Do you add oil before or after heating the pan? (Which is best way)

By | June 10, 2023

Are you unsure about the right way to add oil to a pan before cooking?

Do you heat the pan first and then pour in the oil, or do you add the oil to the pan and then heat it?

It’s a common culinary debate, and in this article, we’ll explore the various perspectives on this matter.

There isn’t a definitive right or wrong answer, as both methods have their own merits and drawbacks.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into this age-old debate, dissecting the pros and cons of each method.

By the end, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to make an informed decision and elevate your cooking game.

Let’s settle the oil debate once and for all!


Do you add oil before or after heating the pan?

Whether you add oil before or after heating the pan may not seem like a big deal. But what really matters is accurately gauging the pan’s temperature, ensuring both safety and the preservation of the oil’s flavor when preparing your culinary delights. It is important to note that preheating a non-stick (Teflon) pan should be avoided to prevent any potential damage.


Both methods are able to reduce food sticking problems.

food stick pan

Preheating the pan is essential for preventing food from sticking during cooking.

When the pan reaches a sufficiently high temperature, the pores and gaps on its surface expand.

This expansion allows the cooking oil to easily penetrate the pores and gaps, forming a protective coating that prevents the food from bonding with the metal atoms of the pan.

Adding oil either before or after heating the pan can effectively prevent food from sticking.

The key is to ensure that the pan is heated to a high enough temperature for the oil to fill the enlarged pores and gaps.


What type of pan uses which method to gauge the pan temperature accurately?

measure pan temperature

Measuring the temperature of the pan is a crucial step to ensure both safety and cooking success. 

Insufficient pan temperature can lead to food sticking, while an overheated pan poses a serious fire hazard.

When it comes to cast iron pans, their porous surface retains cooking oil residue and a seasoned coating layer. 

It’s important to note that the smoking point of cooking oil is around 210°C, and the fire point is around 300°C. 

Therefore, when preheating an empty cast iron pan and it starts to smoke, it indicates that the pan has reached a temperature close to 210°C.

However, this method is not applicable to stainless steel pans. 

Unlike cast iron, stainless steel pans have a smooth, non-porous surface, making them unsuitable for retaining oil residue and seasoning. 

Cleaning a stainless steel pan ensures that there is no leftover oil residue on the surface.

Unfortunately, determining the temperature of an empty stainless steel pan is challenging. 

It doesn’t smoke at around 210°C, leaving no clear indication of the temperature level. 

Furthermore, if the pan reaches 300°C and cooking oil is added, it can instantly catch fire, posing a significant danger. 

The use of infrared temperature guns is also problematic with stainless steel pans due to their shiny and reflective surface, resulting in inaccurate readings. 

The gun may show a reading of 200°C, while the actual pan temperature could be 300°C or higher, creating a hazardous situation.

One practical approach for gauging the temperature of a stainless steel pan is by observing the behavior of the oil. 

By adding oil before heating the pan, you can monitor the oil’s surface. 

When the pan is cold, the oil appears thicker and moves slowly. 

However, when the pan reaches the ideal cooking temperature, the oil takes on a shimmering appearance, displaying slight waves. 

It also becomes more fluid and easily glides when the pan is moved. 

On the other hand, if the pan becomes overheated, the oil will start to smoke.

It’s important to note that different types of oil have varying smoke points.


Which method is able to prevent oil splattering problems?

oil splattering from pan

Adding oil before heating the pan can lead to splattering issues that can cause harm and discomfort.

When the pan is wet or not thoroughly dried, placing oil in it and then heating it causes the water to come into contact with the hot metal, resulting in rapid heating and vaporization. 

As the pressure of the vaporized water builds up, it eventually becomes strong enough to overcome the weight of the oil. 

This leads to a sudden burst of the pressurized vaporized water, simultaneously causing the oil to splatter in the surrounding area.

Splattering oil can be dangerous and cause pain if it comes into contact with the skin. 

To avoid such issues, it is strongly recommended to follow a different approach. 

Begin by heating the pan first, ensuring that the surface is completely dry. 

Once the pan is adequately heated and the surface is dry, you can then proceed to add the oil.

By adhering to this sequence of steps, you significantly reduce the chances of oil splattering and the associated risks. 

Prioritizing safety and taking preventive measures like heating the pan first and confirming its dryness will help create a safer and more enjoyable cooking experience.


Which method is able to preserve the cooking oil flavor and ensure a good taste of food?

oil flavor

Adding oil before heating the pan can have a negative impact as it causes the oil to break down more quickly. 

This is due to prolonged contact between the oil and the hot metal surface.

When you heat a pan with only oil and no food, the heat transfer from the hot pan is directly absorbed by the oil. 

Consequently, the oil heats up at a faster rate. 

As the oil is exposed to heat for an extended period, it eventually reaches its smoke point and begins to break down rapidly. 

This can have adverse effects on both the flavor of the oil and the taste of the cooked food.

If you prefer to add oil before heating a stainless steel pan to prevent it from overheating, there are a few suggestions to consider. 

Firstly, opt for a cooking oil with a high smoke point. 

This choice will help counteract the rapid temperature rise of the oil in the pan. 

Secondly, when heating the oil in a cold pan, you can take a proactive approach to minimize the negative effects. 

Once the oil has heated up and begins to lightly smoke, turn off the stove. 

Dispose of the heated oil, as it has already broken down and degraded. 

Subsequently, add fresh oil to the pan before starting to cook. 

By following this method, you can avoid the taste of the food being compromised by overheated oil.

By being mindful of these recommendations and taking appropriate steps, you can mitigate the drawbacks associated with adding oil before heating the pan. 

This will contribute to preserving the flavor of the oil and ensuring the optimal taste of your cooked dishes.


Non-stick pan not suitable for preheating.

non-stick pan

Preheating a non-stick pan is not recommended due to the potential risks involved. 

Adding oil before or after heating the pan should be avoided, as it can have detrimental effects on the non-stick coating.

The primary reason for avoiding preheating a non-stick pan is that the non-stick coating, typically made of Teflon, can deteriorate when exposed to temperatures exceeding 500°F (260°C). 

This degradation can result in the release of toxic fumes into the air, which poses health hazards.

Before using a non-stick pan for cooking, it is essential to ensure that the pan is completely dry. 

This can be achieved by carefully wiping the surface with a kitchen towel. 

By doing so, you can prevent oil splattering and maintain a clean cooking environment.

To properly use a non-stick pan, follow these steps: place the pan on the stove, then add the desired amount of oil. 

Adjust the heat setting to low or medium, and allow the pan to heat for approximately 1-2 minutes. 

Once the oil has heated, you can begin adding your food and proceed with cooking.

While non-stick pans are designed to minimize the need for excessive oil or fat, it is worth noting that adding a small amount can enhance flavor and facilitate browning. 

If desired, you can use a brush or a non-aerosol sprayer to evenly distribute a thin layer of oil or fat onto the pan’s surface.

It is crucial to monitor the condition of your non-stick pan over time. 

When it starts to degrade and food begins to stick during cooking, it is a clear indication that it is time to replace the pan. 

Continuing to use a deteriorated non-stick pan can compromise cooking results and potentially affect the safety of your meals.


It depends on what you are cooking.

searing meat

When frying foods that require high-temperature oil, such as fish and tofu, it is crucial to achieve a high oil temperature. 

This prevents the food from breaking apart during frying, ensuring a solid texture with a crispy, brown exterior that imparts delicious flavor through the Maillard reaction. 

For such foods, whether you add oil before or after heating the pan is inconsequential, as long as the oil reaches a sufficiently high temperature to promote the Maillard reaction on the food’s surface. 

You can determine if the oil is hot enough by observing slight smoke emanating from the oil. 

Conversely, when frying foods that only require low-temperature oil, like eggs or vegetables, the process differs. 

After preheating the pan, add oil and swirl it around the bottom before immediately cooking the food. 

This method works well with a cast-iron pan, which is suitable for heating without oil. 

However, when using a stainless steel pan for low-temperature cooking, it is advisable to add oil before heating the pan. 

It can be challenging to determine the pan’s temperature when heating it empty. 

Once the oil on the stainless steel pan begins to emit slight smoke, reduce the stove’s heat setting or replace the oil before proceeding with cooking. 

This approach ensures a controlled low-temperature cooking process. 

When searing meat, high-temperature oil is essential to achieve the desired Maillard reaction, resulting in a flavorful and browned exterior. 

Adding oil before or after heating the pan is acceptable for searing, as long as the oil reaches a sufficiently high temperature. 

Some experts argue that heating the pan with oil can lead to oil smoke and affect the oil’s taste. 

However, since searing requires high-temperature oil, smoke will inevitably be produced regardless of when the oil is added. 

Therefore, it is recommended to add oil before heating the pan for searing, eliminating the need for an additional step to gauge the pan’s temperature accurately. 

An additional benefit of adding oil before heating the pan, especially with a stainless steel pan, is that it reduces the risk of overheating the pan and potential fire hazards during the searing process.


Final thought

In conclusion, the decision of whether to add oil before or after heating the pan is contingent upon various factors. 

The type of pan, desired pan temperature, safety considerations, the dish being prepared, and the cooking technique employed all contribute to the choice. 

Therefore, it is essential to assess these factors and make an informed decision based on the specific circumstances of each cooking endeavor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *