you have refined olive oil. I have used extra light olive oil, and it does not readily smoke. This is a good list if you haven't looked at it:


              <Only problem seems to be when I add the soy sauce and such>

              Yeah, soy sauce and many other sauces can burn at high temperature. I don't usually add a lot of soy sauce for fried rice, but the rule of thumb is to add it to the fried rice when you are already 99% done for your fried rice. Add it to the fried rice at the very end, toss/stir for 5-15 seconds, and then take everything out.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I don't use much soy sauce either. About a teaspoon per cup. And I put it in, mix evenly, and done. It's probably the sugar