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Overcoming the fear of SS warping

sancor Jul 30, 2013 06:35 PM

So I've recently been able to afford some pans that aren't terrible (woohoo!). I'm now working with some All-Clad D5 fry pans, and have been following what I've learned on these forums and elsewhere on the internet to use them correctly. Essentially my routine entails:

-Preheat the pans on medium heat for 1-2 minutes empty
-Add room temperature oil to coat the surface
-Once hot enough, add food
-Kitchen Magic

I've been able to get some good searing on food, and have experienced little to no sticking problems. But my issue now is, I'm not sure if I'm really truly getting my pan hot enough. I think I'm a little afraid of ruining them.

This is probably stemming from the fact that the first time I used the pan I felt that the surface seemed uneven (center of the pan was elevated and the oil pooled at the rims) and I was worried I had inadvertently warped the pan. However, the second time I cooked with the pan (camera-ready in case I needed to call AC and get a replacement pan) the surface seemed more or less even. I saw some folks online saying that the convexity of the pan's surface might be intentional, so that when the different metals expand after being heated the surface become more flat. Nevertheless, the experience left me a bit worried about preheating the pan, and I think I've been playing it too safe ever since.

So, to get to the point, I was wondering how some of you more experienced cooks time your preheating and determine when exactly things are "hot enough". Kudos to anyone who could provide temperature information in degrees, just to satisfy my inner scientist. But I'd also love to hear about ways to intuit "hot enough" without the use of thermometers.

And any comments along the lines of "stop worrying about warping your pans you scaredy cat" will be appreciated.

As always, thanks in advance for your time and expertise.

  1. k
    kaleokahu Jul 30, 2013 06:53 PM

    Hi, sancor:

    OK, stop worrying. I'm not just placating you, either.

    First, let me say that the thermal expansion of metals--especially dissimilar metals bonded together in "clad"--makes it all too common that you will get a "halo of oil" effect. Part of this is the pan itself, and part is the physics of what happens to the oil when heated. Only when you get to the level of, e.g., Demeyere, does a maker claim that their pans stay dead flat--and I don't believe them completely, either. IMO, it's the nature of the beast.

    Next, this bowing is not necessarily hazardous to the health of your pans. If the SS is not becoming permanently bluish or trending in that way, you're pretty safe.

    I know you want exactitude, but here's what *I* let be my guide for "durable" surfaces like SS: Hold your hand, palm, down, about an inch off the deck. If you can hold it there for 2-3 full seconds without pulling back in pain, you're also OK. But don't turn it up to 11 and walk away, either, and *certainly* don't subject it to quenching in water if you do.

    It's all good. Relax.

    Aloha,
    Kaleo

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