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Apr 6, 2013 04:24 PM

Pan too hot for Ghee (VIDEO). Pan destroyed? How hot do stoves get?

Inspired by my previous salmon searing thread, and excited to try out the "ball of mercury" trick to determine proper pan temperature, and triumphantly returning form Whole Foods with Ghee (clarified butter), and proud that I determined its smoke point on my smart phone while at the store, and armed with Ghee's smoke point of 485 degrees:

I tried the mercury ball method:

Here's the mess that ensued . . .

In retrospect, I think I may have dropped the 1/8th tsp of water from too great a height (because I was filming and didn't want to burn myself).

Obviously, the pan was much hotter than 485 degrees.

1, Any guesses as to what temperature a gas stove will heat a stainless steel pan to on a) medium, and b) high?

2. How can I get the charred remains off my pan? I tried SOS and it barely made a dent in the mess. I have it soaking in apple cider vinegar now.

I ended up using a teflon pan on medium heat, with ghee (flesh side down first until it looked like I wanted it to, then skin side down till fully cooked. It came out pretty good, leaving me to wonder why I'm fussing with stainless steel pans and mercury methods). Oh yes, I remember now: my inner caveman wants to be as Paleo as possible and minimize exposure to non-stick cooking wherever possible.

Any and all feedback is totally welcome (even if you think I'm a nut for wanting to avoid the non-stick cooking surfaces :-



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  1. So you had a single ball of water? If it broke up into many dancing balls it was too hot.
    Judging by your smoking, burnt Oil/Ghee it was either left it to over heat in the Pan or the Pan was too hot to start with.
    Also your pan is not destroyed. Cleaning the polymer that you have created in your pan can be removed with soaking and a scrub.

    4 Replies
    1. re: chefj

      I'm sure I misjudged the dancing balls, getting all distracted trying to film what I thought was going to be awesome.

      It just didn't seem hot enough on medium-high, so I fired it up to high.

      BTW, here's the pan damage after really hard SOS scrubbing and an hour of vinegar:

      1. re: mike2401

        I'm trying the 20 minute boil method now:

        I'll report back if that helps.

        1. re: mike2401

          after the boiling water cooled, I tried SOS, and it still wasn't coming off. I tried baking soda but that didn't really do anything.

          Then, I tried COMET. That did a pretty good job. I got most of it off that way. I rinsed and put in cascase, rub it on the sides and left some in the bottom. I'll fuss with it some more tomorrow morning.

          1. re: mike2401

            Put a fabric softener sheet in the pan and add water to cover. leave overnight.

            just did this with stainless steel pressure cooker with a blackened bottom that I could not get clean and it really worked.

            you could also try boiling the pan with some baking soda an water.

    2. Put cold oil into a cold pan.

      Heat on medium high heat. Your oil will become looser and then it will "shimmer." Put protein in. If things start to smoke or burn, lower the heat.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jaykayen

        Yeah I don't know what that crap was all about saying that he pan has to be hot as hell to put oil on or whatever. Just heat your pan up to medium high... add oil/ghee onto the pan. Let it shimmer and looser.. then add your protein. Like jaykayen said -- if it's smoking or burning... do what you think is right... turn the heat off... don't blindly follow some video

      2. This is another example of too much faith being put in Wikipedia. Other sources report that the smoke point of ghee can be as much as 100 °F lower, depending on the level of purity.

        If you want a high smoke point, you should not be cooking in butter, in my opinion.

        5 Replies
        1. re: GH1618

          I did find another reference:

          (oh wait: that's wikipedia also. It says: "Ghee is ideal fat for deep frying because its smoke point (where its molecules begin to break down) is 250 °C (482 °F), which is well above typical cooking temperatures of around 200 °C (392 °F) and above that of most vegetable oils."

          But you are correct: if there are impurities, it will smoke at a much lower point. Since this is fancy organic, no gmo, I suspect it was pretty pure, but my pan was way too hot.

          1. re: mike2401

            "Organic" and "non-GMO" have nothing to do with purity.

            1. re: mike2401

              I contacted PurityFarms about their product, and they said:

              "Discussion Thread
              Response (Lori) - 04/10/2013 11:26 AM
              Dear Mike,

              Thank you for contacting CROPP Cooperative.

              The smoke point for the ghee can range between 375* - 485*F.

              If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

            2. re: GH1618

              You might be right about my ghee not having the wikipedia advertised smoke point of 485.

              I repeated my test this morning.

              This time I put a very tiny bit of ghee on a corner of the pan as it was heating up.

              The ghee was fine when the pan was not that hot (e.g. water vaporized immediately).

              However, when I bumped up the heat to a notch above medium, it started to smoke.

              I immediately moved it off the burner and threw ice water into the pan to avoid the scorching mess I made last night.


              1. re: mike2401

                Water, hot oil? Yikes! Good thing nothing worse happened.

            3. If you want to go "Paleo" with cookware, let me suggest that cast iron or carbon steel pans will each be superior to stainless and non-stick, more Paleo, and--in the case of cast iron, especially--much cheaper.

              For your present purposes, the only downside to cast iron and carbon steel is you have to learn a thing or two about keeping them from rusting up on you, but even if they do, they're fixable.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Bada Bing

                Interesting suggestion! I'd like to avoid additional iron leeching into my food but I will investigate carbon steel (never heard of that). Thanks!

                1. re: mike2401

                  Most people benefit from extra iron.

                  1. re: mike2401

                    From what I've read in the past, cooking in cast iron mainly adds iron for longer-cooking applications and especially if using acidic/alkaline foods, like a tomato sauce, which in fact I would never use in cast iron because those pans are "reactive," meaning that those very same foods will take on strange metallic flavors from the pan (no doubt a phenomenon hand-in-hand with the iron leaching). For non-acidic foods cooked more quickly, like the salmon, the iron effect is supposedly minimal. At that end of the perspective, I've read that people who actually need more iron should not take for granted that cooking in cast iron is doing them meaningful good.

                    You can easily google up some sources. I encourage you to make sure of the scientific basis of the claims you find on the internet, of course. (I wonder if USDA or FDA websites address this questions?)

                    1. re: Bada Bing

                      Reading this, it's totally off my list. Who in the world would want a reactive pan that might leach a metalic taste, depending on what is being cooked.

                      I'm surprised anyone would want that for cooking, but I'm sure there are positive characteristics.

                      Thanks for the great info,

                      1. re: mike2401

                        It really doesn't give off a metallic taste (not that I've ever noticed, and yes, I have cooked tomatoes in it, not super acidic stuff), I've cooked in cast iron for years. It is not that reactive, not like aluminum, which I wouldn't want for a cooking surface. Do some research and you might be surprised.
                        It is recommended for "paleo" cooking. I looked it up.

                        1. re: mike2401

                          there are tons of cast iron and carbon steel lovers on CH. I wouldn't recommend it for you just yet, though. You're still a beginner when it comes to cooking.

                          1. re: mike2401

                            Carbon steel is also reactive. The only non-reactive cooking surfaces, I think, are stainless, ceramics/enamels, and non-stick. Enameled cast iron is terrific, because it gives the best of cast iron without the issue of reactiveness.

                            Sounds as if you're after some ideal of "purity" in your dietary regimen. I suggest you keep working with the stainless, or maybe go for a raw diet?

                            I own this infrared thermometer, and while I mainly got it to monitor the temperature of my pizza stone in the oven, such a tool quickly eliminates guesswork for pan temperature as well, and you can even see whether your pan is heating evenly or has hotspots/coldspots:


                            You could probably find a cheaper version at a Harbor Freight tools store near you. (Among other things, it's used by auto mechanics to read engine and hose temperatures.) This item tends to be cheaper when sold among tools than when sold among kitchenwares. Just like I found that household doorway gates cost less at a baby-stuff store than at a pet store--shows you who has more discretionary income!

                            1. re: mike2401

                              The most nonreactive cooking surface is PTFE (Teflon), so you have conflicting objectives.

                              1. re: mike2401

                                Anyone who likes decent cornbread, awesome pan pizzas, and incredible Dutch babies?

                        2. If you still can't get the gunk off the pan, try using some Fume Free Easy Off oven cleaner and letting it sit for a few hours. I use it to clean the sticky grease off the pieces of my deep fryer and it works really well.