[Sca-cooks] [Sca-Cooks] hot pan, cold oil ( was Re: ot help with soy...)

Ian Kusz sprucebranch at gmail.com
Wed Aug 1 03:24:55 PDT 2007

If I may be audacious to comment on this topic, I would like to point out
that I believe that both cold oil hot pan and hot oil hot pan are,
possibly, true.  I cannot comment on the veracity, one way or the other, but
I can comment on what may be affecting the truth, and that is that you will
get certain differences depending on which you do, and that these may change
the effects of your cooking.

I base this not upon personal knowledge, but upon a certain familiarity with
natural law (which became necessary due to a severe case of clumsiness).
Some observation, but mostly theory, here.

First, there's more to oil than just oil.  Some oils change, chemically,
when you cook them (I mean, aside from pure combustion, which, unless you're
inexperienced, isn't usually a desired affect in cooking.  Turning oil into
big, black clouds of smoke accompanied by fire is, unless you use a grill,
not recommended).  Some oils, having extra O's and H's attached, will lose
them from being cooked; the waste product is, often, water (one hopes you're
not cooking off pure hydrogen.  Unless you're looking for a veeeeery
exciting day).  Prolonged cooking will produce this change in a higher
percentage of the volume of the liquid.  If you are cooking in one of these
oils, you may wish to add the cold oil to an already-heated surface; so the
oil is not being altered while you await heating.

This, of course, assumes that the properties of original, uncooked oil serve
your dish better than the altered (cooked) version.  That may depend on your
dish and the oil.

Additionally, if you wish the excess oxygen and hydrogen to be released
during the cooking of the food, rather than before, this may affect your
decision.  Theoretically, the water being released (and bubbling up in the
oil, itself) can create extra buoyancy.  Theoretically.  Again, it depends
on the heat and the oil.

One should be careful, in cases where you use cold oil on a hot pan, to make
sure that the pan isn't TOO hot.  In these cases, the first bits of oil
added may experience a too-fast heating on the surface, which can cause a
boomerang effect with massive spatter.  Think of it like the oil, finding
the surface uncomfortable, leaps off the pan and into your arms (and into
your face, and on your head, and on your hands, and onto your chest, and so
on, and so on).  This can send superheated oil EVERYWHERE, most notably, all
over the cook, requiring an immediate trip to your nearest healthcare
facility.  Worse, some of the oil may instantly begin combusting, causing
you (and everything in and around your kitchen) to be covered in
superheated, FLAMING oil.  (The effect originates from liquid being turned
instantly into gas, with instantaneous [or purty near] expansion; read that
as EXPLOSIVE expansion.  You may even get some pure hydrogen or oxygen.)
Which is great if you want to get a return on your homeowner's fire
insurance and life insurance, simultaneously.  "Ah, I forgot to keep an eye
on the pan; no matter, it's definitely hot enough, now.  Time to add the

Also, a cold oil into a hot pan can set up convection [a circular or
sine-wave-shaped movement] within the oil, to get a sort of roiling effect
(which may be augmented by the boiling off of the extra water [as waste
product of chemical change, mentioned before]), which can also help to
support the weight of cooking food.  The amount of convection (which will
vary by type of oil and amount of oil in the pan) will increase with the
increase of the difference in temperature between the oil and the pan, and
increase with the difference in temperature between the air above the pan
and the pan.  Convection, in this case, is caused by the hotter oil moving
away from the surface of the pan, causing cooler oil to move to replace it,
which then gets heated, and so on.

This is all theory, but it's generally accepted.

Now, in some cases, a hot oil in a hot pan will alter, chemically, in a way
that specifically alters certain properties.  The "cooked" oil (oil which
has had its nature changed by application of sufficient heat to exceed it's
reaction threshold) can actually solidify, or semi-solidify.

In these cases, sometimes (or, I should say, for some oils) the oil will
form a sticky crust upon the surface of the cooking implement, causing all
the food to stick.  That's probably not going to help you getting the food
off the pan.

However, some oils will create a sort-of-crust that retains the properties
of oil which are...um...slippery, and keep the food from sticking.  I've
noticed that, in these cases, the new stuff is just a new type of oil, or
something similar to oil.  It doesn't stick (if you've picked your oil and
temperature well) to the pan in the wash, but keeps anything else from
contacting the pan (through this sort-of-crust), so you get, basically, a
temporary teflon-type thingy.  I don't know the chemical properties (I'm
guessing you're either getting new fatty acids/alcohols or boiling off the
Hydrogen and ending up with some double bonds in the carbon chain; that
would make sense from the chemistry of the thing.  But which bonds are
changing?  Can you get different properties depending on how the heat is
targeted?  Theoretically possible, here.), but, visually, you can see the
difference in the cooked precipitate.  Sometimes it's a different color,
sometimes, not.

So, I think it may depend on what you're cooking, and how you're cooking
it.  Are you looking for a "deep-fry" effect?  A "flash-fry?"  A
"sort-of-similar-to-the-baking-process" fry?  Is the frying incidental to a
more steamed food that you're looking for (with an oil more for purposes of
taste)?  And are you adding water to the mix?  (Adding water to oil can
create a different product, or just two separate masses and a lot of spatter
as the water boils out.  Depends on a few other factors, which we can cover
in the lesson on saturation and hydrogenation.)

This lesson on the chemistry and physics of enthalpic processes is brought
to you by the letters A and G, and by the number 2.

Sesame Street is a production of the Children's Television Workshop.  Bye

Ian of Oertha

On 7/24/07, Nick Sasso <grizly at mindspring.com> wrote:
> -----Original Message-----
> Perhaps you'd like to investigate more fully the two million websites
> that turn up under hot pan cold oil in a search and report back in two or
> three years.
> I listed just a sample after all. I did check some other books, but the
> whys weren't addressed.
> Personally I think the information given by Cooks Illustrated is pretty
> good
> and if you have a membership, you can of course read the full reports on
> all their tests
> on the topic.
> Johnnae  > > > > > > > >
> Nah, just making sure that the information on the ones listed in
> discussion
> is actually presented.  If that one website author quoted had used any ONE
> other source on their discourse on oil and pans, then your above about
> millions of sites would seem to be a more relevant issue.
> Master A did a better job of getting his point across than I did . . . I
> just tripped into another less graceful way of saying it.
> As an aside, I have been a subscriber to Cooks Illustrated for some 7+
> years, so I'm familiar, though not completely conversant, with their
> materials and research.  I do not quote it here on the list without recent
> familiarity with their subject matter and conclusions.
> niccolo difrancesco
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Ian of Oertha

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