Do you heat the pan first, then add oil? Or put the oil in and heat up with the pan?
As the title says...
I personally heat up the pan first, then put the oil in and after it's heated up add the ingredients. I go with the line of reasoning that doing it this way gives the oil less time to burn, thinking that if you do it the other way, by the time the pan and oil has heated up, the oil could already be starting to burn.
I've never experimented, but I think this is more of an issue with electric stoves since you can modulate the heat more quickly with gas, ie turn it off if the oil's starting to smoke.
An related question with excellent answers: http://cooking.stackexchange.com/q/5815/91
It's interesting that with all this attention and discussion, I see no one actually discussing which approach achieves *better tasting food*. Except perhaps B Nerone. **Who cares** about the non-stick pans you bought at WalMart or J.C. Penny? I think the question is incomplete as we don't know whether OPs motives are to simply to preserve his skillets as well as possible, or if OPs intent is to actually produce the best-tasting food. Those two things could very well be at odds.
Possible duplicate of Why do you need to heat the pan before heating the olive oil?
The typical rule of thumb is that if it's a non-stick pan you do add a little oil to the pan first before heating. Most manufacturers usually recommend this to extend the life of the non-stick coating.
For regular pans (those without non-stick coating) you should heat them dry until you can feel the heat radiating from the surface when your hand is held about 6-inches above the bottom. Add your oil at this point. You'll actually need to use less oil because the same amount will spread across a greater surface area due to its decreased viscosity as it heats. Plus, your oil will heat up instantly and when you add your food it's less inclined to stick. Most people get impatient waiting for pans to heat (and in general) and this also ensures that the food isn't going into a pan with oil that's cold or not hot enough. When cold oil goes into a pan and cold food ends up on top of it you'll end up with one big sticky mess. As for adding oil before heating the pan, the longer fats heat without anything else in the pan, the quicker they'll break down and burn.
i will not question the final results of this method, but the _why_ goes against physics knowledge. The sooner you add it the 'hotter' it will be. maybe the only cause here is the time when food is added to the mix, not the time oil is added to the pan?
Adding oil to a non-stick pan is oxymoronic and pointless, and it will eventually result in a hard to remove polymerised oil layer over the non-stick coating, and therefore making it not so non-stick
@gcb : not if it starts smoking and has time to polymerize. If you heat the pan empty, you can heat it above the oil's smoke point ... but if you do it, you need to make sure to have the food ready to go in shortly after the oil, so you don't end up with an obnoxious cleanup job.
@TFD : no, it's not. It gives you a signal that the pan is up to heat (the shimmering), and a warning when it's gotten even hotter (smoking). You want this to happen well before you heat the teflon to the point that it'll start to outgas ... not only ruining the pan, but also killing any pet birds and poisoning you, too.
"You should heat them dry until you can feel the pan radiating ..." This is wrong. See my answer to https://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/99543/why-do-you-need-to-heat-the-pan-before-heating-the-olive-oil/99544