Updated: Feb 19, 2021
Working out of a commercial kitchen really changed my perspective of just cooking. It really gave me an appreciation of what it truly takes to put together a meal. I gained some helpful insight about this simple truth: Anyone truly can cook, as long as you have some basic fundamentals. When Brandon and I were going over ideas for episodes for the podcast, a question came up in regards to my experience in the kitchen. Brandon asked, what was something I learned in the kitchen that was a game changer? As I thought about it, a simple principle immediately came to mind. It almost seemed too simple, but the more we talked, the more profound the principle became.
The importance of having a hot pan.
As simple as this may seem it really opened up my understanding of how this is a critical step in the cooking process that often gets overlooked. And flat out, it changes how food tastes.
Why do you need a hot pan? Have you ever had soggy skin chicken? or Oily vegetables? That stuff is gross. Texture is a big deal to a lot of people, so soggy or greasy stuff might change how people respond to your food if you take the time to consider this important step more carefully. If you’ve been victimized by things like soggy chicken skin, you can blame a pan that was not hot enough.
So, what do I mean when I say the pan needs to be “hot enough?” There are 3 basic cooking techniques that go alongside a hot pan: simmering, sautéing, and searing.
Simmering is when you cook something in liquid without boiling it. It’s a basic technique that can save you from having burnt rice, or tough meat in a stew. Keep your flame low, and let the food heat up slow.
Sautéing is when you use a LITTLE bit of oil or butter to help heat and coat the food. This is a good way to cook vegetables for a stir-fry or fajitas. In this case, sautéing helps ensure you’ve cooked vegetables so they taste good, but also still taste fresh and have a little bite and crunch to them.
Searing needs a lot of heat. Searing is when you use extreme heat, so when your food hits the pan, it sizzles immediately, and cooks VERY quickly on the outside. This is how to get a nice char on a steak or crispy skin on chicken before your cook your meat more slowly in lower heat.
Understanding these basic fundamentals leads into the importance of a hot pan. If you don’t consider these techniques, you probably won’t plan how hot your pan should be. If you’re not making those plans, you’re probably skipping steps thinking that cooking takes too long, or spending more time on your food than you need to.
So, you might be thinking: When do I actually need heat the pan? Personally, I like to do it while prepping my vegetables or when I start seasoning whatever meat I’m going to be working with. This way I know it the pan will be ready for the food when the food is ready for the pan. I’ll adjust my heat for simmering, sautéing, or searing, and when the food is ready, the pan and food have a good time together.
Next time you’re wondering what to do with the food you’ve taken out to cook, take an extra second to consider these things. How do you want to cook your meat? How do you want to each your vegetables? Getting the cooking vessels ready for the food they’ll cook in advance, goes a LONG way! You’ll immediately see a difference in the quality of your food with this simple step. Not to mention, the Biblical application that goes along with this, is pretty life-changing as well. If you’ve ever read the Bible or gone to church, and not gained the results that you expected, you may be skipping a simple preparation step like “pre-heating.” Wondering what we mean? Check out the Bread & Beats Podcast Episode #2 where we discuss this in more depth.