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Tony Grist

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Frying Pan [Aug. 6th, 2008|10:14 am]
Tony Grist
 My friend Stephen Bann- who is a dedicated cook-  used to say you should never wash a frying pan. The ancient grease, impregnated with the flavours of a thousand fry-ups, is a treasure,  adding subtlety and depth to anything you cook in it. I sometimes let my pan go a day or two without washing- and acknowledge that it's a bit of a thrill when the flavour of yesterday's mushrooms turns up in today's bacon and eggs- but then I start to worry about health and safety and the pan goes into the sink and receives a good scrubbing. Am I being unduly cautious? 
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[User Picture]From: saare_snowqueen
2008-08-06 09:42 am (UTC)
Once upon a time, which is how all good fairy tales begin, there was a place where the food we raised and bought, cooked and ate was free of pesticides, strange chemicals and even stranger microbes. The animals whose remains were frequently transformed in these old frying pans spent their lives eating grass - as most of them were intended to do and were not asked to eat ground up parts of their cousins mixed with antibiotics and corn oil derivatives. Then a good wipe out was more often than not sufficient, although an occasional date with soapy water couldn't hurt.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-06 10:35 am (UTC)
You make me remember why I used to be a vegetarian.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-06 10:37 am (UTC)
The only wok I ever owned went rusty- from lack of use- and had to be thrown away.

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From: nostoi
2008-08-06 10:16 am (UTC)
I have a cast iron wok which gets a soap free wipe out and a stainless steel frying pan which gets scrubbed back to pristine cleanliness.

Depends on the pan I think.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-06 10:40 am (UTC)
So it's a matter of going with one's instinct. Yes, I can relate to that.
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[User Picture]From: richenda
2008-08-06 10:36 am (UTC)
I suppose that frying is done at a sufficiantly high temperature to kill the average nasty.
I once had an iron omelette pan, which just got wiped - but I gave it away because it got too heavy for me. Also, that was before we all got so salmonella conscious.
I always scour my stainless steel pan until it shines.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-06 10:42 am (UTC)
Stephen and his unwashed frying pan belong to the early seventies and- yes- I'm not sure we'd even heard of salmonella back then.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2008-08-06 11:24 am (UTC)
Yes.

I have this Le Creuset omelet pan. Even though it has some sort of nonstickery inside it, I find that the omelet cooked after washing sticks. So I've stopped washing it. Instead, I wipe it out with a paper towel after each use. (Being on Weight Watchers, I only put a tsp of butter in the pan, so there's not much left to wipe out.)

The Designated Cast Iron Potwasher in the household doesn't wash them, either: instead, he pours some white vinegar in the pan/dutch oven, boils it up (scraping off anything that stuck last time), dumps the vinegar, rubs in a couple drops of some kind of neutral oil such as Mongolian Fire Oil (!), and thta's that.

Like several other commenters, we scrub our stainless steel frying pans.

Edited at 2008-08-06 11:25 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-06 12:40 pm (UTC)
My frontline frying pan is non-stick- but so old it hardly figures any more.

After all I've read here, I think I'm going to keep it away from soap and water and go with the dry wipe.
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[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2008-08-06 11:35 am (UTC)
I used to keep a small frying pan solely for eggs. That one was never washed. After each use, it was just wiped with a piece of paper kitchen towel. Before use, I used to heat it with a drop of oil, then give it a good wipe out (being careful not to burn myself!) before adding the oil I used to cook the eggs.

My two woks get plenty of use and I do rinse them out with hot water and a little washing-up liquid after use, but they're only wiped gently and then dried with kitchen towel. I never soak or scrub them. All my other pans go in the dishwasher.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-06 12:45 pm (UTC)
That a good suggestion, about sterilising the pan with hot oil- I think I'll give it a go.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-06 12:50 pm (UTC)
Yes, I agree with you.

I'm sure I read somewhere that modern kids are much more in danger of infection and food-poisoning than earlier generations were- and it's all because they're being brought up in a sterile environment and don't get to build up their defences.
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[User Picture]From: dadi
2008-08-06 12:49 pm (UTC)
I wipe the leftover grease and crumbles and whatever away with (ecolabelled) kitchen tissue paper. Since the stuff all gets fried at high temperatures, I guess that is more than enough to suffice hygiene needs.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-06 12:52 pm (UTC)
I think you're right.

I'm going to abandon soap and water and go with the dry wipe with kitchen towel.
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From: sunfell
2008-08-06 12:57 pm (UTC)
If you have a cast-iron pan or carbon steel wok that has developed its own 'non-stick' finish over many cookings, do not wash it out with soap. If you do, you'll have to scrub the coating off, re-season it and start again.

I like to eat at a little Asian cafe that has an open kitchen, and I've been able to observe the cooking line. They have large, carbon steel woks lined up on high-pressure gas burners, with water faucets right nearby. When a cook is finished making one dish, he'll run hot water into his wok, give it a swish with a metal scrubber (not a heavy scrub), then heat and oil it again for the next order. They do not use soap.

For my own stainless pans, I do wash them with soap and give them a good scrub, because I use them to create great crusts and deglaze them for pan sauces.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-06 03:53 pm (UTC)
Those guys must have confidence in the efficacy of their cleansing procedure to be prepared to perform it in the open.

I like open kitchens.
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[User Picture]From: mummm
2008-08-06 01:26 pm (UTC)
Interesting post with interesting answers.

I'm so shy of food poisoning having had it several times... I expect that all the answers you received are correct though.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-06 04:00 pm (UTC)
I suffer- or am blessed- with selective amnesia- and forget my serious illnesses- so much so that I really don't know whether I've ever had food poisoning or not.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2008-08-06 01:41 pm (UTC)
Kate swears one should NEVER wash a cast iron skillet, for the same reason your friend said.

She told me that frying is such a hot process that it kills all the germs, but I never believed her.

I do wash my own skillets, and I gave her my cast iron one so she could have all its germs for herself.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-06 04:01 pm (UTC)
I think Kate has to be right. I mean, nothing survives boiling in oil- or does it?
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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2008-08-06 02:29 pm (UTC)
The only thing that *might* harm you are the bits of food that stick to the pans and *could* spoil (but aren't likely to) after cooking if you didn't use the pan again for a while. A wipe out with paper towels should suffice. I've been doing that all my cooking life and (so far) have lived to tell the tale.
:)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-06 04:04 pm (UTC)
I use my pan a lot- so there really shouldn't be time for food to spoil in between cooking sessions.

I've pretty much decided I'm going to give up soap and water and use paper towels instead.
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From: sculptruth
2008-08-06 02:58 pm (UTC)
Most food poisoning comes from cross-contamination rather than unwashed pans - any bits of food left over are cooked and probably crumbs too dried out to have anything left to spoil; and you would just wipe those out anyway. I was a chef for fifteen years and the skillets we season just get rinsed with a little water while they're still hot and let go. I do the same at home. Honestly, I don't really scrub out my non-sticks either, but they don't get much build-up. Enjoy your layered flavours!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-06 04:06 pm (UTC)
Excellent.

I'm going to accept your word as a professional on this.

No more soap and water for me!
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[User Picture]From: methodius
2008-08-07 08:25 am (UTC)
I hate fishy fried eggs and bacon.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-07 11:31 am (UTC)
Good point.

These days I always cook fish in the oven.
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