Smoking cast iron griddle pan on a dark wooden table
The One Time You Should Think Twice Before Preheating Your Pan
By Haldan Kirsch
Preheating your pan will provide the most consistent results when following a recipe, as food will cook faster with more heat than with a cold pan, and it can also prevent food from sticking. However, there are some foods that require a more gentle heat and don’t need preheating.
Anything you're worried about burning — and typically foods with a higher fat content — will benefit from getting a slow start in a cold pan. Delicate spices, thinly sliced garlic, butter (even if you're browning it), and nuts should all start out in a cool pan, giving you more control over the temperature and preventing burning.
Cooking fatty cuts of meat like bacon or chicken thighs will also go better in a cold pan, as the fat will have more time to render out of the meat and will brown nicely. Caramelized onions also benefit from a cold pan, as it will ensure a deep caramel color with rich savory notes and a surprisingly gentle texture.