How to be a Better Cook: Controlling Heat

December 03, 2014

better cook oven

Want to know how to be a better cook?.. you need to know how to control heat.

This single bit of information can change the way you cook.

Paying close attention to heat can make or break a dish – temperature control is literally the most important thing in cooking and can help you get good results every time in the kitchen every time.

Where you turn the knob to cook specific ingredients makes a world of difference.  Each stove element has its own level of btu’s so it’s hard for me to tell you exactly how to control heat on your specific range.  But here are some approximate temperatures to follow.  Master this, and you will improve your skills tenfold.

  • NEVER use ‘’high” unless you are boiling water.
  • When you are cooking meat or fish, heat up your pan BEFORE putting the oil in for 2-3 minutes between 7-9.  Always, always do this.
  • Sauteing onions should be done around the 5 mark, turn down to 4 if that is too high.
  • To reheat sauces and such, use between 3-5.
  • A good simmer point for curry or chilies should be between 3-5.
  • For stir-fries, heat up the pan 2-3 minutes before putting anything in, and cook the meat + veggies around 8-9.)
  • Tofu should be cooked at medium high heat, between the 6-7 mark.
  • Eggs are tricky: but cooking scrambled eggs on low heat (2-3) for 8-10 minutes yields incredibly an moist and delicious scramble.  Alternatively, cooking the eggs on high heat (7-8) for 1-2 minutes also yields delicious results, but you almost have to take them off the heat as soon as they hit the pan for this to be successful.
  • Never bring a pot of beans or chicken stock to temperature on high – it will ruin it.  Use 5-7 to bring it up to temp and turn it down to a low simmer.  See below to learn what that means.
  • Turn on your overhead fan and open your windows when cooking meat at high temps.

A few other exciting tips:

  • When you are cooking a chili, curry, tomato sauce, etc – many recipes call for stovetop cooking.  I have found that placing the pot in the oven at 350 and cooking for the suggested time significantly improves the flavor.
  • Boiling is usually stove knob 9 or high.  Low simmer is stove knob 1-3.  High simmer is stove knob 4-6.  A low boil would be stove knob 7-8.  Paying close attention to this matters.  Cooking a stew on a low boil will ruin it, while cooking the exact same dish at a low simmer will create a delicious dish.

I don’t want to oversaturate you with information.  Digest this bit, practice, practice, practice – be mindful of the temperatures you use while cooking.  This will drastically begin to improve your skills.

Did you already know this?  I am writing this post because my cooking students are always surprised by this information – and I am surprised that they don’t know it!


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