It is best to begin sautéing food in a pre-heated pan.
A hot pan allows the food to sear, or brown when the food hits the surface, rather than sit and soak up the oil while the pan comes to temperature.
Here a few tips to decide when its time to add the food to the oil:
Place the pan on the hot burner before adding the oil. Pans with non-stick coatings should not be pre-heated without anything in them, as it can destroy the finish.
Drizzle a couple of drops of water onto the pan. Do they sizzle? If so, the pan is hot.
Is the oil flowing freely and coating the pan? Does the surface glisten a bit? These are signs that the pan is hot enough.
Add a tiny morsal of food or batter to the pan. When the food starts sizzling, you are good to go. You can also use a tiny amount of salt or flour for the same effect.
Some people use a wooden spoon or chopstick to test the oil. If it bubbles when you touch the wood to the pan, its ready.
Don’t allow the pan to over heat. Burnt oil doesn’t taste very good. If you see a little smoke start to appear, the pan is too hot. Remove it from the heat, and let it cool down a little bit. Take a paper towel and wipe the over heated oil from the pan and start again.
related post: Smoking Hot: https://indigo-jones.com/2013/08/09/smoking-hot/
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