Charging a Pan
“Charging a pan” is another technique and term I throw around on the blog a lot that I wanted to explain further.
What is Charging a Pan?
In brief, charging a pan is just another name for preheating it. It’s quite simple, all you have to do is put the pan on the burner, turn the burner on high and let it sit.
However, note that I said “preheating it” and “it” was a singular pronoun referring to the pan only, not the pan and oil in the pan. If you put anything in the pan when you charge it, that thing might burn. I was reminded of this fact this very morning when I served my son scrambled eggs with a nice aftertaste of BURNT.
I’m glad we understand each other.
Why Charge a Pan?
There are a couple of reasons why you want to charge a pan. The best reason is when you are using a technique like a sear or a saute, which requires cooking the food over very high heat. If you put the food in a cold pan, it can stick, it won’t cook evenly, and it won’t get that beautiful hard sear. Also, getting the pan very hot will minimize the impact of adding food to the pan, which always causes it to cool.
Secondly, it is vitally important that you charge your pan if you are cooking something over a wok. Have you ever seen the burners in a Chinese kitchen? Those things are like mini jet engines, only hotter. If you are at home on your standard burner, you need to get your wok HOT HOT HOT before stir frying for the best results.
Last, if you have an electric stove like some people (me, sadly), you should charge your pan so that it gets hotter faster. If not, you are going to be killing a lot of time waiting for oil to get hot and water to boil.
When Good Pan Charges Go Bad
As mentioned above, just charge the pan, don’t charge the oil.
Also, you shouldn’t always charge the pan. If you are cooking delicate foods (eggs, soft vegetables, seafood), all charging your pan will do is cause burnt food.
Last, keep in mind that even though you charged your pan on high heat, it doesn’t mean you can’t turn down your burner once you add the food. Seriously, medium and medium high are your friend!
Thanks to Mel B. for the picture of Steam!